‘Twin Peaks’ and ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ actor Kenneth Welsh dies at 80

Kenneth Welsh, a prolific Canadian actor with more than 200 screen credits, died Thursday night. He was 80 years old.

ACTRA, the Canadian film and television union, confirmed the news on Friday.

“Ken was one of the greatest Canadian performers of all time, with hundreds of memorable roles spanning decades,” ACTRA said in a statement. “He will be greatly missed. Our condolences to his loved ones. »

Welsh is best known to American audiences for his role as Windom Earle, the mad FBI agent in season 2 of the groundbreaking television series “Twin Peaks.”

He was a constant figure on television in Canada, frequently starring in TV movies, and he portrayed several historical figures on screen.

Born in 1942 in Edmonton, Alberta, Welsh studied at the National Theater School of Canada in Montreal. He then spent the early years of his career as a performer at the world-renowned Stratford Festival, renowned for his interpretations of Shakespeare’s plays. In 2006, he would star himself in an episode of “Slings & Arrows,” an acclaimed comedy series set in a fictional Stratford-inspired theater company.

Welsh’s first screen credit was as a performer in “Shoestring Theatre,” a 1963 CBC anthology series that saw a group of actors perform minimalist, experimental productions of plays. He made a few more TV appearances in the 60s, including TV movie versions of “Henry V” (where he played Grey) and “The Three Musketeers” (where he played the central role of D’Artagnan) .

During the 70s and 80s, Welsh worked primarily in Canada.

He had notable roles in TV movies such as ‘Hedda Gabler’, ‘Reno and the Doc’, ‘A Stranger Waits’ and ‘Love and Hate’. In 1988, he had a supporting role in “Crocodile Dundee II” and guest-starred in an episode of the then-ongoing “Twilight Zone” revival.

Welsh was cast as Windom Earle, one of the central villains in 1990’s “Twin Peaks” season 2. The former partner and mentor of lead character Dale Cooper’s (Kyle MacLachlan) special agent, Earle is gone mad and murdered his wife. After escaping captivity, he traveled to the titular city of Twin Peaks in hopes of unleashing the power of the supernatural Black Lodge.

Welsh cut a menacing presence as Earle, who was memorable for his cruel nature and obsession with chess. The actor starred in 10 episodes of the show and was a central figure in the show’s famously ambiguous finale.

After “Twin Peaks”, Welsh began to work more in America, although he continued to make frequent appearances in Canadian productions. He has starred in shows such as ‘The X-Files’, ‘Law & Order’, ‘Due South’, ‘Smallville’, ‘Stargate Atlantis’, ‘The Expanse’ and ‘Star Trek: Discovery’.

In 2018, Welsh had a notable recurring role on “Lodge 49,” where he played Larry Loomis, the leader of a fraternal order. He also continued to star in TV movies, including playing US President Harry S. Truman in two separate productions: “Hiroshima” in 1995 and “Haven” in 2001.

From 2000 to 2002, Welsh played Dr. Watson opposite Matt Frewer as Sherlock Holmes in four Hallmark Channel TV movies.

Welsh had supporting roles in theatrical films, including “Timecop” and “Legends of the Fall.” In 2004, he played Dr. Hepburn, father of Cate Blanchett’s Katharine Hepburn, in Martin Scorsese’s “The Aviator.” The same year, he also played the incompetent Vice President of the United States, Raymond Becker, in Roland Emmerich’s disaster film “The Day After Tomorrow”. At the time of the film’s release, there were criticisms regarding the Welshman’s resemblance to then-Vice President Dick Cheney, which Emmerich says was intentional.

Other notable films include “The Fog”, “The Covenant”, and “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer”.

At the time of his death, Welsh had several projects in post-production.

He was set to make an appearance in the Prime Video revival of the Canadian sketch comedy series “The Kids in the Hall,” which will be released later this month. Other upcoming roles include appearances in films such as ‘Cammpton Manor’, ‘Midnight at the Paradise’, ‘Deadly Draw’ and ‘Afterwards’.

Welsh is survived by his son, Devon Welsh, singer-songwriter.

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