Lev Mailer, Longtime TV Actor, Dead at 88

Actor and labor organizer Lev Mailer passed away last month at the age of 88. Mailer's wife Paul told reporters from Deadline that Mailer died of a bacterial infection on Thursday, Feb. 24 at Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. He is survived by his wife, many admiring colleagues and even more fans.

Mailer worked as a TV and movie actor for over 35 years in Hollywood, with credits including Star Trek, Hogan's Heroes, The Lucy Show, Quincey, M.E. and the original Mission Impossible series. However, for many within the industry, he is best remembered for his work with the Screen Actors Guild. Mailer was the 11th vice president of the SAG and then a national board member in the 1990s. He also chaired the Screen Actors Guild Conservatory for 10 years, and Paula said that this is essential to his legacy.

"He was a union man," she said. "He loved the Screen Actors Guild and he loved actors. He really cared that they were recognized and that they were given their fair share." Paula reportedly indicated a framed poster celebrating the 50th anniversary of SAG which still hangs in her living room, saying: "We had it in our townhouse in Studio City, and we brought it with us when we moved here [to Minnesota] in 2000. He was very proud of SAG. He really believed in the union and in justice for actors. He was really driven about it. He thought it was a wonderful union."

Mailer also taught acting a the SAG Conservatory and the American Film Institute, then later at the Lundstrum Performing Arts Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He and Paula ran the Lev Mailer Actors Studio together.

On the topic of SAG, Paula recalled their long-time friendship with actor Ed Asner, who also passed away recently. She and Mailer were neighbors with Asner in L.A., and she said that they last saw him in Minnesota in 2020 before he passed away. "We met him at the St. Paul Hotel," she recalled. "They talked about actors and they got into a big conversation about SAG and unions. They were both justice seekers, so they always got along very well."

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Former SAG national board member Russell McConnell issued a eulogy for Mailer as both a colleague and a friend. He said, "I will be forever grateful for his intelligent insight and suggestions, his support, his dedicated service, and his egalitarianism on so many issues affecting all actors. I'm certain I'm not alone in feeling this way."