Space Force, the new Netflix sitcom starring Steve Carell, is the final project starring comic actor Fred Willard. Following Willard's death Friday night, Carell took to Twitter to remember Willard as the "funniest person" he has ever worked with. The new series, which was co-created by The Office's Greg Daniels, will debut on Netflix on May 29.
"Fred Willard was the funniest person that I've ever worked with. He was a sweet, wonderful man," Carell tweeted. Willard stars as Fred Naird, the Secretary of Defense and father of Carell's Gen. Mark R. Naird, who is picked to be the Space Force's first Chief of Space Operations. Netflix put in a series order in January 2019, almost a year after President Donald Trump first discussed creating a real U.S. Space Force. The real Space Force was formally established when Trump signed the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act in December 2019.
The fictional Space Force series is a workplace comedy about the establishment of the Space Force. The main cast also includes John Malkovich, Parks and Recreation veteran Ben Schwartz, Diana Silvers, Tawny Newsome, Lisa Kurdow, Jane Lynch, Dierdich Bader, Patrick Warburton and Roy Wood Jr. The first teaser was released earlier this month.
Coincidentally, Willard starred in a failed 1978 pilot called Space Force, which centered on a group of astronauts working on a military space station. Although that project is long forgotten by many, it is available on YouTube. Jimmy Kimmel also referenced it in a May 2019 sketch, in which he brought Willard on to star in Space Force 2: Attack of the Space Pirates.
"Fred was one of the busiest comedic actors in a career which lasted over 50 years. He had recently completed his Emmy nominated recurring role on Modern Family and can be seen later this month in his recurring role as Steve Carrell's dad in the Netflix series Space Force," Willard's agent, Michael Eisenstadt, wrote in a statement Saturday. "Jimmy Kimmel had Fred recur on his show on an average of every two weeks doing comedic sketches until the stay at home order began. Fred truly enjoyed each role and gave each performance his own special spin. He was truly a comedic genius."
Willard had more than 300 credits to his name, and earned Emmy nominations for his guest roles on Everybody Loves Raymond and Modern Family. His film credits include the Anchorman movies, This Is Spinal Tap, Best In Show, Waiting for Guffman, Wall-E and Mascots. He is survived by his daughter Hope and grandson Freddie.