Dark Shadows, Cagney and Lacey Star John Karlen Dies At 86

John KarlenJohn Karlen

John Karlen, who played the memorable role of Willie Loomis on the ABC Daytime soap Dark Shadows and Harvey Lacey on the CBS primetime hit series Cagney & Lacey, has died. The actor was 86.

John Karlen Passes Away

The Twitter account Dark Shadows News reported Karlen’s passing: “We are sad to report the death of #DarkShadows actor John Karlen, who played Willie Loomis, the unforgettable foil to Barnabas Collins. John died on January 22 in hospice care in Burbank, California. He was 86 had suffered a number of health setbacks over the past decade…”

Karlen is also known and beloved to TV viewers for his role as supportive husband, Harvey Lacey, to wife Mary Beth (Primetime Emmy-winner Tyne Daly) on the long-running CBS cop series Cagney & Lacey.

“Memories, memories . . . this morning I’m awash in memories of darling John Karlen, who left us yesterday,” posted Kathryn Leigh Scott, who played the dual roles of Maggie Evans and Josette du Pres. “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 was born John Adams Karlewicz on May 28, 1933, in Brooklyn, NY. He served in the Korean War and studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York.

Dark Shadows took on a new life and critical acclaim after the introduction of Barnabas Collins (the late Jonathan Frid). In a famous scene, Willie opened Barnabas’s coffin hoping to find valuable jewels inside. Instead, Willie’s act led to Barnabas’s return to the land of the living. First, Willie served as his lackey but later he tried to act as his conscience. Karlen stayed with the series until its end in 1971.

With Honors

Nominated for three consecutive Primetime Emmys for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series starting in 1985, Karlen took home the gold in 1986. The actor reprised his role as Harvey (affectionately referred to by his wife Mary Beth simply as ‘Harve’) in 1996 for the reunion movie Cagney & Lacey: True Convictions.

Karlen’s list of guest spots reads like a Who’s Who of famous and beloved TV series throughout the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s. He appeared on All in the Family, The Waltons, Hawaii Five-O, Medical Center, Night Gallery, Mannix, The Streets of San Francisco, Police Story, Charlie’s Angels, Kojack, The Rockford Files, Barnaby Jones, Starsky and Hutch, Vega$, Trapper John, M.D., Fame, and Hill Street Blues.

Karlen remained active for years on the Dark Shadows fan gathering circuit. He reprised the role of Willie in the feature film House of Dark Shadows and played Alex Jenkins in the film Night of Dark Shadows. Other soap roles include Casey on Another World, Danny Boy Delaney on The Doctors, and Jock on Love Is a Many Splendored Thing.

Karlen is survived by his former wife, Betty, and a son, Adam. Entertainment Hub joins Karlen’s many fans in sending deep condolences to the actor’s family at this difficult time.


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