Roger Rees Dies – 71-Year-Old Tony Award Winner And ‘Cheers’ Veteran Actor Was Active ‘Til May

Roger Rees, a Welsh-born Tony and Olivier winning actor, passed away Friday night after a “brief illness.”

Rees, a 71-year-old veteran actor, immortalized by such iconic roles he played in Cheers and The West Wing, passed away after a “brief illness,” confirmed his spokesperson Rick Miramontez. He was surrounded by family and friends at his home in New York City. An openly gay person, Rees had his husband, playwright Rick Elice, by his side.

Rees’ dedication to his profession was legendary. It is evident from the fact that he was actively working in theater until May of this year, when an as-yet undisclosed medical condition forced him to withdraw. He was working with the theater group that was performing the Broadway musical The Visit. While it is not immediately clear, it is presumed it was this very same illness that snatched Rees away from the acting world.


Roger Rees started his extensive career in the 1970s, but became a well-known personality when he starred in the eight-and-a-half-hour Royal Shakespeare Company’s stage production The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (1980) based on the Charles Dickens novel of the same name in England and on Broadway.

Rees won a Tony Award as well as an Olivier Award for his role Nicholas Nickleby. Moreover, when the same production was adapted for the little screen, Rees won a primetime Emmy nomination for the same role. Rees also bagged two other nominations in 1995 for Indiscretions and in 2012 for co-directing Peter and the Starcatcher, a Peter Pan prequel. Rees was involved in other super-hit Broadway productions like The Winslow Boy, The Addams Family, Uncle Vanya, The Rehearsal, The Red Shoes and London Assurance, reported Yahoo.

Though one might associate Roger Rees with serious theater, he also played the suave and forever-angry Sheriff of Rottingham in Mel Brooks’ Robin Hood: Men in Tights. Though small, his roles in in The Scorpion King (2002) and The Pink Panther (2006) were quite memorable.

The TV-watching crowd will recognize Roger Rees as the snobbish Robin Colcord on Cheers, which he played for five years. He also played British Ambassador Lord John Marbury on The West Wing for six years.

Roger Rees is one of the most dedicated theater personalities. He spent more than two decades with the Royal Shakespeare Company and served as the artistic director of the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts from 2004 to 2007. He was also the associate artistic director of the Bristol Old Vic in England for two years starting in 1985, reported Broadway.

[Image Credit | Walter McBride / Getty Images]