Character actor Kenneth McMillan was born on July 2, 1932 in Brooklyn, New York. Prior to becoming an actor, McMillan was a manager at Gimbels Department Store. At age 30, McMillan decided to pursue an acting career. He attended the LaGuardia High School for Performing Arts and took acting lessons from Uta Hagen and Irene Dailey. He made his film debut at age 41 with a small role in Sidney Lumet’s superbly gritty police drama Serpico (1973). Portly and ruddy-faced, with an often aggressive and cantankerous demeanor, McMillan was usually cast as gruff, hostile and unfriendly characters. McMillan’s most notable parts include the borough commander in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974), a cowardly small-town sheriff in Tobe Hooper’s excellent miniseries Salem’s Lot (1979), William Hurt’s bitter paraplegic father in Eyewitness (1981), a racist fire chief in Ragtime (1981), a wily old safecracker in The Pope of Greenwich Village (1984), the vile and grotesquely obese Baron Vladimir Harkonnen in Dune (1984), Aidan Quinn’s pathetic drunken father in Reckless (1984) and a sleazy high-roller gambler in “The Ledge” episode of the hugely enjoyable horror anthology Cat’s Eye (1985).
Moreover, McMillan was equally adept at comedy, giving especially funny and engaging performances as a baseball club manager in Blue Skies Again (1983), Meg Ryan’s corrupt police chief father in Armed and Dangerous (1986), and a dotty senile veterinarian in Three Fugitives (1989). McMillan had a steady recurring role as Valerie Harper’s irate boss on the situation comedy Rhoda (1974). Among the television series McMillan guest-starred on are Dark Shadows (1966), Ryan’s Hope (1975), Kojak (1973), Starsky and Hutch (1975), The Rockford Files (1974), Moonlighting (1985), Magnum, P.I. (1980) and Murder, She Wrote (1984). Outside of his substantial film and television credits, McMillan also frequently performed on stage at the New York Shakespeare Festival. He acted in the original Broadway productions of “Streamers” and “American Buffalo”. He won an Obie for his performance in the off-Broadway play, “Weekends Like Other People”. Kenneth McMillan died of liver disease at age 56 on January 8, 1989 in Santa Monica, California.