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William Daniels is an American screen and stage actor best known for his television characters in series such as St. Elsewhere and Boy Meets World. Daniels served as president of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) from 1999-2001.
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William Daniels is an American actor who has mastered both screen and stage. Taking the stage at a very young age, Daniels has hit many career milestones; starring on multiple television series, winning two Emmy Awards and holding office as president of the Screen Actors Guild. A well-respected actor, Daniels continues to work in all aspects of the industry.
"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."
Actor William David Daniels was born in Brooklyn, New York, on March 31, 1927, to parents David, a local builder, and Irene Daniels. Beginning at a very young age, it seemed that Daniels was destined to be an entertainer. He made his dancing debut when he was 4 years old, and by the time he was 8, Daniels was performing with his little sister, Jacqueline, in a song and dance duo that appeared on a number radio shows and television variety shows, including The Horn and Hardart Children's Hour. The children became successful and later took on their younger sister, Carol, and the three created the radio show, The Daniels Family.
At age 15, Daniels hit the road understudying two roles in the hit play Life With Father. When it came time for the play to make its Broadway debut, Daniels was also ready for his own. He was cast in the show as John and later took over the role of Clarence Jr. He remained in the show for two and a half years. Daniels joined the military as a staff sergeant for the Armed Forces Radio. Upon his return from the military, Daniels enrolled in the theater program at Northwestern University. It was at Northwestern where Daniels met and married fellow drama major Bonnie Bartlett.
After graduation, Daniels made his television debut in an episode of The Hallmark Hall of Fame as President John Quincy Adams. He found little other success during his first few years out of school. It wasn't until 1957, when legendary playwright Tennessee Williams selected Daniels to portray the role of Brick in the national company tour of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, that Daniels' career started to take off. This role was the beginning of Daniels' continuous success on stage. His Broadway credits include original cast performances in On A Clear Day You Can See Forever and A Thousand Clowns.
In 1965, Daniels recreated his role as Albert in the Hollywood film version of A Thousand Clowns. He continued to find success in the film industry in 1967's The Graduate where Daniels portrayed Dustin Hoffman's character's father. The same year, Daniels was cast as a lead in the short lived NBC series Capitan Nice.
In 1972, Daniels appeared as John Adams in the Hollywood version of 1776—the first of many presidential portrayals for the actor. He went on to play John Quincy Adams in the miniseries The Adams Chronicles (1976) and John Adams in the TV movie The Rebels (1979).
Daniels landed what is arguably the most crucial role of his career in 1982 as heart surgeon Dr. Mark Craig on the hit series St. Elsewhere. This character won Daniels two Emmy Awards for outstanding lead actor in a television series (1985, 1986). His wife, Bonnie, who portrayed his wife on the show, also won an Emmy in 1986—making the couple only the second in movie history to win Emmys on the same night.
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