Michael Ansara, the rugged character actor who played Klingon commander Kang on Star Trek, has died. He was 91.
His former agent, Michael B. Druxman, announced the death on Friday, saying the cause was complications of Alzheimer’s disease.
Born in Syria, Mr. Ansara mostly played ethnic roles, Indians being a particular specialty. He became a star in the 1950s on the ABC television show “Broken Arrow,” a fictionalized account of the friendship between the Apache chief Cochise, played by Mr. Ansara, and the Indian agent Tom Jeffords, played by John Lupton.
Although Cochise on “Broken Arrow” was his career-defining role, Mr. Ansara found himself frustrated by its limitations. “Cochise could do one of two things,” he once said: “stand with his arms folded, looking noble; or stand with his arms at his sides, looking noble.”
In one of his most memorable roles he embodied another species altogether, as the evil Klingon leader Kang in “Star Trek.” He played the part, complete with wing-like eyebrows, on the original television series in 1968 and reprised the role for two of its TV descendants: “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” and “Star Trek: Voyager.” Ansara is beloved by Star Trek fans as one of only seven actors to play the same character -- in his case legendary Klingon warrior Kang -- on three versions of the sci-fi series: the original (in the 1968 episode "Day of the Dove"), Deep Space Nine (1994's "Blood Oath") and Voyager (1996's "Flashback").
Besides playing Kang the Klingon in various "Star Trek" series, Ansara's many TV appearances also included The Untouchables, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Perry Mason, The Outer Limits, Lost in Space, I Dream of Jeannie with his wife, Hawaii Five-0 and James Michener's Centennial miniseries.
He also had major roles in such films as 1953's Julius Caesar and The Robe (as Judas); 1955's Jupiter’s Darling (his co-star in that film, swimmer-turned-actress Esther Williams, died in June); 1961's Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (he also appeared in the subsequent ABC series); The Comancheros (1961) with John Wayne; The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965); Guns of the Magnificent Seven (1969); The Bears and I (1974); The Message (1977); and It’s Alive (1974). His long résumé included characters who were Italian, Hispanic and, once in a while, even Americans of no particular ethnicity.
He last appeared on screen in “Long Road Home,” an independent film made in 1999, in which he played a man who unexpectedly becomes the guardian of his estranged grandson. Most recently he provided the voice of Mr. Freeze in the animated TV series “Batman” and “Batman Beyond.”
Michael Ansara was born on April 15, 1922, in a small town in Syria. His family moved to Massachusetts when he was 2 and Los Angeles when he was 10.
He studied at Los Angeles City College and originally planned to become a doctor, but changed his mind after he began studying acting at the Pasadena Playhouse in an effort to overcome shyness. He began his career onstage and made his screen debut in the 1944 thriller “Action in Arabia.”
Mr. Ansara was married three times. His first marriage, to the actress Jean Byron, who would go on to play the mother on “The Patty Duke Show,” lasted from 1949 to 1956. After his divorce, the publicity department at 20th Century Fox set him up on a date with the actress Barbara Eden, best known as Jeannie on “I Dream of Jeannie.” They were married in 1958.
He later appeared in a few episodes of Ms. Eden’s show, each time as a different character. The two divorced in 1973.
Mr. Ansara’s survivors include his wife of 36 years, the actress Beverly Kushida; and a sister, Rose Browers, his niece Michelle and nephew Michael John. Ansara was predeceased by his son, Matthew, with former wife Barbara Eden.
A private service is pending. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to St. Michael's Antiochian Orthodox Church in Van Nuys.