John Karlen
Credit: Everett Collection

John Karlen, the Emmy-winning actor known for his role on Cagney & Lacey, has died. He was 86.

The actor, who first rose to fame for replacing James Hall as Willie Loomis on the daytime gothic soap Dark Shadows, died on Wednesday of congestive heart failure while in hospice care, the actor’s spokesman confirmed to the Chicago Sun-Times. The news was first reported on the Dark Shadows News Twitter account.

Karlen earned an Emmy for his work playing Harvey Lacey, the husband to Tyne Daly’s NYPD detective on CBS police drama Cagney & Lacey. He was nominated for three consecutive years for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama from 1985-1987 and won in 1986. He went on to reprise his role as Harvey in four Cagney & Lacey made-for-TV movies in 1994, 1995, and 1996.

Born John Adam Karlewicz on May 28, 1933, in Brooklyn, he was a Korean War veteran before turning to acting. He made his Broadway debut in Tennessee Williams’ Sweet Bird of Youth in 1960.

After relocating to Los Angeles, Karlen joined Dark Shadows in 1967 when Hall suddenly exited the series after only five episodes. He stepped in to play Willie, who unwittingly releases vampire Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid) into the world after he had spent the past 200 years in a coffin. Willie is subsequently attacked by Barnabas and becomes Barnabas’ servant. Karlen appeared on Dark Shadows for its entire run until 1971, and reprised his role as Willie in 1970’s House of Dark Shadows film as well as the role of Alex Jenkins in 1971’s Night of Dark Shadows.

He also appeared on TV in shows like Hawaii Five-O, All in the Family, Kojak, Mad About You, Murder, She Wrote, and more.

Karlen is survived by his son Adam and ex-wife Betty.

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