William Dainels, A versatile character actor of stage, film and, most successfully, TV, is often cast in arrogant, authoritative or WASPish roles, once served the Industry in the tireless roll of President of the Screen Actors Guild.
Born in Brooklyn, Daniels made his first stage appearance tap dancing at the age of four and a half years old. Three years later, he and a sister Jacqueline, then five, began performing as a song and dance team on radio, children's shows, in clubs and at benefits. They frequently appeared on the 'Nick Kenny Radio Show'. After television performances on The Horn and Hardart Children's Hour, emceed by Ralph Edwards, they formed their own radio show, The Daniels Family, with a younger sister, Carol.
At 15, he became assistant stage manager and understudy for the two boys in 'Life with Father' road company. While hired for the New York company, he performed the roles of son, John, and, later, of older son, Clarence, during two and half years on Broadway.
Following military service as a staff sergeant with Armed Forces Radio, he turned to mentor, Howard Lindsey, the author of 'Life with Father', to discuss his future. Lindsey suggested enrolling in a college with an outstanding drama department. Mr. Daniels chose Northwestern University, where he met and married Bonnie Bartlett, also a drama major.
His first important break came when Tennessee Williams chose him to play "Brick" in the national company tour of "Cat on A Hot Tin Roof". He continued in the role for 33 weeks and his career was launched. Off-Broadway, he replaced George Segal in "The Iceman Cometh", portrayed Jimmy Porter in "Look Back In Anger" and starred in Edward Albee's "The Zoo Story", for which he won the Clarence Derwent Award. His Broadway credits include: "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest"; "A Thousand Clowns"; "Dear Me"; "The Sky Is Falling"; "On A Clear Day You Can See Forever"; "Daphne In Cottage D"; "1776"; "A Little Night Music". Between shows, he served as assistant director with Jerome Robbins on Gypsy and "Oh Dad, Poor Dad".
Even after his success on Broadway, it was a gamble that won William Daniels the important role that changed the direction of his career and made him the household name and face that he is today. In 1969, after appearing in the Broadway hit "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever", he was asked to repeat his role in the Hollywood film directed by Vincent Minelli. At the same time, he was also offered the opportunity to play the lead role in the Broadway play, "1776". He chose the latter and went on to star as the fiery leader, John Quincy Adams, for 954 performances on Broadway stage and in the subsequent motion pictures.
Throughout his career, Mr. Daniels has appeared in several video and television dramas including: "Rockford Files"; "McMillan and Wife"; "Quincy"; "McCloud" and "Toma". His debut in television occurred when he played the title role in the critically acclaimed series, "Captain Nice". For several years, he also had the rare privilege of having two hit TV series running at the same time.
He won the Emmy Award two years in a row, playing "Dr. Craig" on "St. Elsewhere", while simultaneously playing the voice of "KITT," the car on the popular series, "Knight Rider". In addition to having a successful career in television, he has also appeared in several films including: "The Graduate"; "Reds"; "Parallax View"; "Her Alibi", "A Thousand Clowns"; "The President's Analyst"; "Two For The Road", "Blind Date" and "Blades of Glory".
He has also appeared in many television movies such as: "The Adams Chronicles" as John Quincy Adams, "Blind Ambition" as G. Gordon Liddy, "A Case For Rape" and "Making The Case For Murder" (The Howard Beach Case), and "Crazy Love" and with his role as "Mr. Feeny" on the ABC sitcom "Boy Meets World" (1993-2000). Since our first publication, he has appeared on Television in "Touched by an Angel", "The King of Queens", "The Closer", "Boston Legal", "Grey's Anatomy", and of course "Girl Meets World" as well as a variety of programs where he was asked to replicate the voice of KITT!
In November 1999, Mr. Daniels was elected to a two-year term as President of Screen Actors Guild. He and his wife, actress Bonnie Bartlett, divide their time between Studio City and Santa Barbara, California. They have two sons, Michael and Robert and two granddaughters, Shaina and Eliza.
Every actor has a different story. For several years in the fifties I made less than two thousand dollars per year (my wife worked). I couldn&'t get an agent in New York until after appearing in Edward Albee's Zoo Story and winning the Clarence Derwent award. Before that, nobody was interested. Having been a child actor, I was used to being obedient; so it took me years to get the courage to do my own work and not always obey the director. Then I found that my instincts and experience were more reliable than others. I studied and fought with Lee Strasberg for four years. During this time, I expanded my range and explored weak areas in my work. I was lucky to finally develop a range in both Comedy and Drama that was useful to the Producers and Writers. Maybe it's different today-but if you still want to be an actor, good luck!
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Dr. Craig Thomas
Commissioner Andrew Schmidt
K.I.T.T. (voice, uncredited)
George / Whit Russell
Hospital Ship 4-2, Allocation Alpha
George Feeny / Fez-head / Captain Feeny
Judge Julius Burns
K.I.T.T. (voice, uncredited)
Detective Lieutenant Fine
Dr. Mark Craig
Judge Harold Bedford
K.I.T.T. (1984) (voice)
Dist. Atty. Walter W. Cruikshank
Richard H. Copleston
Dr. Charlie Volmer / Charlie Truesdale / Paul Reardon
Dr. Walter Taylor
G. Gordon Liddy
Lawrence Stepwell III
Lt. Cmdr. Kenneth Kitteridge
Dr. John Bonifant
Gary Bevins / Thomas Caine
John Quincy Adams
Fred Pearson / Clayton Gillis
Edgar T. Vickers Jr.
Police Lt. Jack Matteo
Alan (segment "Love and the Old Lover")
John Adams (MA)
Carter Nash / Capt. Nice / Captain Nice / ...
Buddy / Vernon Kane
Mike Herman / Malloy
Mr. John Calkins - the School Principal
Harry Culverin / Herbert Grafton
Leonard Gregory / Endre
Donald Kemper - act 2
* © 1972 Columbia Pictures