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Richard Herd, the veteran character known for his work on Seinfeld and recognizable to genre fans for appearances in the V and Star Trek franchises, died Tuesday at the age of 87 at his home in Los Angeles. Herd's wife, actress Patricia Crowder, informed The Hollywood Reporter of her husband's death, which was due to "cancer-related causes."
Herd was never a household name, but over the course of nearly five decades of screen acting he became a recognizable face, bringing his commanding presence and versatile talents to dozens of film and TV credits, including classic films and legendary sci-fi franchises.
Born in Boston in 1932, Herd credited his mother with sparking an interest in the arts. His first major brush with acting greatness came during an apprenticeship at the Boston Summer Theater, where he had the chance to brush up on his Shakespeare with legendary movie star Claude Rains.
"One evening, he heard a group of us rehearsing Shakespeare and offered to come in early each night to work with us," Herd recalled in a 2015 interview. "He taught me you shouldn't just get involved with the language, but look ahead for the intent and direction of the character you are portraying."
After a detour into military service during the Korean War, Herd moved to New York to pursue his acting dreams. After laying the foundation of his career in the theater, he made his feature film debut alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1970's Hercules in New York.
More roles soon followed. In 1974, the death of actor Richard Long led to Herd being called up to replace him in the now-classic drama All the President's Men, and the rest of the 1970s were quite busy for him. He booked several jobs a year, including roles in The China Syndrome, The Onion Field, F.I.S.T., Starsky and Hutch, and Ike: The War years. That prolific streak continued in the 1980s, which is also when Herd became a key part of science fiction history. In 1983 he was cast as Supreme Commander John in the miniseries V, a role he later reprised for V: The Final Battle in 1984. Other major roles that decades included T.J. Hooker, Planes, Trains & Autombiles, and more. The came Star Trek.
Herd joined the illustrious group of actors who've participated in the Star Trek franchise for the first time in 1993, when he was cast as the Klingon L'Kor for the two-part Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Birthright." In 1999 he joined the even smaller group of actors who've played more than one character on Trek when he was cast as Admiral Owen Paris in Star Trek: Voyager, a role he eventually reprised for the Star Trek fan film Renegades. He was also a founding member of The Enterprise Blues Band, a music group formed by Star Trek actors to perform at fan conventions and other events.
Herd's other major genre credits throughout his career included roles in SeaQuest 2032, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Quantum Leap, Ghost Whisperer, and the voice of Preacher Whitting in Bioshock Infinite. Even if you don't know him for his many sci-fi and fantasy appearances, though, you might recognize him as Mr. Wilhelm from Seinfeld, the role for which he will be perhaps best remembered.
In addition to his wife Patricia, Herd is survived by his daughter Erica, his son Rick, and his stepdaughter Alicia.