Peter Scolari, actor of ‘Newhart’ and ‘Girls’, dead at 66


Peter Scolari, a familiar face in “Bosom Buddies,” “Newhart,” “Girls,” and other television shows and in Broadway, Off Broadway and regional theater productions, died in Manhattan on Friday. He was 66 years old.

Its management company, Wright Entertainment, said the cause was cancer.

Mr. Scolari had done a bit of stage work, but was interested in television when he was cast alongside Tom Hanks in 1980 as one of the two main characters in “Bosom Buddies,” an ABC comedy on two men who pretend to be women in order to be able to live. in an all-female low-cost apartment complex. The show, Mr. Hanks’ first major assignment, only lasted 37 episodes, but it acquired a sort of kitschy feel over the years thanks to a few witty touches in the scripts and subsequent careers of the two stars.

“Much of television was all about breasts in 1980 when ‘Buddies’ started its two-year run,” Susan Stewart wrote in The New York Times in 2007, reviewing a DVD release. “’The Company of Three’ was three years old; ‘Charlie’s Angels’ flew high. Compared to these examples of “jiggle TV,” “Buddies” was practically the Algonquin roundtable. “

Perhaps Mr. Scolari’s best-known role came soon after, when he was cast for “Newhart,” in which Bob Newhart played a Vermont innkeeper who has a local TV show. Mr. Scolari, who has become a regular in the second season of the series, played his producer. Mr. Scolari ultimately appeared in more than 140 of the series’ 184 episodes, earning three Emmy nominations for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy.

More than 20 years after the release of “Newhart” in 1990, Mr. Scolari has become familiar to a different generation thanks to a recurring role in the HBO series “Girls”, playing the father of the character played by star Lena Dunham. series. and creator. He won an Emmy for the role in 2016. Other actors nominated in his category, Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series, included Mr. Newhart (for “The Big Bang Theory”).

From 1997 to 2000, Mr. Scolari had also played the father in a television series based on the family film “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids”.

“When people say, ‘I know you; what did I see you in? I answer, “Well, it depends on your age,” Mr. Scolari told the Kansas City Star in 2019.

Mr. Scolari’s stage work over the years has included two Broadway plays in which he portrayed sports figures. In “Magic / Bird” (2012), about basketball stars Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, he played several characters, including basketball coaches Pat Riley and Red Auerbach and team owner Jerry Buss. .

Two years later, he played Yankee star Yogi Berra in “Bronx Bombers,” a role that required him to spout yogi-isms. Times critic Charles Isherwood wrote that he “delivers them in a pretty casual style that manages to keep the zing going without turning every verbal pretense into a cartoon legend.”

In 2013, between the two sporting plays, he made another appearance on Broadway in Nora Ephron’s play “Lucky Guy”. The role garnered special attention as it reunited it with Mr. Hanks, who in his Broadway debut starred as the lead role, newspaper columnist Mike McAlary. (Mr. Scolari played another columnist, Michael Daly.)

It was not the first time they had worked together since “Bosom Buddies”. Mr. Scolari, for example, was in the 1996 film “That Thing You Do! alongside Mr. Hanks (who also wrote and directed). And both men provided vocals in the 2004 film “The Polar Express”.

In a joint interview with the Los Angeles Times in 2010, the two opened up about their long friendship and early days of cross-dressing on “Bosom Buddies”.

“We really took a beating in the press, we got hammered for it the first few weeks,” Mr Scolari said. “But when Dustin Hoffman goes out with ‘Tootsie'” – the 1982 film – “everyone says ‘Ooooh, masterpiece.'”

Peter Scolari was born September 12, 1955 in New Rochelle, NY. He became interested in theater while in high school; as a junior he starred in “How to be successful in business without really trying”. Her father, a lawyer, invited a friend who was an entertainment lawyer to the show.

“He was going to tell my dad if I was wasting my time,” Mr Scolari told the Gannett News Service in 1987. “And the lawyer said,“ No he’s great. It is going to be wonderful.

Some of his earliest professional stage work was with the Colonnades Theater Lab in Manhattan. He was particularly noted in 1976 for his performance in the production of the company “Une puce à l’oreille” by Georges Feydeau, playing a character who only pronounces the vowels.

“Perhaps best of all was Peter Scolari as Camille,” Clive Barnes wrote in his New York Times review, “whose speech impeccable and who scoffed across the room with a manic despair. “

In an oral history Recorded for the Television Academy Foundation in 2004, Barbara Corday, who was developing comedies for ABC in the late 1970s, recalled how Mr. Scolari became “Bosom Buddies”. Mr. Hanks had been chosen, but another actor had not worked and was fired. Mr. Scolari, she said, was playing a guest role on an adjacent soundstage.

“He had watched the rehearsals, and he kind of knew the role,” she said, “so they asked him if he would like to do it, and he stepped in a few days before shooting the pilot. “

In “Newhart,” Mr. Scolari played a character often described as a yuppie, but in the 1987 interview he corrected that.

“At first glance, he appears to be conceited, involved and superficial – yuppie,” he said. “But he’s not those things. He’s a failed yuppie. He’s not that good at it.

Mr. Scolari’s recent stage work, in 2018, included “The True,” an Off Broadway drama whose cast also included Edie Falco, Michael McKean and Mr. Scolari’s wife, Tracy Shayne. Upon his death, he had a recurring role as bishop in the drama series “Evil”.

Three previous marriages ended in divorce. Besides Ms Shayne, whom he married in 2013, Mr Scolari is survived by four children, Nicholas, Joseph, Keaton and Cali.

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