Thursday, January 19, 2017

Actor Miguel Ferrer Dies at Age 61 after Quiet Battle with Cancer

When Deadline Hollywood reported the death of actor Miguel Ferrer today, at age 61, the first thought was one of sorrow that those who love to watch “NCIS:LA” had suspected for some time now. The man who played NCIS Assistant Director Owen Granger had gone through some visible changes in the past year.

For the first three weeks of January, the entertainment world has lamented the loss of favorite actors, and the usual diatribe has been devoted to “isn’t it a shame that” and yet, we the audience never met these icons in person, so to claim something as “our loss” is a clear sign of what their work product has meant to us, and to so many others, as wanting to identify and associate with an actor’s passing.

Yes, age 61 is clearly “gone too soon” for anyone, but in Miguel’s case, it is unquestionably gone too soon as this talented man had so much great work ahead of him, including voice roles and that, along with the impact of his loss to his family and friends, is substantive.

Being the oldest son of two icons is far from easy. Born to actor Jose Ferrer (Oscar winner, 1951) and Rosemary Clooney (legendary singer), Miguel had grown up in the midst of Hollywood but, strictly from perception at a distance, he is one who wasn’t pressured to enter the business, but willingly did so, while exploring a diverse level of talents and skills. He was an accomplished actor, voice artist and musician.

Like many second-generation Hollywood actors, people often assume that there’s some special advantage in having famous family members preceding them in the business. There is none. Reality was that in 1967, Jose Ferrer and Rosemary Clooney divorced, and all five children lived with their mother afterwards, with Miguel then only age 12. From Rosemary’s own autobiography, the children grew up far from being under close parental supervision but each has found their own way forward.

One especially fun fact from the IMDB data base notes Miguel is credited on drums on Keith Moon’s album, “Two Sides of the Moon.” Now, remember “Owen Granger” and try to match that up with Keith Moon. Pretty funny, right? It’s acting. All acting, especially as he kept his recent health challenges to himself. From actor, to drummer, to ‘voice’, in 1999, Ferrer was nominated for a Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album for Children in Disney’s “The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride Read-Along” (1999).

Although many people know him primarily as “Granger” on “NCIS:LA” or as “Dr. Garret Macy,” costarring with Jill Hennessy on “Crossing Jordan,” Miguel was a veteran dramatic actor in television, but he was also famous for the movie “RoboCop” and “Twin Peaks.” Ferrer was also a musician, among his many talents. In his early years, Ferrer played drums in bands, including those with his mother, and with Bing Crosby, godfather to Miguel’s brother, Gabriel. As a younger musician, he cofounded the band, “The Jenerators,” with actor/singer/songwriter Bill Mumy (“Lost in Space,” “Twilight Zone”).

Although Miguel’s illness was never disclosed by anyone at “NCIS:LA” or “CBS,” it’s clear the series creator Shane Brennan was aware of his health challenges. At the beginning of his work on the current season of “NCIS:LA,” Miguel Ferrer tweeted “Middle of shooting 802. Starting off as the best season yet by far. Stories and action second to none. Some damn good acting too,” on July 26, 2016. Recently as the eighth season has progressed the NCIS–LA office has been searching for a (so far unfindable) mole. Just last Sunday, the episode “Hot Water” showed Granger being stabbed by an assailant while he was in police custody. The next episode, “Under Siege” will not air until Sunday, January 29.

[Right: Photo of Miguel Ferrer and Daniela Ruah by Ron P. Jaffe/CBS, used with permission]

In one of Miguel’s last Instagram posts, 17 weeks ago actually, he shared a poignant picture from 1979 with Todd Fisher, taken at Telluride. It received 599 likes. Who knew that 14 weeks later, Todd would lose his sister, his mother, and his friend? There’s great overlap between the two families no doubt as well as those of others, as many all grew up in similar situations and circumstances, in the public eye at times, and many continue to work in the business today.

Realistically and clearly, we don’t know these people, personally, whose deaths we all tend to fall into a pattern of lamenting across social media. But we feel like we do when we invite them into our homes each week on TV. They are there at our invitation. So, it is a natural reaction then to offer our condolences in memory and in respect of their passing.

No, we don’t claim them as family, but to all who are quietly considering the preciousness of life and the fleeting moments that pass by us faster than sound it seems, may we each remember to be grateful that people spend a lifetime in the world of entertainment, giving us their very best to remember them by, so much so in fact that we pause to reflect on their passing, sharing news of same with others. They will always be remembered and regarded, along with reruns and rebroadcasts of their work.

May we then, perhaps, remember to say “thank you for a job well done” to people in our daily lives who we do know, who might appreciate hearing it now and then. Accolades are for everyone. The following message was posted across CBS Social Media late today:

Miguel is survived by two sons by ex-wife Leilani Sarelle, Lucas and Rafael, and he is survived by his widow, Lori Weintraub, as well as his brothers Gabriel and Rafael, and his sisters, Maria and Monsita, and all of their respective families.

Even though his name is currently a ‘trend’ on Twitter, when that fades, his body of work stands as his best memory for all of us to remember him, with great thanks for his talents.

One of his favorite quotes from his IMDB page:

(1999) "My favorite place in the whole world is Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The whole experience in Wyoming is just fantastic. It's renewing. In the winter we'll go skiing, and during the summer there's golf, there's Yellowstone, there's just whatever. It's the best place in the world."

Vaya con Dios, Miguel Ferrer.

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