Michael Ontkean

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Michael Ontkean
Michael Leonard Ontkean.jpg
Michael Leonard Ontkean

(1946-01-24) January 24, 1946 (age 72)
Residence Hawaii
Alma mater University of New Hampshire
Occupation Actor
Years active 1955–2011
  • Francis Ontkean (m. 1971–1980)
  • Jamie Smith Jackson
Children 2

Michael Leonard Ontkean (born 24 January 1946) is a retired Canadian actor.[1] Born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, Ontkean relocated to the United States to attend the University of New Hampshire on a hockey scholarship before pursuing a career in acting in the early 1970s.

He initially came to prominence portraying Officer Willie Gillis on the crime drama series The Rookies from 1972 to 1974, followed by lead roles in the hockey sports comedy film Slap Shot (1977) and the romantic comedy Willie & Phil (1980).

In 1982, he had a starring role opposite Harry Hamlin and Kate Jackson in the drama Making Love, in which he portrayed a married man who comes to terms with his homosexuality. Ontkean continued to appear in films, such as Clara's Heart (1988) and Postcards from the Edge (1990) before being cast as Sheriff Harry S. Truman on David Lynch's Twin Peaks (1990–1991).

Early life

Ontkean was born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, the son of Muriel (née Cooper), an actress, and Leonard Ontkean, a boxer and actor.[2] He was a child actor in Vancouver and he appeared on the Canadian television series Hudson's Bay (1959).[3] His family later relocated to Toronto, where he attended St. Michael's Choir School, Holy Rosary and later, St. Michael's College School.[citation needed]

Ontkean also grew up playing hockey and he earned a hockey scholarship to the University of New Hampshire, a Division I program playing in the ECAC. In his three years on the varsity program, Ontkean scored 63 goals and 111 points in 85 games played.[4] He led the team in goal scoring his junior year with 30 goals, and was second behind fellow Canadian Louis Frigon his senior year.


Ontkean began in Hollywood by guest starring in The Partridge Family in 1971, and he was a television guest player on such shows as Ironside and Longstreet, but his break was in the ABC series The Rookies (1972–1976),[1] in which he played Officer Willie Gillis for the first two seasons.

Ontkean's hockey skill played a large role in his landing the role of Ned Braden in Slap Shot (1977),[1] as he performed all of his on-ice shots himself. In 1979 he appeared in the first episode of Tales of the Unexpected.

Other early movie roles included Necromancy (1972) with Orson Welles; Voices (1979) with Amy Irving; Willie & Phil (1980) with Margot Kidder; The Blood of Others (1984); The Allnighter and Maid to Order (both 1987) (the latter with Ally Sheedy); Clara's Heart (1988) with Whoopi Goldberg, and Bye Bye Blues (1989).

Making Love

Making Love (1982) is about a married man who discovers his homosexuality. Ontkean was not the director's first choice for the film: Arthur Hiller had previously approached Tom Berenger, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, William Hurt and Peter Strauss to play the lead, before finally approaching Ontkean. According to Hiller, the reaction of most actors was to tell him not to even consider them for the role.[5] The film reunited Ontkean with Kate Jackson; the two had previously co-starred together in The Rookies. Many years later, Ontkean tried to prevent clips from the film from being included in The Celluloid Closet, a 1996 documentary about LGBT characters in film, but he was unsuccessful.[6]

Twin Peaks

Ontkean appeared as Sheriff Harry S. Truman in David Lynch and Mark Frost's Twin Peaks (1990).[7] He filmed scenes for Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me but, like many others from the original TV series, his scenes were deleted from the final film.

As a result of his retirement, Ontkean did not reprise his role of Sheriff Harry S. Truman in the 2017 revival of Twin Peaks.[8]

After Twin Peaks

Ontkean subsequently appeared in many film and television productions including Kids Don't Tell (1985) with JoBeth Williams; The Right of the People (1986); In Defense of a Married Man (1990); In a Child's Name (1991) with Valerie Bertinelli; Legacy of Lies (1992); Rapture and Vendetta II: The New Mafia (both 1993); Swann: A Mystery and The Stepford Husbands (both 1996); Summer of the Monkeys and A Chance of Snow (both 1998) (the latter again with JoBeth Williams); Bear with Me (2000), and Mrs. Ashboro's Cat (2003).

Ontkean had a recurring role on Fox's short-lived series North Shore in 2004, and also appeared in the 2008 comedy TV show Sophie. He also featured in the 2011 film The Descendants, which was his last role before he decided to retire from acting.[9]

Ontkean was approached to reprise his role as Sheriff Truman for the 2017 revival of Twin Peaks but declined to come out of retirement. His role was replaced by Robert Forster, playing Sheriff Truman's brother Frank.[10]

Personal life

He is married to Jamie Smith Jackson, design director and owner of Jamie Jackson Design, and they reside in Hawaii. Together they have two daughters, Jenna Millman and Sadie Sapphire Ontkean.[11][12][13]



Year Title Role Notes
1971 The Peace Killers Jeff
1972 Necromancy Frank Brandon
1972 Pickup on 101 Chuck
1972 Girls on the Road Will
1977 Slap Shot Ned Braden
1979 Voices Drew Rothman
1980 Willie & Phil Willie Kaufman
1982 Making Love Zach
1984 The Blood of Others Jean
1984 Just the Way You Are Peter Nichols
1985 Kids Don't Tell John Ryan Television film
1986 The Right of the People Christopher Wells Television film
1987 The Allnighter Mickey
1987 Maid to Order Nick McGuire
1987 Street Justice Curt Flynn
1988 Clara's Heart Bill Hart
1989 Bye Bye Blues Teddy Harper
1989 Cold Front Derek McKenzie
1990 Postcards from the Edge Robert Munch
1990 In Defense of a Married Man Robert Television film
1992 Legacy of Lies Zach Resnick Television film
1992 Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me Sheriff Harry S. Truman Scenes deleted
1993 Rapture Jeff Lisker Television film
1993 Whose Child Is This? The War for Baby Jessica Jan DeBoer Television film
1993 Bride of Violence 2 Hank Parnell Television film
1996 The Man Next Door Eli Cooley Television film
1996 The Stepford Husbands Mick Davison Television film
1996 Swann Stephen
1998 Summer of the Monkeys John Lee
1998 A Chance of Snow Matthew Parker Television film
1998 Nico the Unicorn Tom Gentry
1999 Just a Little Harmless Sex Jeff
2000 Bear with Me Greg Bradley
2000 Green Sails John Scott Television film
2002 A Killing Spring Tom Keaton Television film
2004 Ghost Cat Wes Merritt Television film
2011 The Descendants Cousin Michael
2014 Twin Peaks: The Missing Pieces Sheriff Harry S. Truman


Year Title Role Notes
1959 Hudson's Bay Jeremy Warrant Episode: "Pierre's Three Evils"
1970 Ironside Man Episode: "Noel's Gonna Fly"
1970 Dan August Mike Foschke Episode: "The Soldier"
1971 Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color Alcide Episode: "The Boy from Dead Man's Bayou"
1971 The Partridge Family Lester Braddock Episode: "Not With My Sister, You Don't!"
1971 Longstreet David De Carie Episode: "So, Who's Fred Hornbeck?"
1972–1974 The Rookies Officer Willie Gillis 47 episodes
1979 Tales of the Unexpected Tommy Episode: "The Man from the South"
1989 The Hitchhiker Gordon Brooks Episode: "Square Deal"
1990–1991 Twin Peaks Sheriff Harry S. Truman 30 episodes
1991 In a Child's Name Kenneth Taylor Miniseries
1994 Family Album Ward Thayer Miniseries
1999 PSI Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal John Doe / Wesley Addison Episode: "John Doe"
1997–2000 The Outer Limits Dr. Field / Dr. Charles McCamber 2 episodes
2004–2005 North Shore Gordon Matthews 4 episodes
2008 Sophie Victor Hearst 3 episodes

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Production Result
1990 Genie Award Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role Bye Bye Blues Nominated
1991 Soap Opera Digest Award Outstanding Hero: Prime Time Twin Peaks Nominated


  1. ^ a b c "Michael Ontkean". The New York Times.
  2. ^ "Michael Ontkean Biography (1946?-)". Filmreference.
  3. ^ "CTVA Canada – "Hudson's Bay" (1959–60) – Barry Nelson Gerge Tobias". Archived from the original on 25 December 2010. Retrieved 11 December 2010.
  4. ^ "Michael Ontkean". HockeyDB.
  5. ^ Rutledge, Leigh (1996). The Gay Book of Lists. Boston: Alyson Publications. p. 135. ISBN 978-1555833596. (Subscription required (help)).
  6. ^ Baker, Robin; Hanson, Briony (1996). Celluloid Icons. London: Channel 4. p. 17. ISBN 978-1851441723. (Subscription required (help)).
  7. ^ O'Connor, John J. (6 April 1990). "TV WEEKEND; A Skewed Vision of a Small Town In 'Twin Peaks'". The New York Times.
  8. ^ Ausiello, Michael (8 October 2015). "Twin Peaks Recasts Major Role for Revival (and It's a Total Bummer)". TVLine.
  9. ^ "Michael Ontkean Filmography". The New York Times.
  10. ^ Testa, Yohana (4 May 2017). "Who's Missing from This Spine-Tingling Twin Peaks Teaser?". Vanity Fair.
  11. ^ "Mildred Smith". Marshall Democrat-News. 24 August 2007. Retrieved 2018-01-31.
  12. ^ "Jamie Jackson Design Director and Owner". Jamie Jackson Design. Retrieved 2018-08-05.
  13. ^ "FASHION I". Sadie Sapphire. Retrieved 2018-08-05.

External links

  • Michael Ontkean on IMDb
  • Michael Ontkean career statistics at The Internet Hockey Database
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