John Karlen, Emmy-winning actor in ‘Dark Shadows’ and ‘Cagney & Lacey,’ dies at 86

Daniele Ouimet and John Karlen embrace in a scene from the film "Daughters Of Darkness" (1971).
Daniele Ouimet and John Karlen embrace in a scene from the film “Daughters Of Darkness” (1971).
(Showking Films)

Emmy-winning character actor John Karlen, known for his roles on the television series “Dark Shadows” and “Cagney & Lacey,” has died in hospice care in Burbank.

Karlen died Wednesday of congestive heart failure, friend and family spokesman Jim Pierson said. He was 86.

The prolific actor played con man and scoundrel Willie Loomis, and later several other roles, on “Dark Shadows,” the cult favorite horror soap that aired on ABC from 1966 to 1971.

He played Harvey Lacey, husband to Tyne Daly’s Mary Beth Lacey, on the acclaimed CBS police drama “Cagney & Lacey” from 1982 to 1988.

Karlen won an Emmy as best supporting actor in a drama for that role in 1986.


Born John Adam Karlewicz in Brooklyn, N.Y., on May 28, 1933, Karlen studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and began his career on stage, appearing in the 1959 Broadway production of Tennessee Williams’ “Sweet Bird of Youth.”

From the late 1950s until the mid-1990s, Karlen would work almost constantly in television, amassing well over 100 acting credits. In addition to his two long-running parts, he had guest stints or recurring roles on shows including “The Streets of San Francisco,” “Charlie’s Angels,” “Quincy, M.E.,” “Hill Street Blues” and “Murder, She Wrote.”

He also had a handful of appearances in film, including 1970’s “House of Dark Shadows,” a cinematic spinoff of the TV series.

His final major role was a reprise of his Harvey Lacey character for the 1996 television movie, “Cagney & Lacey: True Convictions.”

Divorced, Karlen is survived by his son, Adam.