Van Williams, who played the title character in the 1966 television show "The Green Hornet," has died of renal failure at the age of 82.
Discovered by producer Mike Todd in the 1950s while working as a diving instructor in Hawaii, Williams moved to Hollywood in 1957 to take up acting, Variety reported. He starred in two short-lived detective shows, playing the same character in both, before landing the role as Britt Reid/The Green Hornet in 1966.
A yet-unknown (in the U.S.) Bruce Lee played his sidekick, Kato, in the series, which only lasted 26 episodes. Williams and Lee also had a cameo in the popular “Batman” TV series and appeared in a two-part crossover episode on that series. Williams later had cameos in shows such as “The Beverly Hillbillies” and “The Rockford Files.”
In a 2007 interview with Michael Barnum at Classic Images, Williams said he “didn’t really care that much for the acting business,” adding that the people’s “phoniness” was not compatible with his background from Texas where his “handshake was his word.”
Williams retired from acting in 1982 and worked as a volunteer firefighter and reserve deputy sheriff in Los Angeles.
Producer Kevin Burns told Variety that Williams had singed his lungs working as a firefighter and had back and bronchial problems later in life, but “through it all he remained strong and rarely spoke of what he went through.” He called Williams him a “great guy” in a Facebook post.
Williams is survived by his wife of 57 years, Vicki, and children Nina, Tia, and Britt, as well as five grandchildren.
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