A supporting actor for much of his film career, Richard Herd has worked with actors such as Jack Lemmon, Rod Steiger, and Robert Redford. He has also been a frequent guest star on TV series since the early 1970s and a cast regular on “T.J. Hooker,” “Star Trek: Voyager,” and “Seinfeld” – for his reoccurring role of ‘Mr. Wilhelm.’
“‘Seinfeld’ was one of the best jobs I ever had,” said Herd from his home in Los Angeles. “It got me a tremendous amount of recognition and still does because it plays all the time. They were all genuinely nice people to work with.”
Herd’s film appearances include hits such as “All the President’s Men” and “The China Syndrome.” He rates the latter as “one of the best parts to this day that I ever had in a star-filled film” and still recalls rushing to an audition at the studio’s request.
“There sat the director Jim Bridges, Jack Lemmon, Jane Fonda, Michael Douglas and several producers,” said Herd, who was offered and accepted the part of McCormack, the devious chairman of the film’s California Gas & Electric Company.
Less than 2 weeks after the film’s release the worst nuclear incident in U.S. History occurred at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station.
“That made ‘The China Syndrome’ a film everyone wanted to see,” said Herd. “I received many offers to do other films because of its impact.”
Herd estimates his total number of films, TV, and stage credits at over 500. But it’s a career that almost never happened due to a childhood illness.
“I had osteomyelitis, a serious bone infection, and almost didn’t survive,” recalled Herd, who was sent to Boston Children’s Hospital in second grade. “Lying there, month after month, you become very stoic. It really stimulated my imagination and I think actually helped me later as an actor.”
Fortunately, Richard recovered. Given a youthful second chance, Herd was determined to succeed in his career goals. In addition to acting, he is a musician, singer, writes poetry and plays, and is an established abstract artist (see www.richardherd.com).
Herd, who turned 86 in September, says he continues to look for interesting roles and has worked on several films in production this year including “The Silent Natural,” and “The Mule” with Clint Eastward. “I play Eastwood’s best friend,” he said.
“You have to seek your individuality and find what works for you, whatever your career goal,” he adds. “You won’t succeed unless you have heart and soul, and understanding and desire.”
**Fortunately, a new wonder drug became available and Richard was one of the earliest patients to receive the medication. “Penicillin knocked out the infection and saved my life.”