William O’Connell, a character actor and frequent collaborator of Clint Eastwood, has passed away at 94 in his Sherman Oaks residence. A family friend informed Deadline about his demise, although the cause remains undisclosed.
During the 1960s, O’Connell amassed an extensive list of TV credits, establishing himself as a sought-after character actor. He frequently took on minor roles, often without names, but distinguished by their job titles such as Flagman and Cabbie. He made appearances in popular shows like Highway Patrol, Peter Gunn, and The Twilight Zone, as well as Dennis the Menace, My Three Sons, The Outer Limits, Bonanza, The Munsters, Batman, and The Lucy Show.
In 1967 he took an iconic TV role in the Season 2 episode “Journey to Babel” of Star Trek. He portrayed Thelev, a deceitful Orion agent who cunningly disguised himself as an Andorian ambassador. Although his mission to destroy the Enterprise was unsuccessful, he did manage to injure Captain James T. Kirk, played by William Shatner, with a poisoned knife.
On the silver screen, William O’Connell was best known for his frequent appearances in the films of his friend Clint Eastwood during the 1960s and ’70s. Though often in smaller and sometimes contentious roles, his performances in movies such as Paint Your Wagon, High Plains Drifter, The Outlaw Josey Wales, and both Every Which Way but Loose and its 1980 sequel Any Which Way You Can left a lasting impression.
He portrayed Father Kearney in the 1991 horror film The Haunted, marking his final on-screen appearance.
O’Connell came into this world on May 12, 1929, in Los Angeles. He valiantly served his country during the Korean War as a 1st Lieutenant in the 45th Infantry. Throughout his remarkable military career, he earned numerous accolades, including the prestigious Bronze Star.
William O’Connell Remembered by ‘Star Trek’ and Clint Eastwood Fans
News of William O’Connell’s death made its way to social media, with fans paying tribute to the frequent Clint Eastwood player. “William O’Connell (May 12, 1929 – January 15, 2024). Without the journeyman actors, there would be no one to lift up the stars. You may not remember the name, you are sure to remember his face and his performance in dozens of TV shows and movies,” one fan wrote on X (formerly Twitter).
“Actor William O’Connell passed away. As part of his large TV career, he played one of my favorite classic Star Trek villains, Thelev,” another fan wrote. “RIP William O’Connell. One of the greatest Star Trek villains to ever be,” a fellow Star Trek fan agreed.
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