John Allen Astin (born March 30, 1930) is an Oscar-nominated American actor who has appeared in numerous films and television shows, but is best known for the role of Gomez Addams on The Addams Family and similarly eccentric comedic characters.
Astin was born in Baltimore, Maryland
, the son of Margaret Linnie (née
Mackenzie) and Dr. Allen Varley Astin, who was the director of the National Bureau of Standards (now the National Institute of Standards and Technology
). He graduated from Johns Hopkins University
in 1952, after transferring from Washington & Jefferson College
. He initially studied mathematics
at Washington & Jefferson then became a drama major at Johns Hopkins; he was a member of the Phi Kappa Psi
fraternity at Johns Hopkins.
Astin started in theatre, doing voice-over work for commercials. His first big break came in a small but memorable part in the Oscar
-winning West Side Story
. In 1962-63, he starred in the sitcom I'm Dickens, He's Fenster
with Marty Ingels
, which lasted for one season with 31 episodes. From 1964-66, he starred in The Addams Family
as Gomez Addams
, the macabre head of the family.
Return to the Addams Family
He returned on the TV show The New Addams Family
as Grandpapa Addams, alongside his look-alike successor, Glenn Taranto
, in the iconic role of Gomez.
Astin also played the Riddler
during Frank Gorshin
's second season departure (Gorshin came back for the third). He also made a notable appearance in popular mystery show Murder, She Wrote
, as the villainous Sheriff Harry Pierce. He had a recurring role on the sitcom Night Court
as Buddy, eccentric former mental patient and the father of lead character Harry Stone. He also played the regular role of Ed LaSalle in the short-lived Mary Tyler Moore
during the 1985-86 television season.
Astin received an Academy Award nomination for Prelude, a short film that he wrote, produced, and directed. He was nominated for an Ace Award for his work on Tales from the Crypt, and received an Emmy nomination for the cartoon voice of Gomez on ABC-TV's The Addams Family. He also voiced the character Bull Gator on the animated series Taz-Mania. Astin served for four years on the Board of Directors of the Writers Guild of America, and has been active in community affairs in Los Angeles and Santa Monica.
He has continued to work in acting, appearing in a string of Killer Tomatoes films as Professor Gangreen and as a professor in The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. He also has toured the one-man play Edgar Allan Poe: Once Upon a Midnight, written by Paul Day Clemens and Ron Magid. In a December, 2007, Baltimore Examiner interview, Astin said of his acting experience:
We all struggle, and I had plenty of that, but I've had a great time. I've done hundreds of TV shows and 30 to 40 movies, and I love acting. I'm very happy having done the Poe. That's been really terrific.
Astin currently teaches method acting
and directing in the Writing Seminars Department at Johns Hopkins University
, his alma mater
. Commenting on his dual career, he said in 2007, "I don't know one major university that has a known actor teaching every day." He hopes to re-establish a drama major at the university, noting that he is one of only a handful to earn a drama degree from Hopkins.
He has five sons, of whom three (David, Allen, and Tom) were with his first wife, Suzanne Hahn, and two (Sean Astin
and Mackenzie Astin
) with his second wife, actress Patty Duke
. John legally adopted Sean when he married Patty. John Astin is currently married to Valerie Ann Sandobal and lives in Baltimore.
His younger brother, Alexander Astin, is a professor emeritus at UCLA. He has five granddaughters — Alexandra, Elizabeth, Isabella, Sedona and Jaya.