Ned Bellamy’s first acting role came on this Waltons Christmas episode
The veteran character actor went from embodying "the spirit of Christmas" to "summoning demons," and was stereotyped to play intense roles.
In a classic Christmas episode of The Waltons called "The Spirit," the veteran character actor Ned Bellamy made his acting debut playing "the spirit of Christmas."
For the role, Bellamy played a P.O.W. named Paul who escapes to Walton’s Mountain and helps the family come to terms with John-Boy’s wartime struggles.
If you’re familiar with Bellamy’s subsequent work, he may seem an unlikely choice to deliver a heart-wringing Christmas story moral.
After he appeared on The Waltons, it took a couple years, but Bellamy’s career took off, with more TV appearances through the 1980s on hit shows like M*A*S*H and Matlock.
In these varied TV roles, Bellamy didn’t play endearing types like his character on The Waltons.
A Los AngelesTimes critic in 1981 summed up his more villainous stereotype: "Ned Bellamy is one of those actors who can best be described – favorably – as dangerous, a brinkman who can dig deep, summon up demons and spit them out on target. He does not impersonate a snake. He becomes one."
In the 1990s and on into the 2000s, Bellamy got pulled into minor roles in more high-profile projects, appearing as a guard in Shawshank Redemption, a puppeteer in Being John Malkovich and a prisoner in Saw.
But perhaps his most memorable role during the Nineties came on TV. In the Seinfeld episode "Fatigues," Bellamy played Eddie, a mentally unstable employee of Elaine’s whom she promotes because she’s too afraid to fire him.
There are not many interviews with Bellamy out there, but in a 2017 guidebook for actors called Acting Is Everything, the author Judy Kerr talked to both Jerry Seinfeld and Bellamy about how he got cast in this fan favorite episode.
Part of what made Eddie so memorable was the voice that Bellamy used, and it turns out that it’s a voice he invented just for the character.
When Seinfeld was asked if Bellamy used the voice in his audition, he said, "Yes, and I was quite surprised when he showed up at rehearsal and that wasn’t his real voice."
Bellamy said when he came up with the voice, he asked the casting director if he should use it, and the casting director answered, "Why not?"
So, Bellamy went with it, and Kerr wrote, "Ned used the same voice when asking questions about the role because he didn’t want to break the illusion of the character. Besides being a wonderful actor and looking the part, his choice of using that voice may have been what gave him the edge over the other actors auditioning."
Today, Bellamy remains the sort of character actor who works extra hard to crack a character and then commits extra hard. He’s still active in both TV and movies, still mostly playing complicated, intense characters that only he can really pull off.
His is likely not a name you know, but next time you watch The Waltons Christmas episode "The Spirit," you can smile as the story concludes, knowing this Christmas tale was also the start of this talented actor’s rise to become one of today’s best character actors.