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John Aylward, ‘West Wing’ and ‘ER’ actor, dead at 75

John Aylward, a character actor who appeared in shows including “The West Wing” and “ER,” passed away Monday evening at his home in Seattle. He was 75.

Aylward’s wife, Mary Fields, confirmed the actor’s death in a statement to his longtime agent, Mitchell K. Stubbs, Deadline reported.

“I was shocked. He was a wonderful actor and a phenomenal human being,” Stubbs told the outlet of the tragic news. “He was a dream client, a friend and a dream person.”

The exact cause of death was unclear; however, Aylward’s family reported that his health had been on the decline.

Born in Seattle on Nov. 7, 1946, the dramatist boasted a storied career that spanned four decades and included dozens of roles on the small screen. Aylward is perhaps best known for playing no-nonsense chief of staff Dr. Donald Anspaugh in the hit NBC medical drama “ER.” The actor’s role became less prominent after Anspaugh stepped down from his fictional gig in Season 4, but he continued to make sporadic appearances as the character through the show’s 15th and final season.

Aylward also had a recurring role in the last season of NBC’s “The West Wing” as former DNC chair Barry Goodwin, who served as adviser and transition leader for Matt Santos’ presidential campaign.

Aylward (middle, with Allison Janney and Bradley Whitford) appears in "The West Wing" episode "The Wedding," which aired on Dec. 11, 2005.
Aylward (middle, with Allison Janney and Bradley Whitford) appears in “The West Wing” episode “The Wedding,” which aired on Dec. 11, 2005.
NBCUniversal via Getty Images

The actor also appeared on a slew of other hit TV series, including “3rd Rock From the Sun,” “Ally McBeal,” “The X-Files” and “Mad Men,” with more recent roles on “Shameless” and “Yellowstone.” In his final credited TV appearance, Aylward starred in the offbeat USA crime drama “Briarpatch,” which finished airing in 2020.

Along with his prolific small-screen career, the Pacific Northwest native also notched multiple film appearances, including “The Way Back,” “The Crazies,” “A Million Ways To Die in the West,” “Water For Elephants” and “Gangster Squad.”

Aylward’s friends and former colleagues were devastated by the actor’s loss.

“Very sad news indeed,” commented “ER” co-star Noah Wyle in an Instagram post announcing his passing. “John was an amazing actor, a gentleman, and a wonderful friend. He’ll be missed.”

Aylward’s talent agency MKS also mourned the actor’s passing on Twitter, writing: “Received a devastating call from Mary Fields, John Aylward’s wife. This kind man and wonderful actor has left us. Very grateful to have known and worked with you, sir. RIP.”

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