Cheers star Roger Rees has died at the age of 71 after a brief illness at his home Friday night. The Tony-winning actor is survived by his husband Rick Elice, who co-wrote Jersey Boys, according to CNN.
Rees had to pull out of his lead role in acclaimed Broadway play The Visit in May, a month after it opened, due to unspecified ill health. Roger was replaced by Tom Nelis, who stepped in for him and remains in the role.
“Roger Rees, Tony Award-winning actor, passed away tonight at home, after brief illness,” Scott Heller of the New York Times tweeted late on Friday after receiving a statement from the actor’s rep.
Roger Rees won the award for his lead performance in The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickelby, which he starred in on both the London and Broadway stages from 1980 to 1982. The Welshman was best known for playing the characters Robin Colcord on the American sitcom Cheers and Lord John Marbury on The West Wing.
He also had a memorable role on My So-Called Life, playing Claire Danes’ substitute teacher Mr Racine in 1994. The actor played the Sheriff Of Rottingham in Robin Hood: Men In Tights, and had a role in Titanic.
Rees was born in Aberystwyth, Wales in 1944. But Roger spent his childhood in south London, where he learned that he had a knack for art.
“I was at a pretty rough school, and the only thing I was good at was art,” he recalled during an interview with Playbill in 2013. “I got out of this school and went to Camberwell College of Arts, a terribly prestigious thing to do. I was there to be a painter. And I sketched so well that a year later I was sent to Slade School of Fine Art, one of the great art schools.”
Roger soon changed directions when he was asked to fill in for a part at Wimbledon Theatre where he was painting a backdrop. Rees said the decision launched his acting career.
“And I suddenly was an actor. I played the lead. I don’t remember being nervous. I learned to be nervous later,” he explained.
Rees became a naturalised United States citizen in 1989. Roger converted to Judaism in the 1980s.
He eventually married his husband, writer/producer Rick Elice, in 2011. The actor and his husband also collaborated professionally, including as co-playwrights of the comedic thriller Double Double.
Roger Rees and Rick Elice ” target=”_blank”>received Tony Award nominations for their stage adaptation of Peter and the Starcatcher. Elice is also the co-author (with Marshall Brickman) of the book of the Addams Family musical, the cast of which the actor had joined in March 2011.