The Addams Family was the first TV role for former college basketball standout Ted Cassidy

The 6' 9'' fellow decided to give acting a go at the age of 30.

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A young man in his 30s was, well, not so "young" in the 1960s. Heck, a professional was practically halfway to retirement at that age in the midcentury. Consider that in 1960, 72% of everyone over the age of 18 was married, and more than 60% of those in their 20s were hitched. In other words, adult life came and folks faster and earlier back in those days. This is why a whimsical career change for a married man at the age of 30 seemed risky and rare.

Nevertheless, Ted Cassidy decided to shake up his life and try for Hollywood when he was 30. 

"I believe 30 is a turning point in every person's life," Cassidy mused to The Orlando Sentinel in 1964. "Not that everyone makes a resolution and does change his life, but that's the time." At the time, Cassidy was married to his "college sweetheart," Margaret Helen Jesse. He had been working in radio around northern Florida, before picking up work in Dallas. With his deep, stentorian tones, Cassidy had the voice for radio. It was one of the benefits of his towering stature. It was his size that made him consider a screen career.

"I figured there couldn't be too many 6 foot 9 people in Hollywood," Cassidy told The Sentinel. "And of that number, not all would have a speaking voice like mine and be actors, too." Indeed, Cassidy had some acting chops. He had majored in speech and drama at Stetson University in central Florida. Though he had made his name on campus as a basketball star.

Cassidy seemed to have played hoops due to his size alone, not for any great passion for the sport. "I did play semi-pro ball for a time," he told The Detroit Free Press in 1964. "It was the line of least resistance." Hardly the words of a dedicated cager. Nevertheless, he excelled on the court in college.

A decade before The Addams Family premiered, Cassidy was lobbing in hook shots for Stetson. In December 1954, the Hatters drubbed Elon College 91-59, as Cassidy poured in 21 points to lead all scorers. A few months later, when his squad faced the University of Miami, he amassed 25 points to again lead the stat sheet. The guy could ball.

In photos from the era, you can see how his physical presence looked on the court, like here against ranked powerhouse Louisville.

It was not all smooth sailing, though. Cassidy was briefly suspended the prior season when he was caught playing for "an independent team from Kissimmee." Yep, they had rules like that back then, too.

Anyway, back to Cassidy's acting. You are probably wondering how he became Lurch, butler to the Addams Family. He put together a demo reel.

Cassidy assembled footage of him performing "Long Day's Journey Into Night" and abolitionist John Brown's trial defense after Harper's Ferry. He also threw in a little voice-over on a stop-motion sequence. With those clips in hand, Ted and his wife traveled to Los Angeles for several days in the spring of 1964. He auditioned for some roles, but nothing seemed to happen.

He and Jesse returned home to Dallas. Weeks later, the phone rang. Would he mind coming back to L.A. to try out for The Addams Family?

Of course, we know he won the role. But it was not a shoo-in. He beat out five other actors to become Lurch.

Thankfully, he did land the gig. Because he brought something special to the character. Lurch was not intended to speak. Cassidy tossed in the immortal line "You rang?" It killed. So the writers and producers let Lurch speak.

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jaelinsmith40652 5 months ago
Ted Cassidy had brought so much joy to me as he was a very tall deep hearted man who loved only one people so much, back when life was so tough for him that he tries to keep being Lurch infront of the audience. I like Lurch So much as much I like the episode that time he makes me laugh and cry and so does Gomez,Mortisa,Uncle Fester, ITT, and Pugsley too.
Fitzman 5 months ago
Ted Cassidy was on a show Hollywood A Go-Go doing the popular dance called The Lurch, followed by a narrated song called "Wesley". "If you don't have anything nice to say about someone, don't say it at all", was the story behind the song.
Rrtracks57 5 months ago
I recall he appeared on a episode of The Beverly Hillbillies as Mrs. Drysdale gardener, he look so out of place on that show.
dujon55 5 months ago
My favorite spooky show. I know it’s compared a lot to the munsters but I think it’s in a class by itself
horribleHDanny 5 months ago
Ted Cassidy lived down the street from me back in the early 70s.He was also umpire for our Little League baseball games!You should have heard that voice calling "Strike One" or "You're outta there"!!R.I.P. sir!!You made a major difference for a lot of neighborhood kids!
ndebrabant 5 months ago
After graduating with a degree in speech and drama, he married Margaret Helen Jesse in 1956, and they moved to Dallas, Texas. His acting career launched when he worked as a midday DJ on WFAA in Dallas. He also occasionally appeared on WFAA-TV Channel 8, playing Creech, an outer-space creature on the "Dialing for Dollars" segments on Ed Hogan's afternoon movies. He gave an in-studio report from WFAA radio station on the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated,[7] and was among the first to interview eyewitnesses W. E. Newman Jr. and Gayle Newman.[
geatornez82 5 months ago
I didn't know Ted Cassidy all that well, but when I found out he voiced the Hanna-Barbera character Frankenstein Jr., I was a bit floored, considering all I ever heard out of Lurch was grunts, groans, and "you rang?" I don't know why it surprised me, it just did. I also think he provided the opening narration for "The Atom Ant Show" (which was also a Hanna-Barbera production) but I'm not positive on that.
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CaptainDunsel Jon 5 months ago
[loud buzz]
No. But thanks for playing!
Well, as no one seems to have recognized it, this was Ted Cassidy as "Isiah" in the Gene Roddenberry produced 1974 TV pilot "Planet Earth". He would have played one of a team from an advanced society, lead by John Saxon as "Dylan Hunt", traipsing around 21st century Earth helping to rebuild a post-apocalyptic world.
JERRY6 CaptainDunsel 5 months ago
looks like they used old star trek costume on him
CaptainDunsel JERRY6 5 months ago
That's not surprising. The costume designer on PE was William Ware Theiss, who had been the designer on the original Star Trek series, as well as later the designer on Star Trek: The Next Generation
JHP 5 months ago
in my top 5 fav characters in all tv:)
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stephaniestavr5 JHP 5 months ago
Correction, there should be a "," after "it," not "mentioned."
That's Atom Ant the cartoon, in case you weren't sure what I was talking about. Also, there should be a "," after "it," not "mentioned." Wanted to correct this, so the Grammar Police, {aka Wiseguy,} doesn't "arrest" me again.
JHP was actually talking about an English singer named Stuart Leslie Goddard, better known as Adam Ant. I know him from watching MTV in the '80s. He had a top 20 song called "Goody Two Shoes".
musicman37 Peter_Falk_Fan 3 months ago
It wasn't a very good joke, but what surprises me is that stephanie didn't get it!
CaptainDunsel 5 months ago
Does anyone know who any of the "five other actors" were?
I read that Ted's son, Sean, recollected that Abe Vigoda was cast as Lurch. Sean's Aunt Carol ( Ted's sister ), met the casting director and got Ted an audition where he improvised "You rang?". Every one laughed and Ted got the part as Lurch. If you google "Abe Vigoda as Lurch", you will see a hit where Sean told the story on facebook.
Jon Peter_Falk_Fan 5 months ago
I've read that Abe Vigoda was about 6'6" in height, so he'd certainly be tall enough to play Lurch, though he was a bit shorter than Ted Cassidy.
tadlem 5 months ago
Ted Cassidy was a very accomplished organist, yet never played the organ on the show.
tadlem 5 months ago
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Rrtracks57 tadlem 5 months ago
It was not a organ that was played on.the show. It was a harpsichord ....🎹🎹🎹
dbalius 5 months ago
The episodes featuring Lurch were always my favorite. Even in others (like when he was sent to fetch Cousin Itt in Itt’s room) Ted made the most of his appearance.
Pinky561 5 months ago
Ted was by far the best character on the show!! No one else could played that role like he did...
Ric 5 months ago
Greetings. Mr. Cassidy left an indelible mark on my generation In many wonderful ways. He was a "Force" to be reckoned with. Mr. Cassidy is already missed. GOD Bless.
musicman37 Ric 3 months ago
"Already missed"??? He's been gone since the mid 70s!!
sputnik_57 5 months ago
My favorite Addams episode starring Lurch is "Lurch the Teenage Idol".
It was cool how his "singing"...or rather a moaning mumbling...was driving the kids wild.
justjeff 5 months ago
A sidebar from that Ted Cassidy news article about being suspended for playing in Kissimmee...

In that article about the player suspensions, it mentions a Jim Yonge. I'm betting he was related to the late Roby Yonge, a popular Florida-born DJ who spent years on Miami's WQAM. Roby later got to broadcast on WABC in NY, but got dismissed for starting the "Paul is Dead" rumor...

I knew Roby... he was a sweet guy, if not a bit self-destructive. He landed on then-WMYQ in the 1970s and I helped him do a "tag team" commercial for a rock concert at the old Sportatorium in Broward Couty (I used to hang around WMYQ back in 1972)... One day his sister was visiting him from upstate and came by the station to visit him... Boy, was she a knockout back then!
UTZAAKE 5 months ago
Ted Cassidy was the midday disc jockey on Dallas' WFAA (now KLIF) AM 570 right before his move to Hollywood. He was pressed into service to help out with the station's JFK assassination coverage.

He's no longer Stetson University's most famous athlete. That would have to be the New York Mets' Jacob deGrom.
Peter_Falk_Fan 5 months ago
"Weeks later, the phone rang." Did anyone else picture him answering the phone saying, "You rang?" Lurch was my favorite on the show.
Joe 5 months ago
"If I'm up for a part if, I'm asked to play something, I really worry what I'm going to be because they always make fellows like me the big dumb galoot, the oaf who doesn't know anything, who trips over himself. We are apparently idiots, all big men...."
-- Ted Cassidy
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