John Karlen, 'Dark Shadows' and 'Cagney & Lacey' Actor, Dead at 86

Actor John Karlen, best known for his work on the TV series Dark Shadows and Cagney & Lacey, has died, The Associated Press reports. He was 86. The Emmy Award winner died Wednesday of congestive heart failure at a hospice in Burbank, California, his friend and spokesperson Jim Pierson said.

john-karlen_getty-Archive Photos : Stringer
(Photo: Archive Photos / Stringer / Getty, Getty)

On Dark Shadows, Karlen played conman and scoundrel Willie Loomis, replacing James Hall who had abruptly left the show after only five episodes. Karlen later played other roles for the horror soap series, which aired from 1966 to 1971 on ABC.

On Cagney & Lacey, Karlen played Harvey Lacey, the husband to Tyne Daly's Mary Beth Lacey, from 1982 to 1988. He received Emmy nominations three straight years (1985-87) for outstanding supporting actor in a drama series for his role on the CBS police drama, and won in 1986.

Born John Adam Karlewicz in Brooklyn, New York, on May 28, 1933, Karlen studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, beginning his career onstage in the 1955 Broadway production of Tennessee Williams' Sweet Bird of Youth.

He racked up a myriad number of acting credits throughout his career in television, which started in the late 1950s and spanned until the 1990s. Although his longest-running parts were in Dark Shadows and Cagney & Lacey, fans also remember his guest appearances and recurring roles on shows like The Streets of San Francisco; Charlie's Angels; Hill Street Blues; Quincy, M.E.; and Murder, She Wrote.

Karlen's acting career even extended to the big screen, having appeared in films like A Small Town in Texas (1976), Pennies From Heaven (1981) and Racing With the Moon (1984). His final major role, which came in 1996, was a reprise of his Harvey Lacey character for the TV movie Cagney & Lacey: True Convictions.

Karlen's death was first announced via Twitter on the Dark Shadows News page. Last March, the ShadowGram Dark Shadows newsletter posted that Karlen had suffered a stroke.

Kathryn Leigh Scott, an actress-turned-author who was one of Karlen's Dark Shadows co-stars, paid tribute to the actor on her blog. "Memories, memories... this morning I'm awash in memories of darling John Karlen, who left us yesterday. I'm told he passed peacefully, for which I'm grateful, but hardly seems in character for our Johnny. He was such a life force, God bless him! Farewell, my friend. Loved you."


Karlen is survived by his son, Adam.

Photo credit: Ron Galella / Contributor / Getty