Whatever Happened To The Cast Of St. Elsewhere?

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In fall 1982, NBC premiered an ensemble medical drama that mixed a stark, clinical environment with dark humor. (The New York Times called it a "doctor-and-nurse version of 'Hill Street Blues.'") "St. Elsewhere" was set in a fictitious Boston hospital called St. Eligius. The locals dub the facility "St. Elsewhere" because the rundown hospital has seen better days and is overshadowed by the more modern Boston General across town. The series follows the personal and professional lives of the doctors, nurses, and residents who work there, and it helped launch the careers of Ed Begley Jr., Howie Mandel, Mark Harmon, and Denzel Washington, to name a few.

The show lasted six seasons and earned 62 Primetime Emmy award nominations, winning 13 of them. It was not a ratings winner, as the best it ever did was rank 49th in its final season, per The A.V. Club. However, the show dazzled critics. Tom Shales of The Washington Post wrote, "'Elsewhere offers an hour of involving human drama and entrancing human comedy, all of it emphatically of its time, yet keyed to themes that are universal and primal: striving, surviving, and intensive caring."

The show had a loyal following and joins "Cagney & Lacey" and "Hill Street Blues" as the most acclaimed drama series of the 1980s. We take a look at the key players who made the show so memorable, see where they are now, and remember those who are sadly no longer with us.

David Birney

A handsome and likable actor, David Birney became known to audiences in the early 1970s sitcom "Bridget Loves Bernie," starring alongside his first wife Meredith Baxter to form an interfaith married couple. Birney appeared on Broadway starting in the late 1960s and had guest-starring roles on such 1970s TV programs as "The Streets of San Francisco" and "Fantasy Island," as well as the title role in a short-lived series based on the 1973 Al Pacino film "Serpico." Birney played Dr. Ben Samuels on "St. Elsewhere" during its first season and could not return due to a Broadway commitment, per Variety.

Birney and Baxter divorced in 1989 after 15 years of marriage. In her 2011 book "Untied: A Memoir of Family, Fame and Floundering," Baxter accused Birney of being abusive during their marriage, something Birney strongly denied, calling her claims "an appalling abuse of the truth," per People (via Today). Birney's final years were sadly marked by Alzheimer's disease, which the actor succumbed to on April 27, 2022 at age 83, according to his partner Michele Roberge, per The New York Times.

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Ed Begley Jr.

The son of Oscar-winning actor Ed Begley, Ed Begley Jr. was one of the few comic characters on "St. Elsewhere" as Dr. Victor Ehrlich, a role that earned him six consecutive Emmy award nominations. Begley is an outspoken environmentalist who has a website devoted to inspiring people to live an eco-friendly life. He regularly tweets about climate change, ethical farming, and sustainable energy. 

Among Begley's 300-plus film and television credits are "An Officer and a Gentleman" with Richard Gere and Debra Winger, "The Accidental Tourist" with William Hurt and Geena Davis, "She-Devil" with Meryl Streep and Roseanne Barr, and a recurring role on Season 2 of the "Breaking Bad" spinoff "Better Call Saul" on AMC. He is also a frequent collaborator with Christopher Guest, having had roles in Guest's documentary spoofs "Best in Show," "A Mighty Wind," "For Your Consideration," and "Mascots." 

In 2016, Begley was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease after experiencing symptoms for 12 years, per Stem Cell of America. He credits stem cell treatment in Tijuana, Mexico, with minimizing trembling symptoms and with regaining his sense of taste and smell. "I have not been able to turn the clock back to 2004 before all the symptoms started [but] I've stopped it," Begley told the organization.

Howie Mandel

A wacky stand-up comedian and notorious germaphobe, Howie Mandel's role as Dr. Wayne Fiscus was not at all comical. In one episode, Fiscus fights for his life after an enraged wife trying to kill her husband mistakenly shoots him (per The New York Times). Mandel was not the first choice for the part. David Paymer, who would go on to receive an Oscar nomination for Billy Crystal's "Mr. Saturday Night," played the role in the unaired pilot, per People. Mandel said he found it "challenging to be doing comedy and that at the same time."

While on "St. Elsewhere," Mandel had a thatch of curly black hair, ironic since he is now known for his bald head. Mandel started shaving his head by choice. "This feels so streamlined and so clean," he told ABC News' "20/20" of his shiny crown. Mandel's diagnosis with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is what he attributes his bald look to, as well as his refusal to shake hands (although he will fist-bump). "As much as I shave my face, I shave my head," Mandel said regarding the frequency with which he shaves, on his son Alex's vlog.

Mandel, who would later gain success as host of the primetime game show "Deal or No Deal" and judge on "America's Got Talent," wrote a book in 2009 about his struggles with OCD and ADHD called "Here's the Deal: Don't Touch Me."

David Morse

A very serious and intelligent actor, David Morse played Dr. Jack "Boomer" Morrison on "St. Elsewhere." In one of the show's many controversial storylines, Boomer is raped while doing volunteer work in a prison (via The New York Times). 

David Morse has appeared in a number of successful films, including "The Green Mile," "The Hurt Locker," and the 2008 miniseries "John Adams," in which he played George Washington. Morse reunited with "St. Elsewhere" co-star Denzel Washington in 2018 when they both appeared in a Broadway revival of Eugene O'Neill's "The Iceman Cometh," which earned him a Tony award nomination. Although it was the first time they'd worked together in 30 years, Morse recalled meeting Washington on a flight once (as he told BUILD Series), but Washington did not remember the encounter.

Morse celebrated the 30th anniversary of "St. Elsewhere" with a cast reunion in 2012, for "Good Morning America." "It was a show that changed television in a lot of ways, and to be a part of something like that was certainly extraordinary," he said.

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Ed Flanders

An award-winning stage and TV actor, Ed Flanders guest-starred on many television series starting in the 1970s, perhaps most memorably in a 1972 episode of "M*A*S*H" where he played a director making a documentary about the 4077, only to give up on the project when sabotaged by Hawkeye and Trapper John. He won a Tony award in 1974 for the Broadway revival of Eugene O'Neill's "A Moon for the Misbegotten" and later an Emmy award for the same role in the 1976 TV production. 

Flanders was best known, however, for playing Dr. Donald Westphall on "St. Elsewhere," one of the senior doctors who not only has to handle the daily grind of St. Eligius, but also is a single father to a young autistic son (Chad Allen). Flanders left the show in 1987 to pursue other projects but returned for two episodes, including the series finale. On his final outing as a regular, he improvised a rambling speech about death and memorably mooned his new boss (Ronny Cox), which aired despite some hand-wringing from NBC executives, per the AP. Clearly a nod to Flanders' stage work, the Season 6 episode was titled "A Moon for the Misbegotten."

Flanders sadly dealt with many demons in his personal life. He had been divorced three times, was a recluse who suffered from depression, consumed a lot of alcohol, and was in constant back pain from a 1988 auto accident near his ranch in Denny, California. He died by suicide on February 22, 1995, per People. He was 60.

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Denzel Washington

Denzel Washington went on to become one of the world's biggest movie stars and a two-time Oscar winner, but ironically, his six seasons on "St. Elsewhere" drew little fanfare or any award nominations. Washington played the often hotheaded Dr. Philip Chandler. During the run of the show, he also appeared in several motion pictures, such as 1984's "A Soldier's Story" and 1986's "Power," but it was his performance as real-life South African anti-apartheid activist Steven Biko in 1987's "Cry Freedom" that earned Washington critical acclaim, including the first of ten Oscar nominations. 

After "St. Elsewhere" ended, Washington's film career could not have been busier. He won the best supporting actor Oscar for the 1989 Civil War drama "Glory," and starred in such critically acclaimed films as "Malcolm X," "Philadelphia," "The Hurricane," "Training Day" (his second Oscar, this time for leading actor), and the screen version of August Wilson's play "Fences," which he also produced and directed.

One of Washington's inspirations was Sidney Poitier. "He was the beacon," Washington shared on "Today" shortly after Poitier's death. "He was the one we all followed. And it was an honor to be able to call him a friend." At the 2002 Academy Awards ceremony, Washington presented Poitier with an honorary Oscar. Later in the evening, when Washington won the best actor award for "Training Day," he quipped, "Forty years I've been chasing Sidney, they finally give it me, what do they do? They give it to him the same night."

William Daniels

William Daniels won two Emmys playing the curmudgeonly Dr. Mark Craig, a brilliant but acerbic heart surgeon. Daniels' real-life wife of over 70 years Bonnie Bartlett played his wife on the show. Of his fellow cast members, Daniels told the Television Academy Foundation, "I loved them all ... I was not aware of any problems of one actor with another ... They all were just happy to be on the show." Daniels also voiced the car KITT on "Knight Rider" during his time on "St. Elsewhere."

Daniels portrayed Dustin Hoffman's father in 1967's "The Graduate" (although Daniels is only ten years older than Hoffman). A Broadway veteran, he originated the role of John Adams in the 1969 Broadway musical "1776" and reprised the role for the 1972 film version. From 1999 to 2001, Daniels served as president of the Screen Actors Guild. The esteemed actor earned a new generation of fans as Mr. Feeny on the 1990s sitcom "Boy Meets World." When asked what the secret was for being married for over 70 years, Daniels told Forbes, "A lack of imagination [laughs]. No, we're a solid couple, you know. We love each other. We've never been jealous about the other's work, or success. Rather, we take pride in each other's accomplishments."

Norman Lloyd

A veteran of film and television since their inception, Norman Lloyd counted among his contemporaries Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles, and Alfred Hitchcock. Lloyd was the last surviving member of Welles' fabled Mercury Theatre troupe. He produced and directed many television series starting in the 1950s, most notably "Alfred Hitchcock Presents." His big-screen acting credits include Chaplin's "Limelight," "Dead Poets Society" with Robin Williams, and Martin Scorsese's "The Age of Innocence," among many others.

Lloyd played Dr. Daniel Auschlander, Chief of Services at St. Eligius Hospital, who is a sage father figure of sorts to the younger medical staff. Lloyd was a recurring character on the show's first season, then a regular cast member during the second season and through its finale. It was revealed that he was diagnosed with metastatic liver cancer, but in Seasons 2 and 3 he goes into remission following chemotherapy treatment. In the show's last season, Auschlander suffers a stroke, which claims his life in the series' final episode. 

The dignified Lloyd acted until he was 100, finishing his career with Amy Schumer and Judd Apatow's "Trainwreck." After appearing in his improvisatory role, he offered Inside New Jersey readers (via NJ.com) some advice: "If there is a secret to living a long and happy life, I think that's it. Do your work. Be curious. Stay interested." The Jersey City native died on May 11, 2021 at age 106, per Deadline. The outlet noted that Lloyd has the TV history distinction of being in the "St. Elsewhere" and "Cheers" crossover episode.

Bonnie Bartlett

Bonnie Bartlett played Ellen Craig on "St. Elsewhere," wife of the acid-tongued Dr. Mark Craig, played by Bartlett's real-life husband of over 70 years, Williams Daniels. "We probably got married so we could have sex," Bartlett half-joked in 2017 when telling Salon about her long marriage. "Because in those days, you know, you just couldn't do that." The couple have some particularly volatile scenes in "St. Elsewhere" when the death of their son in a car accident causes a rift in their marriage and they separate. "Bill hated it and I think the audience hated it," Bartlett told the Television Academy Foundation, noting that Daniels had a certain amount of jealousy toward the actor Bartlett's character was having an affair with.

Like her husband, Bartlett won two Emmys for her role on the show. In 1986, the couple both won on the same night. "When she won, we came out and there were photographers and everything," Daniels remembered for Salon. "They were taking pictures and they said 'Mr. Bartlett, would you step aside please, while we get a single?'" Bartlett had a memorable guest role on a 1988 episode of "The Golden Girls" in which she played a snooty author who befriends Bea Arthur's Dorothy, much to the chagrin of Dorothy's neglected roommates. She appeared in five episodes of her husband's 1990s sitcom "Boy Meets World" as Dean Lila Bolander. Bartlett and Daniels are both in their 90s and retired (her last role was in 2017 in two episodes of AMC's "Better Call Saul").

Mark Harmon

A heartthrob who is also a talented actor, Mark Harmon joined "St. Elsewhere" during its second season. His Dr. Robert Caldwell was diagnosed with HIV in a storyline that was timely yet highly controversial. Harmon left the show in 1986, and his character's off-screen death from AIDS was mentioned two years later. Harmon would go on to later success with the CBS police procedural "NCIS," which ran for 20 seasons (Harmon departed the show after a final appearance in season 19). In 2012, Harmon was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He has been married to fellow actor Pam Dawber since 1987, with whom he has two sons.

In 1996, Harmon made headlines as a real-life action hero after rescuing a 16-year-old from a burning car outside his Brentwood, California home. The humble Harmon refused to consider his actions heroic. "I won't take credit for it, because if the car explodes and I'm there next to the car, then you're talking about two young boys who don't have a father," Harmon told CBS News. "And you'd be doing this interview with my wife and talking about how stupid it was."

Stephen Furst

Stephen Furst was known for his role as the forlorn frat boy Flounder in the hit 1978 film "Animal House." Starting out with a small part in Season 2, he added a touch of comic relief to "St. Elsewhere" as Dr. Elliot Axelrod and became a series regular. From 1994 to 1998, he played Vir Cotto on "Babylon 5."

Sadly, at age 16 he lost both of his parents to diabetes complications. Furst himself was diagnosed with diabetes soon after and had struggled with his health and weight for much of his adult life. In 2001, he lost more than 100 pounds. "Like most severely overweight people, I had to hit a rock-hard bottom before I'd take responsibility for the consequences of neglecting my own health," he told USA Today. The actor became a national spokesperson for the American Heart Association and a representative for the American Diabetes Association. 

He directed a number of projects in the '90s and 2000s and told IGN in a lengthy interview, "My company is called Curmudgeon Films, and my logo says, 'Why grow up when you can make movies?' I always keep it a fun thing to do. We're not solving world peace here." Furst died on June 16, 2017, at age 63 from complications of diabetes, per The Hollywood Reporter. He was survived by his wife Lorraine and sons Griff, an actor, and Nathan, a composer.

Alfre Woodard

Alfre Woodard is a celebrated actor who tied with Regina King for having won four Emmy awards, the most of any female Black performer until Debbie Allen broke the record. She joined "St. Elsewhere" as a regular cast member in 1985 — Dr. Roxanne Turner, an independent doctor and romantic interest of Dr. Philip Chandler (Denzel Washington). Woodard was nominated for a leading actress in a drama series Emmy for the show, which she left in 1987, and a guest actress in a drama series Emmy when she returned for one episode in 1988.

Woodard was nominated for a supporting actress Oscar for 1983's "Cross Creek" and received rave reviews later in her career for her performance in 2019's "Clemency," in which she played a death row warden. She has been politically active since her teens and is a lifelong Democrat who campaigned to get out the youth vote for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 (per ABC News). 

When speaking with The Daily Beast about her role in "Clemency," for which she visited Ohio prisons in preparation, Woodard stressed the importance of getting to know the person she was playing. "Everything we do as actors, we say, and it's true, that our bodies and our whole psyche or spirituality is our instrument. And you learn to play it the way you play a Strat or a cello. All that is in there with training, but you know what to push, you know what to touch to get those notes, and I was ready to play it," she said.

Chad Allen

Chad Allen had a recurring role on "St. Elsewhere" beginning in Season 2 as Tommy, the autistic son of Dr. Donald Westphall (Ed Flanders). His character is responsible for baffling many viewers due to his role in the last scene of the show's final episode, in which Tommy stares into a snowglobe. Dr. Westphall, looking more like a construction worker than a doctor, laments, "He sits there all day long in his own world staring at that toy." When the camera zooms into the globe for the last shot, what we see inside is St. Eligius Hospital, leading many to wonder if the whole series was just in Tommy's imagination. "I tell you, the last episode, I never bought it," Norman Lloyd told Entertainment Weekly of the ending, adding, "...I thought it was a letdown."

Allen was a regular cast member on "Our House," "My Two Dads," and "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman," making him something of a teen heartthrob. He is retired from acting and is a LGBTQ advocate. In 2009, the GLAAD Media Awards presented Allen with the Davidson/Valenti award, which goes to "an openly lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender media professional who has made a significant difference in promoting equal rights for our community," per the San Francisco Sentinel. Allen is a licensed psychologist, having graduated from the Psy.D. Program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University in New England in 2020.