On This Day … 20 December [2022]

People (Births)

  • 1932 – John Hillerman, American actor (d. 2017).

People (Deaths)

  • 1995 – Madge Sinclair, Jamaican-American actress (b. 1938).

John Hillerman

John Benedict Hillerman (20 December 1932 to 09 November 2017) was an American actor best known for his starring role as Jonathan Quayle Higgins III on the television series Magnum, P.I. that aired from 1980 to 1988. For his role as Higgins, Hillerman earned five Golden Globe nominations, winning in 1981, and four Emmy nominations, winning in 1987. He retired from acting in 1999.

Hillerman served four years in the United States Air Force (1953-1957), working in maintenance in a B-36 wing of the Strategic Air Command, and achieving the rank of Staff Sergeant. He became interested in acting after working with a theatrical group in Fort Worth during his service: “I was bored with barracks life. I got into [acting] to meet people in town. A light went on.” After his 1957 discharge, he moved to New York City to study at the American Theatre Wing, and performed in professional theatre for the next twelve years, in productions such as Henry IV, Part 2 and The Great God Brown. Despite over 100 stage roles, Hillerman was unable to make a living as a stage actor, and he moved to Hollywood in 1969.

He is perhaps best remembered for his role as former British Army Sergeant Major Jonathan Higgins in Magnum, P.I. (1980-1988).  He learned to speak in the character’s educated middle/upper class English accent, known as Received Pronunciation or the King’s/Queen’s English, by listening to a recording of Laurence Olivier reciting Hamlet. He considered Higgins his favourite role, and described the character in a 1988 interview as “think[ing] he’s the only sane character [in the show], and everyone else is stark raving mad.” Hillerman recalled in 1984 that he was up for a role in the 1980 Buck Henry/Bob Newhart film First Family and “wanted the part very badly,” and had he gotten the role, he would have turned down the role of Higgins.

In the late 1980s, Hillerman was commissioned into the Royal Colonial Light Horse Brigade (RCLHB) as a full Colonel of Cavalry. The RCLHB, located in Springfield, Missouri, continues to maintain its role as an active troupe of historians and military enthusiasts commemorating events that never happened and glories never known. After Hillerman retired from acting in 1999, he returned to his home state of Texas. On 09 November 2017, he died of cardiovascular disease at his Houston home, at the age of 84.

Madge Sinclair

Madge Dorita Sinclair CD (née Walters; 28 April 1938 to 20 December 1995) was a Jamaican actress best known for her roles in Cornbread, Earl and Me (1975), Convoy (1978), Coming to America (1988), Trapper John, M.D. (1980-1986), and the ABC TV miniseries Roots (1977). Sinclair also voiced the character of Sarabi, Mufasa’s mate and Simba’s mother, in the Disney animated feature film The Lion King (1994). A five-time Emmy Award nominee, Sinclair won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress – Drama Series for her role as “Empress” Josephine in Gabriel’s Fire in 1991.

She had an uncredited role as the Saratoga Captain in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) and a credited role in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Interface” (S07E03) as Captain Silva La Forge.

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