Family & Companions
For a brief time, Kevin Tighe was a television star, thanks to the popular action drama "Emergency!" (ABC, 1971-77), but he earned greater fame and respect as a character actor in features and on television shows like "Matewan" (1986), "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" (1993) and "Lost" (ABC, 2005-2010). After "Emergency" was cancelled, he reinvested himself in his craft, and emerged in the mid-1980s to play physically imposing heavies whose true threat lay in their words. Tighe's bad men unspooled dark promises of danger and disaster in his measured tones, often delivered with a malevolent half-smile. Though "Emergency" would remain a nostalgic favorite to generations of children who came of age in the 1970s, the sheer quality of Tighe's subsequent work far outshone his early TV fame, making him one of the most respected character actors in the business.
Born John Kevin Fishburn on Aug. 13, 1944 in Los Angeles, Kevin Tighe's family moved to the suburb of Pasadena when he was five. There, he followed his father, a bit player and stage actor, to the city's famed Pasadena Playhouse, and began auditioning for and landing roles when he was just 10 years of age. After graduating from Pasadena High School, he earned a BFA from California State University before receiving his master's degree in fine arts from the University of Southern California in 1967. That year, he made his screen debut in "Narcotics: Pit of Despair," a heavy-handed educational film that followed Tighe's descent from clean-cut student to heroin addict after just one joint. Less hysterical bit parts followed, including a few lines as a fraternity brother in "The Graduate" (1967).
Tighe's acting career hit a snag when he was drafted into the Army, and was poised to serve in Vietnam until an injury required him to be hospitalized. He spent the remainder of his active duty at Fort Knox in Kentucky before returning to pursue his acting dreams. He co-starred with Maggie Smith in Noel Coward's "Design for Living" at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles, and was prepared to follow the production to Broadway, but financial issues forced the show to close. Frustrated, Tighe relocated briefly to Europe, where he worked with various theatrical companies and even entertained studying law while in Prague. Money problems forced him to return to the United States, where he was called in to audition for producer Jack Webb's new series, "Emergency!" He landed the role of straight-laced family man and paramedic Roy DeSoto on the series, which faced stiff competition in its Saturday night time slot opposite "All in the Family" (CBS, 1971-79).
However the show's blend of medical drama and firefighting action caught on with audiences, and for five years, Tighe was atop a sizable ratings hit, as well as a pop culture favorite that generated scores of tie-in products, as well as an animated spin-off, "Emergency+4" (ABC, 1973-76), for which Tighe provided the voice of DeSoto. The show also allowed Tighe to make his directorial debut on four episodes between 1974 and 1976, one of which - 1977's "All Night Long" - he also wrote. However, despite the show's popularity with young audiences, NBC decided to bring it to a close at the end of the 1976-77 season. An additional six TV movies between 1977 and 1978 brought the show's storylines to a conclusion, with DeSoto and his partner, Johnny Gage (Randolph Mantooth) promoted to captains of their own firehouses. Tighe and Mantooth would remain close friends for decades after the show's conclusion, and Tighe would serve as Mantooth's best man at his 2002 wedding.
After the demise of "Emergency," Tighe struggled to maintain a career in television. There was a handful of guest spots on television series, and a turn as Thomas Jefferson in "The Rebels" (syndicated, 1979), the second miniseries adaptation of John Jakes' "Kent Chronicles" novels about the Revolutionary War. Dissatisfied with the direction of his career, Tighe decided to devote himself to a deeper study of acting as a craft, and began working with such notable teachers as Jeff Corey and Stella Adler. He also delved into stage work during the period, eventually making his way to Broadway in 1984 with "Open Admissions."
In 1986, he returned to films with John Sayles' "Matewan," an independent historical drama about a coal mining strike in West Virginia, circa 1920. Sporting a crop of grey hair and a bulkier physique, Tighe played a menacing hired gun sent by the mining company to bring down the strike by any means. His unsettling performance, marked by a false joviality that barely masked his true vicious nature, captured critical attention, and Tighe followed it with another fine character turn in Sayles' "Eight Men Out" (1987) as Joseph "Sport" Sullivan, the scurrilous Boston bookmaker who served as chief architect of the 1919 Black Sox scandal, which saw members of the Chicago White Sox reportedly throw the World Series for a cut from a sizable bet.
The dual roles largely set the tone for Tighe's work as a character actor - imposing men with little or no compulsion about throwing the main characters' lives into anarchy. He won a Genie as a corrupt cop who unhinges a mentally fragile actor playing a policeman on a TV series by showing him the seamy side of the job in the Canadian thriller, "I Love a Man in Uniform" (1993), and played heels in "Another 48 Hours" (1990), "Geronimo: An American Legend" (1993) and "Winchell" (HBO, 1998), where he essayed William Randolph Hearst. There were also occasional sympathetic turns, most notably in "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" (1993), where his cuckolded husband expired in a swimming pool after learning about his wife's infidelities. He also played the head of the doomed Clutter family in a 1996 TV remake of "In Cold Blood" (CBS), and an ill-fated detective on several episodes of the critically acclaimed "Murder One" (ABC, 1995).
The new millennium saw Tighe focus largely on television. There were occasional returns to features like "Mumford" (1999), but in interviews, Tighe said that moving from Los Angeles north to Washington most likely derailed his chance to become a character actor who took occasional leads, like Robert Duvall or Paul Giamatti. On the other hand, he noted, he believed that living in a location outside of the entertainment industry would only aid his ability to do good work onscreen, thus balancing out the potential losses. He continued to play hardcases on the small screen, like Jason Segel's unsympathetic father on "Freaks and Geeks" (NBC, 1999-2000), but also played more nuanced role, like Indiana Governor Jack Buckland on "The West Wing" (NBC, 1999-2006), whose run for the Presidency was stalled by the White House staff, and an elderly psychic in the miniseries "Rose Red" (ABC, 2002), whose heart problems are exacerbated by a flood of supernatural phenomena.
From 2005 to 2010, Tighe enjoyed the recurring role of Anthony Cooper on "Lost" (ABC, 2005-2010). Perhaps the most cold-blooded character in Tighe's gallery of performances, Cooper was a con man who tracked down his son, future castaway John Locke (Terry O'Quinn), befriended him, and then convinced him to donate a much-needed kidney before disappearing again. Father and son appeared to reconcile in later episodes, but when Locke interfered with a scheme, Cooper pushed him out of a high-rise window, paralyzing him. Cooper also conned the parents of Sawyer/James Ford (Josh Holloway), resulting in their financial ruin and his father murdering his mother before turning the gun on himself. Sawyer was later able to avenge his parents by killing Cooper when he arrived on the series' mysterious island. From 2009 through 2010, Tighe played the title role in Rajiv Joseph's Pulitzer Prize-nominated drama "Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo," a dark, surreal drama about the lives of American soldiers who guard a philosophical tiger (Tighe) while on duty in the Iraq War. He played the role in both the New York and Los Angeles productions, winning positive reviews for his performance.
Cast (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Made feature film debut in a bit part in "The Graduate"
Acted in the feature film, "Most Deadly Passage"
Played Thomas Jefferson in the TV miniseries, "The Rebels"
Reprised role of Roy DeSoto in NBC's short-lived revival of "Emergency!"
Acted on Broadway in the short-lived drama, "Open Admissions"
Began acting regularly in features with his work in "Matewan"; film was also his first with director John Sayles
Won a Genie award as Best Supporting Actor for his performance in "I Love a Man in Uniform"
Returned to series TV as ensemble member of "Murder One" (ABC)
Co-starred in the small screen remake of "In Cold Blood" as the patriarch of the murdered family
Portrayed William Randolph Hearst in the HBO biopic "Winchell"
Had featured role in "Mumford"
Appeared on the NYC stage in "A Skull in Connemara"