William Devane

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William Devane
Devane in The Missiles of October (1974)
William Joseph Devane

(1939-09-05) September 5, 1939 (age 84)
Alma materAmerican Academy of Dramatic Arts
Years active1966–present
Eugenie McCabe
(m. 1961)

William Joseph Devane (born September 5, 1939) is an American actor. He is known for his role as Greg Sumner on the primetime soap opera Knots Landing (1983–1993)[1] and as James Heller on the Fox serial dramas 24 (2001–2010) and 24: Live Another Day (2014). He is also known for his work in films such as Family Plot (1976), Marathon Man (1976), Rolling Thunder (1977), Payback (1999), and Space Cowboys (2000).

Early life[edit]

Devane was born on September 5, 1939, in Albany, New York,[2] the son of Joseph Devane, who had been Franklin D. Roosevelt's chauffeur when he was governor of New York.[3] His father was of Irish descent and his mother Kate had Dutch and German ancestry.[4] Devane graduated from Philip Schuyler High School in Albany, and then the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City in 1962.[2]


Devane began his acting career with the New York Shakespeare Festival, where he performed in fifteen plays.[2]

In 1966, Devane portrayed Robert F. Kennedy in the off-Broadway spoof MacBird.[2] He gained acclaim for his role as President John F. Kennedy in a television docudrama about the Cuban Missile Crisis, The Missiles of October (1974)[2] and again when he played blacklisted radio personality John Henry Faulk in the Emmy Award-winning TV movie Fear on Trial (1975). Devane starred as Master Sgt. Milt Warden in the miniseries remake of From Here to Eternity (1979); he later reprised that role in a weekly series that was canceled after one season. Devane is widely known for his ten years as the ambitious and hardnosed politician-turned-corporate titan Greg Sumner on Knots Landing.

In 1971, he starred off-Broadway as Randle McMurphy in the first stage revival of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest alongside Danny DeVito as Martini, who would go on to reprise the role in the acclaimed film of the same name alongside Jack Nicholson.[5][6]

In 1994, Devane appeared as Al Capone in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman in an episode entitled "That Old Gang of Mine". He had a recurring role on the CBS show Early Edition (1996–2000) as the lead character's father. Devane appeared in the films McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971); Lady Liberty (1971); Family Plot (1976), directed by Alfred Hitchcock; Marathon Man (1976); Rolling Thunder (1977); Yanks (1979); Testament (1983) with Jane Alexander; Timestalkers (1987) with Lauren Hutton and Klaus Kinski; Forgotten Sins (1996) with John Shea; Exception to the Rule (1997); Payback (1999); Hollow Man (2000) and Space Cowboys (2000).

Devane has played members of the Presidential Cabinet on two evening dramas. In 2004, on The West Wing, he guest-starred as the secretary of state and potential vice presidential nominee.[7] Devane appeared in several scenes with Martin Sheen; they also appeared together as President John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert, respectively, 30 years earlier in The Missiles of October (1974). In 2005, he joined the cast of 24 as Secretary of Defense James Heller for seasons four through six.[7]

Later career[edit]

In 2004, Devane appeared in three episodes of Stargate SG-1 as President Henry Hayes and appears in the direct-to-DVD movie Stargate: Continuum. He also co-starred in the short-lived sitcom Crumbs and as Brian's real-estate broker father in What About Brian (2006–07). In 2008, he appeared in Russ Emanuel's Chasing the Green alongside Jeremy London, Ryan Hurst, and Robert Picardo. He also appears as police officer turned psychologist Dr. Dix in the Jesse Stone mystery movies with Tom Selleck.[7] In 2010, he appeared in the NCIS episode "Worst Nightmare" as a grandfather who is not what he appears to be, and is actually a former U.S. deep-cover special-operations agent, of a child kidnapped from Marine Corps Base Quantico.

In 2012, Devane began a recurring role as Grandpa Edward Grayson on the ABC primetime soap opera Revenge.[8] Devane also played the President of the United States in the Christopher Nolan film The Dark Knight Rises. Devane reprised his role as James Heller, now President, in the limited-run series 24: Live Another Day, which premiered in May 2014.

Devane had a cameo role as Williams, as part of NASA, in the 2014 film Interstellar and a year later, was also part of the regular cast of the sitcom The Grinder. In 2022, he appeared in a four-episode guest arc on the Amazon Prime Video detective series Bosch: Legacy.

Personal life[edit]

He married Eugenie McCabe in 1961. They lived in Sherman Oaks, Los Angeles, with their two sons:[2] Joshua, a real estate agent, and Jake, a lawyer. He has two grandsons. He splits his time between his ranches in California and Montana.



Year Title Role Notes
1967 In the Country Unknown
1969 Gunsmith of Williamsburg The Narrator
1971 The Pursuit of Happiness Pilot
The 300 Year Weekend Tom
McCabe & Mrs. Miller Clement Samuels, Esq
My Old Man's Place Jimmy Pilgrim
Lady Liberty Jock Fenner
1972 The Irish Whiskey Rebellion Lieutenant Ashley
1975 Report to the Commissioner Assistant District Attorney Jackson
1976 Family Plot Arthur Adamson / Edward Shoebridge
Marathon Man Commander Peter "Janey" Janeway
1977 The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training Mike Leak
Rolling Thunder Major Charles Rane
1979 The Dark Roy Warner
Yanks Captain John
1981 Honky Tonk Freeway Mayor Kirby T. Calo
1981 Red Flag - The Ultimate Game Major Phil Clark
1983 Testament Tom Wetherly
1987 Hadley's Rebellion Coach Ball
1987 Timestalkers Dr. Scott McKenzie
1990 Vital Signs Dr. Chatham
1992 Obsessed Ed Bledsoe
1994 Lady in Waiting (Alternate title: Hollywood Madam) Lieutenant Barrett
1995 Falling from the Sky: Flight 174 Captain Robert Pearson
1997 Exception to the Rule Lawrence Kellerman
1999 Payback Carter
2000 The Man Who Used To Be Me Sam
Poor White Trash Ron Lake
Space Cowboys Flight Director Eugene "Gene" Davis
Hollow Man Dr. Howard Kramer
2001 Race to Space Roger Thornhill
2002 The Badge The Judge
Threat of Exposure Colonel Weldon
2003 The Wind Effect L.T. Porter
Monte Walsh Cal Brennan
2008 The Fall Judge Stanley Seeban
Stargate Continuum President Henry Hayes
2009 The Least Among You Alan Beckett
Chasing the Green Victor Gatling
2010 The River Why "Dutch" Hines
The Kane Files: Life of Trial Thompson
2011 Flag of My Father Jake
2012 Red Clover "Pops" O'Hara
The Dark Knight Rises The President
2013 Bad Turn Worse "Big Red"
2014 50 to 1 Leonard "Doc" Blach
Interstellar Williams
2015 Truth Gen. Hodges Voice; Uncredited



  1. ^ "Biography for William Devane". IMDb.com.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "DeVane's claim to fame "I'm a damn good actor". Lawrence Journal World. May 11, 1985. Retrieved October 12, 2017.
  3. ^ Weinraub, Bernard (October 15, 1995). "COVER STORY;They Told Devane He'd Be Typecast As a Kennedy (But Which One?) – New York Times". The New York Times.
  4. ^ Biancolli, Amy (April 18, 2013). "William Devane talks heritage: Irish and Albany". Times Union.
  5. ^ "60. Danny DeVito, Everybody: The Always Sunny Podcast". YouTube.com. Retrieved June 6, 2023.
  6. ^ Leiter, Samuel. "372. ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST. From my (unpublished) ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE NEW YORK STAGE, 1970-1975". slleiter.blogspot.com. Retrieved June 6, 2023.
  7. ^ a b c "William Devane". TVGuide.com. TV Guide. Retrieved April 21, 2020.
  8. ^ Jeffery, Morgan (December 14, 2011). "'24' star William Devane joins ABC's 'Revenge'". Digital Spy.
  9. ^ "The Big Easy (syndicated unsold pilot)". TV Archives : Unsold Pilots. March 31, 1972.

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