Charles Hallahan; Stage and TV Actor Starred in ‘Hunter’


Charles Hallahan, highly respected stage actor probably best remembered for his role as star Fred Dryer’s boss on the long-running television series “Hunter,” has died at the age of 54.

Hallahan, lauded as a stage actor in such landmark works as “The Kentucky Cycle,” died Nov. 25 of an apparent heart attack while driving his car in Los Angeles, his wife, Barbara, said Wednesday.

Often cast as a cop because of his rugged Irish countenance, Hallahan played Police Capt. Charlie Devane to Dryer’s Det. Sgt. Rick Hunter in the police series. Hallahan was a regular from 1986 to 1991 and again in the 1995 television movie, “The Return of Hunter.”

“ ‘Hunter’ was the greatest job in town. And thank God for those residual checks that keep coming in,” the down-to-earth Hallahan told The Times in 1992. “But that’s not why I’m an actor.

“Look, TV and movies are a place to make money,” he said. “For an actor like me, none of the parts are any good. Once in a while, sure, there’s a nice scene. But most of the time you’re just filling in a plot.”


His real acting challenges, Hallahan made clear, were on the stage, including Robert Schenkkan’s nine-play, 6 1/2-hour epic “The Kentucky Cycle” that debuted at Los Angeles’ Mark Taper Forum in 1992.

Hallahan portrayed an Irish immigrant and his descendants in the play that followed three American families from 1775 to 1975. He earned a 1993 L.A. Drama Critics Circle Award for that role, as well as two others for his work in the plays “Rat in the Skull” in 1986 and “Endgame” in 1995.

“In the 20 years I’ve been making a living as an actor, I’ve never experienced anything as exhilarating as this,” he said of “Kentucky” the week the play opened. “This piece absolutely slays people. It’s long, sure, but no one ever complains.”

Hallahan relished real acting, and critics be hanged.

“I intend to act till the day I drop,” he told The Times in 1987. “Every time I get a new part, it’s exciting--exciting to start over again.”

Downplaying the importance of reviews, he added: “I know when I’m good, I know when I’m bad--and I’m bad plenty of times. I’m mediocre most of the time. That’s just the way it is. You work hard, but you can’t expect always to be great. I’ve got 60-some plays under my belt. Of those, maybe five or six were great, 20 were pretty good, 30 were less so. Maybe a dozen were terrible.”

Born in Philadelphia, the athletic Hallahan served in the Navy, earned a bachelor’s from Rutgers and a master’s degree in fine arts from Temple University.

He joined San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater where he appeared in more than 40 productions in five years. Among them were “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Equus,” “Peer Gynt,” “Man and Superman” and “The Threepenny Opera.” He toured the Soviet Union with the troupe in 1976, playing roles in Eugene O’Neill’s “Desire Under the Elms” and Thornton Wilder’s “The Matchmaker.”

Hallahan moved to Hollywood in 1977 and quickly found a home in television as well as on stage. He took guest roles in small screen series, including “Lou Grant,” “Trapper John” and “Hill Street Blues” and had a regular role in the short-lived series “The Paper Chase.”

He appeared in other series as well as “Hunter,” and in a plethora of television movies and miniseries for the next two decades.

The actor also ventured into motion picture character roles, including “Nightwing,” “Going in Style,” “Hide in Plain Sight,” “Twilight Zone--The Movie,” “Silkwood,” “Vision Quest,” “Pale Rider,” “Dave” and “Body of Evidence.”

Hallahan was a founding member of the Matrix Theater in Los Angeles where he performed his award-winning role in “Endgame” and such plays as “The Seagull.” He also performed frequently at the Mark Taper Forum, at Costa Mesa’s South Coast Repertory and at San Diego’s Old Glove.

Last summer, Hallahan acted in “Much Ado About Nothing” and in the title role of his own translation of Moliere’s “Bourgeois Gentleman” at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival.

In addition to his wife, Hallahan is survived by their sons, Seamus, 7, and Liam, 5; his mother, Margaret, and three brothers, Michael, Kenneth and Lawrence.

A memorial service is scheduled at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at the Canon Theater, 205 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills.