‘Friends’ Star and ’90s Sitcom Icon Paxton Whitehead Dies at 85

It’s a sad moment for the entertainment industry as it loses more legends, Paxton Whitehead.

Known for his role in the hit show ‘Friends’ and his timeless comedies, his passing leaves behind a legacy of unforgettable performances that will forever be etched in the hearts of millions.

Paxton Whitehead is a Tony-nominated actor survived by his son and daughter

The Broadway star – Francis Edward Paxton Whitehead – was born on October 17, 1937 in Kent, England. He died on Friday in a hospital in Arlington, Virginia, just four months after his 86th birthday. confirmed by his son Charles Whitehead.

He began his journey in the world of acting with small touring companies. However, his exceptional talent quickly attracted the attention of the renowned Royal Shakespeare Company, which signed him in 1958.

The late playwright was recognized for his exceptional skills throughout his illustrious career. This includes a Tony nomination for his memorable portrayal of Pellinore in the 1980 revival of Lerner & Loewe’s “Camelot,” where he shared the stage with the legendary Richard Burton.

In a career that spanned from 1962 to 2018, the “Baby Boom” star graced Broadway in 16 productions, captivating audiences with her immense talent.

Paxton Whitehead at the 2012 season of New York Stage and Film

The “Magnum” actor stressed the importance of capturing the essence of a character’s voice in order to perfect his craft. Reflecting on his approach, he shared:

“When I was younger, I really tried to get my voice right. Once I felt the rhythm and the sound of the character – if I get it right, and the difference is usually very subtle – then I think everything else followed, the movement and so on.”

His talent led him to the United States, where in 1961 he directed an off-Broadway production of Doric Wilson’s comedy “And He Made a Her” at the famous Caffe Cino. It marked a significant milestone in both his career and Wilson’s life, as it was the playwright’s first play to be performed.

He also took on the iconic role of Sherlock Holmes in the 1978-79 production of ‘The Crucifer of Blood’. Featuring an ensemble cast including Glenn Close, this hit play has captivated audiences for an impressive 236 performances at the Helen Hayes Theatre. The production received significant acclaim, receiving four Tony nominations and winning one.

Primarily known for her stage career, she made a memorable transition to the big screen in 1986 with the film Back to School. In the film, he played Dr. Philip Barbay, the esteemed dean of Grand Lakes University’s business school, and the love interest of literature professor Diane Turner, played by Sally Kellerman.

However, their peaceful world is turned upside down when Rodney Dangerfield’s character Thornton Melon enters the picture. In addition to his film work, Whitehead made a lasting impression on television. From 1992 to 1999, Hal Conway appeared on NBC’s hit series Mad About You.

More notably, in 1998 he played Mr. Waltham, Rachel’s boss at Bloomingdale’s, on the iconic sitcom Friends. In addition to her son, Paxton is survived by her daughter.

The “Friends” co-creator admits the popular series has room for growth

Jennifer Aniston and her partner are the main characters of the hit comedy "Friends"
Instagram | Jennifer Aniston

With over ten seasons from 1994 to 2004, the creators of the beloved television series, David Krane and Marta Kauffman, had no idea it would leave an indelible mark on popular culture.

However, as social conversations have progressed, vital topics such as sexuality, race, inclusion, diversity, and more have continued to be discussed. Recognizing the changing cultural landscape, the show’s creators looked back on certain aspects where the possibility of growth and development is recognized.

In a candid interview on BBC World Services’ The Conversation, Kauffman spoke about his portrayal of Chandler’s father, Charles Bing. The famous show writer admitted that the way the character played by transgender woman Kathleen Turner was described on Friends was wrong.

Even though the character became a woman, she regretted her decision to continue referring to Charles as Chandler’s father. In the interview, Kauffman admitted:

“We kept referring to him as Chandler’s dad, even though Chandler’s dad was trans.” I didn’t understand the pronouns yet. So we didn’t refer to this character as “he”. That was a mistake.”

For fans familiar with the beloved sitcom, Turner’s character, who took on the alias Helena Handbasket, appeared in three episodes of Season 7. She was portrayed as a drag queen who regularly performed in Las Vegas.

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