Max Wright had an acting career that went on for over 30 years and comprised of roles in numerous TV shows and movies. But the actor was best known as Willie Tanner, the oft-perturbed father on the 1980s sitcom ALF.
Wright died on Wednesday at the age of 75, following a years-long battle with cancer, TMZ reported. Wright was first diagnosed with lymphoma in 1995 and passed away at his home in Hermosa Beach, California.
The actor, a native of Detroit, began acting in the mid-1970s, landing roles on episodes of WKRP in Cincinnati, Taxi and Hart to Hart. He also appeared in movies in that decade such as Last Embrace and All That Jazz.
In the 1980s, Wright appeared in the movie Reds in 1981 and Soul Man in 1986. He also stared on an episode of Benson in 1985 and two episodes of Cheers the following year.
It was in 1986 when Wright would land his most famous role, as Willie, the family patriarch whose family takes in a small puppet alien known as ALF, which stood for “Alien Life Form.” The series ran for 99 episodes over the course of four seasons, with the family getting into funny hijinks with ALF while avoiding the attention of alien-focused government agents. The show was canceled abruptly in March of 1990, ending with a major unresolved cliffhanger.
Reports emerged years later that ALF’s set was an unhappy one, due largely to the technical demands of the show, and Wright had negative words about the show in a 2006 interview with People magazine’s “where are they now” issue.
Max Wright Dies: Father On ’80s Sitcom ‘Alf’ Was 75 https://t.co/87aN19xVeG
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“It was hard work and very grim,” Wright said in the interview. “I was hugely eager to have it over with.” In the same interview, Wright’s co-star Anne Schedeen revealed that on the final night of the shooting, Wright “walked off the set, went to his dressing room, got his bags, went to his car and disappeared.”
Comedian Artie Lange, who worked with Wright on the sitcom The Norm Show, has told a story for years about Wright once snapping on set and attacking the ALF puppet. Wright had roles on several of Norm MacDonald’s sitcoms over the years. His final role was in MacDonald’s 2005 TV movie Back To Norm.
An ALF reboot was announced in early 2018 but was canceled a few months later.
“It doesn’t matter what I felt or what the days were like,” Wright said in that People interview. “ALF brought people a lot of joy. They adored it.”