Veteran actor John Hillerman who starred on 1980s detective show “Magnum, P.I.” and played stuffed-shirt Higgins to Tom Selleck’s freewheeling detective Thomas Magnum, died of natural causes at the age of 84 Thursday at his home in Houston, Texas, his nephew Chris Tritico confirmed the news.
Hillerman had been best known for his Emmy Award-winning work in the long-running detective series "Magnum, P.I."
Hillerman, who was a stage-trained actor, first made his impression on screen as an arrogant radio show detective Simon Brimmer, which aired on the NBC revival of "Ellery Queen" in 1975.
Hillerman then took on to act in notable roles such as the boss of Bonnie Franklin on the long-running CBS sitcom "One Day at a Time," and also played a role with Betty White in the short-lived sitcom "The Betty White Show" in 1977.
Born in Dension, Texas, on Dec. 20, 1932, the actor decided to retire about 17 years ago and then returned to his native state and had been satisfied after leaving Hollywood, his nephew Tritico said. While remembering his uncle, who was also an Air Force veteran, Tritico said "He had an outstanding sense of humor and was one of the most well-read people I ever met. You couldn’t play Scrabble with him."
Hillerman was a major in Journalism at the University of Texas and achieved the rank of sergeant during his stint in the Air Force, before he moved from his native state Texas to New York City in order to pursue a career in acting, according to Variety.
In 1971, Hillerman made his film debut in Peter Bogdanovich's "The Last Picture Show,” before he went on to scoring roles in movies such as Bogdanovich's "Paper Moon," Mel Brooks' "Blazing Saddles," Clint Eastwood's "High Plains Drifter,” and Roman Polanski's "Chinatown."
Hillerman also had one hundred appearances on the small screen to his name, his publicist Lori De Waal told CNN. The actor went on to make his final appearance in the 1996 film "A Very Brady Sequel."
Hillerman landed his first professional theatrical role in Middleton, Ohio, after graduating from the University of Texas and then went on to appear in productions at The Cincinnati Playhouse. It was at this time that he honed his British accent and snappy style.
The role of Higgins in the long-running detective series "Magnum, P.I." was Hillerman’s favorite, Tritico said.
"The reason he didn’t take another big role is he refused to take a sitcom after ‘Magnum,’" he said. "He wanted to continue doing the serious work that he felt ‘Magnum’ was."
Hillerman received four Emmy nominations in consecutive years for portraying Higgins and finally won in 1987. He also won a Golden Globe in 1982.
Hillerman also performed in Audrey Rose (1977), High Plains Drifter (1973), Lucky Lady (1975), and another Brooks' film, History of the World: Part I (1981).
Hillerman is survived by his sister Jo Ann Tritico and seven nieces and nephews including Tritico who is a Houston attorney, according to the Washington Post.