Aylward died Monday, May 16, 2022, at his home in Seattle of natural causes after a long illness, his longtime agent, Mitchell Stubbs, told The Hollywood Reporter.
“John was a wonderful actor and a great friend to many. He was proud of his film and television work, although his life in the theater was where he was the happiest,” Stubbs said.
John Aylward may be best known for his portrayal of the hard-nosed Dr. Anspaugh on NBC's "ER", however, he has spent decades on theatre stages throughout the U.S. and Canada and has performed everything from Shakespeare & Moliere to Shepard & Mamet. And while audiences of TV and film have generally seen him play serious men and downright curmudgeons, Aylward's comic prowess is legend. His versality and talent have made him one busy actor.
Born and raised in Seattle, John attended parochial school until the 11th grade. Aylward claims the biggest reason he became an actor was that "the nuns taught me how to read -- and to read ALOUD." His reading ability landed him his first role in the 3rd grade, Christopher Robin in Winnie the Pooh, "but I refused to wear short pants and get teased, so they gave me a yellow slicker to wear." (These days he's happy to be cast as the object of ridicule when it's a good part.).In the 8th grade John won an elocution contest and a scholarship to prep school, which required him to join the debate team and travel around the state on weekends trying to garner trophies for the school through "oral interpretation." In this he was very successful and for Checkov's one-act play "The Marriage Proposal" John won the prize for Best Actor in the state. "At age 16 I really caught the bug!"
After graduating Garfield High School (the alma mater of Quincy Jones, Bruce Lee & Jimi Hendrix, Aylward states proudly), he auditioned for and was accepted into the first class of the Professional Actors' Training program at the University of Washington. "The next three years completely changed my life. I was introduced to British Old Vic training coupled with Jacques LeCoq's mask work. It was an incredible time, to be able to study and practice what you love 6 hours a day and also to take advantage of all the University had to offer. It all made such sense!"
After graduation in 1970, John began a career that has now spanned 30 years and has never required him to take a day job. As a young actor anxious to do it all, he knew that what he did not want was to understudy "the old guys" on the Lort circuit, and so in 1973 he, together with a small group of like-minded actors formed the Empty Space Theatre. "It was a place where you could really work out, bang your head against the wall, and play roles you'd never be cast to play in the "commercial" theatre because of the way you looked. But believe me, we bowled people over with our productions of "Alice", "Mandragola", "Tooth of Crime", "Ronnie Bwana, Jungle Guide". We'd do a park show, an 8 o'clock and a midnight show and then stay out all night. Those were the days." After a period of about ten years during which John worked with other acting companies, including one specializing in the works of Samuel Beckett, he felt it was time to enter the mainstream circuit and actually make a living. "My age finally caught up with my face and I was allowed to play the parts that were right for me."
For the next 15 years he worked as a company member of the Seattle Repertory Company led by Daniel Sullivan. John played leading character roles in such plays as "Curse of the Starving Class", "House of Blue Leaves", "Tartuffe", "A Flea in Her Ear" and "The Miser", among many others.
John's break into the world of TV and film came in 1996 when starring in "Psychopathia Sexualis" at the Mark Taper Forum in LA. Carol Flynt, co-producer of "ER", saw the play. "I was asked if I'd be willing to do my monologue for the writers and producers of the show and I said sure. Before I got home they had called my agent and said, 'We love him; we're going to write a role for him.' Needless to say, it was nice to be invited to the party."
John has appeared and recurred on a number of A-list shows, including "The Practice", "Family Law", "3rd Rock from the Sun" and "Alias", as well as "ER", add to that, "The West Wing", "Brothers & Sisters", "Mad Men", "The Whole Truth", "House of Lies",and most recently, "Nobodies". Notable TV guest appearances include: "The Agency", "TV Judging Amy", "Nip/Tuck", "Law & Order", "Boston Legal". He has appeared in well over 30 Feature and Television films to date including HBO's "Path to War", directed by John Frankenheimer, in which he played Dean Rusk. Some of his other notable feature film projects include: "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III", "Buddy", "Armageddon", "Thirteen Days", "Monster-in-Law", "The Celestine Prophecy", "Water for Elephants", and "A Million Ways to Die in the West".
Remember, there's a reason it's called "play". Find yourself teachers who don't take themselves too seriously, or a theatre group that you perceive to be having fun and check it out. This is not cancer research that we do, but it does require skill, discipline and physical stamina (not unlike an athlete). Remember that you are part of a team and theatre works best when the team is firing on all cylinders. So leave your ego at the door, be willing to make a fool of yourself and dive in.
Come on in -- the water's FUN!
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2018 Nobodies (TV Series)
2015-2016 Impastor (TV Series)
2012 House of Lies (TV Series)
K. Warren McDale
2010 The Whole Truth (TV Series)
Judge Jeremiah Studley
2010 Mad Men (TV Series)
2010 Brothers & Sisters (TV Series)
2009 CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (TV Series)
Dr. Paul Anton
1996-2008 ER (TV Series)
Dr. Donald Anspaugh
Dr. Arne Magnusson (voice)
2005-2006 The West Wing (TV Series)
Barry Goodwin - Former DNC Chair / Barry Goodwin - Head of Transition
2001-2006 Alias (TV Series)
2005 Law & Order (TV Series)
Reverend Harlan Dwyer
2005 Carnivàle (TV Series)
2004 The D.A. (TV Series)
1997-2002 The Practice (TV Series)
Federal Judge Kendall Marcott / Chief District Court Judge / Center Panelist in Rydell Hearing
Dean Rusk, Secretary of State
2000-2001 Family Law (TV Series)
Judge Lester Burger
Thaddeus Thatch (voice)
Thaddeus Thatch (voice)
2001 Diagnosis Murder (TV Series)
LAPD Captain Woodruff
2000-2001 The Fugitive (TV Series)
1996-2000 3rd Rock from the Sun (TV Series)
Chancellor / Registrar
2000 The Others (TV Series)
Justice Benjamin 'Rip' Ripley
1998 Creature (TV Mini-Series)
1998 From the Earth to the Moon (TV Mini-Series)
Dr. Ray Pemberton
Mr. Joe Bowman
1990-1992 Northern Exposure (TV Series)
Charles 'Red' Murphy / Businessman
|"Three Penny Opera"||Tiger Brown||Indianapolis Repertory Theater|
|"Death of a Salesman"||Willy Loman||A Contemporary Theater|
|"The Kentucky Circle"||Ensemble||Broadway/Dir. Warner Shook|
|"Psychopathia Sexualis"||Dr. Block||Mark Taper Forum/Dir. Daniel Sullivan|
|"Waiting for Godot"||Pozzo||Seattle Repertory Theater/Dir. Doug Highes|
|"A Flea in Her Ear"||Poshe/Chandabisc||Seattle Repertory Theater/Dir. Michael Maggio|
|"Richard III"||Richard||Oregon Shakespeare Ashland/Dir. Denis Arndt|
|"Loot"||Truscott||Dallas Theater Center/Dir. Jonathan Moscone|
|"Lulu"||Dr. Shoen||Berkeley Repertory Theater/Dir. Sharon Ott|
|"Hedda Gabbler"||Tesman||Cincinatti Playhouse/Dir. John Going|
|"King Lear"||Lear||A Contemporary Theater/Dir. Arne Zaslove|
|"Glengarry Glen Ross"||Shelly Levine||A Contemporary Theater/Dir. Miles Potter|
|"Born Yesterday"||Brock||Manitroba Theater/Dir. James Roy|
|"Cuckoos Nest"||Cheswick||Charles Playhouse, Boston/Dir. Lee Sankowitch|
|"Mench Meier"||Otto||Empty Space Theater/Dir. M. Burke Walker|
|"Quartermaine's Terms"||Wagner||Old Globe Theater/Dir. David McClendon|
|"Man and Superman"||Straker||Intiman Theater/Dir. Liz Huddle|
[a] © 1993 - New Line Cinema
[b] © 1997 - American_Zoetrope