Kenneth Welsh, a prolific Canadian stage and film actor who was best known for his portrayal of murderous, unhinged villain Windom Earle on the early 1990s hit TV series ‘Twin Peaks’, died May 5 at his home of Sanford, Ontario. He was 80 years old.
Her longtime agent, Pam Winter, said the cause was cancer.
Mr. Welsh appeared in 10 episodes of “Twin Peaks” in its second season, playing Earle, the vengeful and maniacal adversary and former FBI partner of the protagonist, Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan).
The series, created by David Lynch and Mark Frost, follows Cooper as he investigates the murder of high school student Laura Palmer in the seemingly sleepy town of Twin Peaks, Washington.
Earle has featured in some of the darkest and most sadistic scenes and storylines in a series known for genre-bending, blending horror and surrealism with soapy and occasionally comedic elements.
In the years since its 1991 ABC cancellation and cliffhanger ending, “Twin Peaks” developed a cult following and spawned a prequel film, “Fire Walk With Me” (1992) and returned for a limited series which premiered on Showtime in 2017. Welsh’s character did not appear in either project.
Mr. Welsh was cast in the role after visiting the set in Washington State and meeting Robert Engels, one of the show’s producers, and Mr. Frost.
Mr. Engels “knew I was a little eccentric, and he knew that as an actor I would go in this direction and direction,” Mr. Welsh said in an interview for the entertainment website 25YL, adding, “He just kind of knew I was crazy and perfect for Windom. I guess?”
Mr Welsh said he was the one who successfully pitched the idea of having Earle wear different disguises as he hunted down Cooper and various other characters.
Mr. Welsh thrived playing offbeat characters, like Larry Loomis, the Sovereign Protector of the Order of the Lynx, a dying fraternal order at the center of “Lodge 49,” a short-lived comedy-drama series seen on AMC in 2018. and 2019.
But in his more than 240 film and TV roles, he’s ranged widely across genres, including sketch comedy (Amazon’s recent revival of ‘The Kids in the Hall’), sci-fi (“Star Trek: Discovery” in 2020), family fare (“Eloise at the Plaza,” a 2003 Disney TV movie), and historical dramas; he played President Harry S. Truman twice, in the TV movies “Hiroshima” (1995) and “Haven” (2001), and Thomas Edison in the 1998 TV movie “Edison: The Wizard of Light”, for which he received an Emmy nomination.
His notable film roles included Vice President of the United States in Roland Emmerich’s “The Day After Tomorrow” (2004), about the onset of an environmental disaster, and the father of Katharine Hepburn (played by Cate Blanchett) in Martin Scorsese’s Oscar. -winner “The Aviator” (2004).
Mr. Welsh won five Canadian Screen Awards, four for his television work and one for his supporting role in the 1995 film ‘Margaret’s Museum’, a drama set in a mining town on Cape Breton Island. , Nova Scotia. In 2003, he was made a Member of the Order of Canada.
Kenneth Welsh was born March 30, 1942 in Edmonton, Alberta to Clifford and Lillian (Sawchuk) Welsh. Her father worked for the Canadian National Railway for over 35 years and her mother worked in a clothing store.
Kenneth was the first class president at Bonnie Doon Composite High School in Edmonton. He attended the University of Alberta, where he majored in drama, and then the National Theater School of Canada, where he graduated in 1965.
He then accumulated numerous credits on stage, notably, very early on, in Shakespearian productions at the Stratford Festival in Ontario. He notably starred with Kathy Bates in the original Off Broadway production of “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair De Lune” in 1987 and was seen on Broadway in Tom Stoppard’s “The Real Thing” (1984), directed by Mike Nichols, and at Lincoln Center in a production of Lillian Hellman’s “The Little Foxes”” (1997), with Glenn Close.
Her last stage performance was in Dylan Thomas’ “Under Milk Wood” at the Coal Mine Theater in Toronto in 2021.
Drawing on his encyclopedic memory of the works of Shakespeare, Mr. Welsh was the creator, with composer Ray Leslee, of “Stand Up Shakespeare”, a “motley musical”, as she billed herself, which opened Off Broadway in 1987. The production, also directed by Mr. Nichols, involved spectators, who suggested characters, scenes or plays from Shakespeare to be recited from memory by Mr. Welsh. Over the next several decades, he would sporadically revive “Stand Up Shakespeare” as a signature play in various locations in the United States and Canada.
Mr Welsh’s marriages to Corinne Farago and Donna Haley ended in divorce. He is survived by his wife, Lynne McIlvride, a visual artist, and a son, Devon, a musician, from his first marriage.
In the final phase of his career, Mr. Welsh turned to independent projects and young filmmakers. Her last film was “Midnight at the Paradise”, a drama directed by Vanessa Matsui, currently in post-production. Alongside Alan Hawco and Liane Balaban, he played the key supporting role of a dying film critic.
On set, Ms. Matsui said, Mr. Welsh captivated his colleagues.
“He was always telling the cast and crew funny stories from his life, and he blew us all away with his performance and his grace,” she said in an email. “I’ll never forget shooting that scene with him and Allan Hawco, and you could hear a pin drop because the crew was so drawn to his performance. It was one of those special, intangible moments on set. where you knew you had just captured magic.