Family & Companions
Though he had been acting on stage and television for years, John O'Hurley did not become a household name until 1995, when his signature character of J. Peterman, the pompous, effusive and foolhardy catalogue clothier made his debut on the popular sitcom "Seinfeld" (NBC, 1989-1998). Speaking in flowery prose, much like the over-the-top copy in the real J. Peterman catalogue, O'Hurley's character entered the cultural zeitgeist and became a part of television history. Though always possessing a flair for broad comedy, O'Hurley's talents were far-reaching - he appeared in numerous soap operas, television movies and Broadway productions, hosted game shows, and lent his distinctive voice to dozens of animated series. He even impressed audiences with his fancy footwork on the surprise summer hit, "Dancing with the Stars" (ABC, 2005- ), where his last-minute, surprising loss created a major ratings boost for the then fledgling show. While some actors, lucky enough to have landed a memorable character like Peterman might never have emerged out from under its considerable shadow, O'Hurley managed to parlay that notoriety into a vibrant career, equally diverse and prolific.
Born on Oct. 9, 1954 in Kittery, ME, but raised in West Hartford, CT, O'Hurley knew he wanted to be an actor at the tender age of three. He would imitate his childhood idol, Lloyd Bridges, after watching episodes of "Sea Hunt" (syndicated, 1958-1961), by reenacting scenes in the bathtub while dressed in Speedos, goggles and his father's basketball shoes for flippers. O'Hurley also developed his sense of humor quite early, making his parents laugh with a decidedly humorous guffaw of his own. However, the idea of an acting career raised practical concerns about dependable income. Opting for a more stable career path, O'Hurley decided to enter public relations after earning his theater arts degree from Providence College, working for both the Yale medical facility and the Red Cross. Things changed for the 24-year-old, however, when his best friend died in an automobile crash, prompting O'Hurley to reevaluate his priorities, follow his heart, and pursue his dreams. Forty-eight hours after arriving in New York City, O'Hurley landed his first gig on Broadway, followed by national tours of "The Pirates of Penzance" and "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes." He then began appearing on soap operas, starting with "The Edge of Night" (CBS/ABC, 1955-1985) in 1983 and followed by "Loving" (ABC, 1983-1996), in which he played twin brothers Keith Lane (the good one) and Jonathan Matalaine (the evil one). Within nine months on the show, O'Hurley's evil side killed 11 characters, slept with every woman in sight, and died twice. He moved on to a more wholesome character, Dr. James Grainger, on "The Young & the Restless" (CBS, 1973- ), while concurrently playing Steven Slade on "Santa Barbara" (NBC, 1984-1993), a show he left in 1991 due to a storyline he considered weak.
O'Hurley's soap exposure led to roles outside the confines of daytime television. After appearing in the two-part sci-fi miniseries, "Something Is Out There" (NBC, 1988), he played Dolan in the made-for-TV Western, "Gore Vidal's 'Billy the Kid'" (TNT, 1989). A small part in "White Hot: The Mysterious Murder of Thelma Todd" (NBC, 1991) - a mystery postulating the theory that the 1930s actress did not commit suicide - was followed by "Seduction: Three Tales from the Inner Sanctum" (ABC, 1992), an erotic thriller with Victoria Principal portraying different characters who become victims of romantic obsession. O'Hurley continued the erotic trend with his feature film debut, "Night Eyes 2" (1992), a low-budget thriller about a voyeur (Andrew Stevens) assigned to watch an ambassador's beautiful wife (Shannon Tweed). After playing a minor part in another erotic thriller, "Mirror Images" (1992), O'Hurley returned to television on various primetime shows, with episodes of "Nurses" (NBC, 1991-94), "Baywatch" (syndicated, 1989-1999) and "Frasier" (NBC, 1993-2004) padding out his growing résumé. A regular role on "Scorch" (CBS, 1991-92) - a mid-season pickup about a single father, his daughter, and a 1,300 year-old dragon - ended as soon as it began. O'Hurley then returned to soap operas, landing a part on "Valley of the Dolls" (syndicated, 1993-94), a thankfully short-lived series based on Jacqueline Susann's trashy novel about the struggles for Hollywood success. Not out of work for long, he found another regular gig as a dyspeptic anchorman on "A Whole New Ballgame" (ABC, 1994-95), another short-lived series that put the actor out of work within a couple of months.
While still reeling from the bad news that " Ballgame" was canceled, O'Hurley received a call from his agent about a walk-on as the fictional J. Peterman on "Seinfeld" (NBC, 1989-98). What was supposed to be a five-minute appearance turned into a four-year recurring role for the actor. Highlights of his tenure on the show included firing Elaine for testing positive for opium after eating poppy seed muffins, pondering why his mother's dying word was "Bosco" (it was George's ATM code), and sending Elaine to live in a cave in Tunisia to give her a better appreciation for "The English Patient" (1996). With his "Seinfeld" success, the silver-haired actor immediately became a hot commodity and was recognized by fans at airports and restaurants - though nearly always as Peterman, not by his given name. Meanwhile, he began appearing on primetime more frequently, adding "Living Single" (Fox, 1993-98), "Murder, She Wrote" (CBS, 1984-1996), "Baywatch Nights" (syndicated, 1995-96) and "Melrose Place" (Fox, 1992-99) to his lengthy list of credits. A return to long-form found O'Hurley in "My Son is Innocent" (ABC, 1996), "The Secret" (NBC, 1997) and "Murder Live!" (NBC, 1997). On episodic series, he popped up on "Coach" (ABC, 1989-1997), "Mad About You" (NBC, 1992-99) and "Boy Meets World" (ABC, 1993-2000). He next appeared on "The X-Files" (Fox, 1993-2002) as Dr. Pollidori in the Post-Modern Prometheus episode, a modern retelling of "Frankenstein" filmed in black and white. The 1997 episode was widely considered to be one of the series' best. Also that year, he made appearances on "Life with Roger" (The WB, 1996-97), "Temporarily Yours" (CBS, 1996-97) and "Smart Guy" (WB, 1996-99). He landed another regular gig on "Over the Top" (ABC, 1997-98), starring Tim Curry and Annie Potts, but this, too, was quickly canceled.
As his stint on "Seinfeld" began to wind down following the announcement of the series finale in 1998, O'Hurley maintained a steady stream of appearances on television while delving into voiceover work for animated series. Episodes of long forgotten shows like "Style & Substance" (CBS, 1997-98), "Damon" (Fox, 1997-98) and "For Your Love" (The WB, 1997-2002) filled out his résumé while he also lent his deep and well-enunciated voice to "Disney's Hercules" (syndicated, 1998-2000), "Buzz Lightyear of Star Command" (syndicated, 2000-02) and "Family Guy" (Fox, 1999- ). In the late 1990s, O'Hurley began hosting duties on various programs and specials. After briefly hosting "Extreme Courage" (Fox Family Channel, 1999-2000), a reality series examining acts of heroism, and "Incredible Animals" (Fox, 1999-2000), which featured funny pets and animal rescues, he became host of the game show remake, "To Tell the Truth" (syndicated, 2000-02). Keeping busy, he continued to appear in made-for-TV movies throughout the late-1990s and early millennium, as well. After a small role in "Life of the Party: The Pamela Harriman Story" (Lifetime, 1998), he starred opposite Susan Lucci in "Blood on Her Hands" (ABC, 1998), playing a wealthy husband who is murdered by his unscrupulous wife (Lucci) and her lover (Philip Casnoff). In "Three Secrets" (CBS, 1999), he played a cut-rate reporter in this melodrama about three women who believe that an eight-year-old boy - the sole survivor from an airline crash - was the son they gave up for adoption. After a performance in "Firetrap" (HBO, 2001), a heist thriller about a thief (Dean Cain) pulling one last job, O'Hurley returned to film with "Teddy Bear's Picnic" (2002), first-time feature director Harry Shearer's satirical look at the infamous Bohemian Grove retreat - dubbed "Zambesi Glen" in the film - for the outrageously rich and powerful.
In 2002, O'Hurley hosted the "National Dog Show Presented by Purina" (NBC, 2002- ) for the first time, going on to return as host of the annual event for a number of years. Bringing a mixture of enthusiasm and wit to the job, O'Hurley brought his sharp humor to the competition without attempting to pass himself off as an expert. Later, he appeared in what became 2005's surprise hit competition show, "Dancing with the Stars" (ABC, 2005- ), a live weekly dance contest that pitted celebrities paired with professional dancers against one another as they trained and performed a variety of ballroom dances. O'Hurley and his partner, Charlotte Jorgensen, were early favorites to win and remained so throughout the contest. Then a stunning upset in the last episode by fellow soap star Kelly Monaco and her partner, Alec Mazo, who scored perfect 10s for their final routine, handed O'Hurley and Jorgensen a bitter defeat. After the finale, O'Hurley went public with the claim that there was a hidden "agenda" behind Monaco's win as she was an ABC star, prompting the network to schedule a televised "dance off" rematch, from which the actor and his partner emerged triumphant and vindicated. As a result of his newfound reputation as hoofer, O'Hurley was invited to take over the role of lawyer Billy Flynn in the well-received revival of "Chicago" beginning in January 2006. That same year, he took over as host of the long-running game show "Family Feud" (syndicated, 1999- ) for four years, eventually passing the microphone to comedian Steve Harvey in 2010. O'Hurley also lent his distinct baritone to the animated holiday direct-to-DVD "Holidaze: The Christmas That Almost Didn't Happen" (2006), in the role of Kringle.
Apparently enjoying his run on "Chicago," O'Hurley returned to the stage in the musical comedy "Spamalot," based loosely on the cult classic "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" (1975), performed at the Wynn, Las Vegas. O'Hurley reprised the role of King Arthur two years later for a run at Los Angles' Ahmanson Theater, belting out numbers like "Knights of the Round Table" and "Always Look at the Bright Side of Life" with gusto. He reappeared briefly in theaters in the David Zucker bomb "An American Carol" (2008), a spoof focusing on a liberal documentary filmmaker - ala Michael Moore - who is visited by three patriotic ghosts, determined to scare him out of his "anti-American" ways. O'Hurley voiced the blustering King Triton for the animated TV movie "Spongebob Squarepants: The Clash of the Triton" (Nickelodeon, 2010), a role which he had voiced for the cartoon series numerous times in the past. Other voice work included recurring turns on the latest adventures of those "meddling kids" in "Scooby-Do! Mystery Incorporated" (Cartoon Network, 2009- ), and as the voice of the cosmic gamester, The Grandmaster, in the kid-friendly Marvel Comics animated series "The Super Hero Squad Show" (Cartoon Network, 2009- ).
Cast (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Moved to NYC
Landed first regular role on TV on the ABC daytime dram "Edge of Night"
Played dual role of Keith and Jonathan on the ABC soap "Loving"
Had featured role in the NBC primetime miniseries "Something Is Out There"
Appeared on the CBS daytime soap "The Young and the Restless"
Joined cast of NBC's "Santa Barbara"
Played a stuffy anchorman in his first primetime sitcom, the short-lived (3 episodes) CBS series "Scorch"
Was regular on the short-lived ABC sitcom "A Whole New Ballgame"
Had recurring role of J Peterman on "Seinfeld" (NBC)
Cast as Robert on the ABC sitcom "Over the Top"
Hosted the syndicated game show "To Tell the Truth"
Voiced King Nova on the animated series "Buzz Lightyear of Star Command" (ABC 2000-01, UPN 2001-02)
Starred in the short-lived comedy "The Mullets" (UPN)
Cast in the summer reality series "Dancing with the Stars" (ABC)
Cast in the role of lawyer Billy Flynn in the Broadway production of "Chicago"
Will star as King Arthur in the Las Vegas production of "Spamalot" (March)