William Daniels

William Daniels Biography

Actor (1927–)
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.


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.

Early Life

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.

Braodway Career

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.

Film Career

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. As if his hands weren't full enough with one hit show, Daniels also provided the voice of KITT, the artificially intelligent super car on Knight Rider (1982-86).

Later Roles

After both series ended, Daniels career still thrived. In 1993, Daniels accepted the role of Mr. Feeny, principal of John Adams High School, on the series Boy Meets World (1993-2000). The series was extremely well-received, becoming one of the most popular shows of its time among young audiences.

Daniels was elected president of the Screen Actors Guild in 1999. He won the presidency in a landslide vote and held the office for one term. He decided not to seek a second term, however he and his wife Bonnie were awarded seats on the board of directors.

In 2013, Daniels agreed to reprise the role of the beloved Mr. Feeny on an updated adaptation of Boy Meets World entitled Girl Meets World.

Fact Check

We strive for accuracy and fairness. If you see something that doesn't look right, contact us!