Kenneth McMillan, 56; Veteran Movie, TV and Stage Performer

Times Staff Writer

Kenneth McMillan, the bigoted fire chief in “Ragtime,” the cynical and corrupt detective in “True Confessions” and on television the boss of “Rhoda,” died Sunday of liver complications at St. John’s Medical Center in Santa Monica.

The burly, Brooklyn-born McMillan was 56 and at his death had appeared in more than a dozen films, dozens of episodic television programs and toured with national stage companies.

A graduate of New York’s High School of the Performing Arts, McMillan trained with Uta Hagen and Irene Dailey and made his stage debut in 1962 in “Sweet Bird of Youth.”

He made his first motion picture appearance in 1973 in “Serpico,” and was then seen in such other films as “The Taking of Pelham 1, 2, 3,” “The Stepford Wives,” “Little Miss Marker,” “Whose Life Is It Anyway?” in which he played the judge deciding on Richard Dreyfuss’ right to live, “Reckless,” “The Pope of Greenwich Village” and others.


He most often played officious or small-minded politicos until “Dune,” when he appeared as a grotesque warlord plotting to gain control of a desert planet.

In 1977, when the format of television’s “Rhoda” series was revamped, McMillan became Jack Doyle, owner of the costume company where star Valerie Harper worked.

He also starred in “Our Family Honor,” a brief 1985 series about two families, one involved in organized crime and the other members of the New York City Police Department. In 1984, he had been featured in a second ill-fated series, “Suzanne Pleshette Is Maggie Briggs.”

On and off Broadway he was seen in “American Buffalo,” “Weekends Like Other People,” for which he received an Obie (off-Broadway) award, “Henry V,” “The Merry Wives of Windsor” and “Streamers.”


Most recently he had completed a role in “Three Fugitives,” a Disney film.

Survivors include his wife, Kathryn, and a daughter. In lieu of flowers donations are asked to the Actors Fund.

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Jan. 29 at the Debbie Reynolds Studio in Burbank where McMillan often taught.