R.I.P. Max Wright, who played TV dad Willie Tanner on ALF

The '80s sitcom star was 75 years old.

AP Photo / Nick Ut

Max Wright did not make a name for himself on television until the 1980s, but he was hardly a newcomer to the acting profession. The California native started his career on the stage. He made his Broadway debut in 1968 in the boxing dramaThe Great White Hope, which won both the Tony Award for Best Play and a Pulitzer in 1969. So he perhaps did not seem like the most obvious candidate to portray the "father" of a smart-alec furry alien.

But it was Wright's perpetually exasperated persona, the polar opposite of Gordon Shumway from Planet Melmac, that made ALF work as a comedy. Wright was the straight man.

It was a type that he would portray frequently on sitcoms, though ALF is the most well-known. In early seasons of Friends, Wright was the manager of the Central Perk coffeehouse. Long before that, he popped up a couple times on WKRP in Cincinnati and landed a regular role on the cult sci-fi series Misfits of Science, which also happened to feature future-Friends star Courteney Cox.

After ALF, Wright returned to the theater. In 1998, he would earn a Tony nomination himself for his performance in Ivanov

On June 26, 2019, Wright passed away from cancer, as first reported by TMZ. He was 75 years old.

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Dario 59 months ago
Rest in peace, Willie. ☺️
Misha 61 months ago
"She's thinking of Willie Loman again."
UTZAAKE 61 months ago
"In early seasons of Friends, Wright was the manager of the Central Perk coffeehouse."

"Terry's a jerk!
And he won't let me work!
And I hate Central Perk!...
And you're all invited to bite me!"
pumkinheadfan 61 months ago
Man this is a bummer. We also lost Billy Drago on the same day. Both to cancer as well as being in their early 70's. Too soon.
ScarlettKaiju 61 months ago
I first saw him in Marshall Brickman's wonderful satire SIMON, where he played a scientist who manipulated the Nielsen ratings. His demons were well known, but hopefully now he has found peace.
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ThomasWelsh 61 months ago
Scum. Placing an ad on a comment thread for a recently deceased person. Wow
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