Kenneth Welsh, an actor best known for his work on projects such as Twin Peaks, The Aviator, and Star Trek: Discovery, has passed away at the age of 80. The news was initially broken by the official Twitter account for ACTRA Toronto, who called Welsh "one of Canada's all-time great performers, with hundreds of memorable roles spanning decades." CTV News has confirmed Welsh's passing as well, with his agency revealing he died on Thursday, May 5, 2022. Welsh was born in Edmonton, Alberta on March 30, 1942, and studied drama in school and college. After spending the first seven years of his career on the stage, he made his onscreen debut in the anthology series Shoestring Theatre in 1963. Across the 1960s and 1970s, he would make appearances on Henry V, The Three Musketeers, and The Great Detective.
ACTRA Toronto is extremely saddened today by the passing of Kenneth Welsh. Ken was one of Canada’s all-time great performers, with hundreds of memorable roles spanning decades. He will be greatly missed. Our condolences to his loved ones. pic.twitter.com/SqcV3Wmhqk— ACTRA Toronto (@ACTRAToronto) May 6, 2022
His filmography across the 1980s and 1990s included performances in Covergirl, Crocodile Dundee II, The Twilight Zone, Spenser: For Hire, The X-Files and Empire, Inc. He also played Reno Colt in the 1984 film Reno and the Doc, which saw him be nominated for a Genie Award. He is arguably best known for playing Windom Earle, the former FBI agent paired up with Agent Cooper, in the now-iconic 1990 series Twin Peaks.
"For television, there's just no more favorite character than Windom," Welsh said in a 2019 interview with 25YearsLater. "That's always been true. Not just because I'm here and everyone wants to love me. I've always thought that way ever since I've done it. Whenever anybody stops and says 'You're Windom Earl!' I say 'Yes. I. Am. Thank you.' My favorite was in this town I live called Uxbridge, Ontario. I was going to the bank once years ago and just as I was about to go in there was a couple of guys up on a ladder, doing some work up there. One of them leaned over and went 'What's Windom Earle doing in Uxbridge?'. I say 'I f-cking live here!'"
Across his career, Welsh developed a penchant for portraying historical figures, with roles that included Thomas E. Dewey in 1980's F.D.R.: The Last Year, General Harry Crerar in 1993's Dieppe, James "Scotty" Reston in 1995's Kissinger and Nixon, Thomas Edison in 1998's Edison: The Wizard of Light, James Baker in 2001's The Day Reagan Was Shot, and Harry S. Truman in both 1995's Hiroshima and 2001's Haven. He also portrayed a fictional Vice-President of the United States in 2004's The Day After Tomorrow, which made headlines at the time for its resemblance to real-life Vice-President Dick Cheney.
Welsh's later filmography included appearances in Miracle, The Fog, The Aviator, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Expanse, The Divide, The Blacklist, and The Covenant. He also had multiple roles in the world of superhero adaptations, including portraying Santa Claus in the memorable Smallville episode "Lexmas", as well as Dr. Jeff Wagner in Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer, and Tony Belvilacqua in the Human Target episode "Corner Man."
His later TV roles included playing Admiral Senna Tal in two episodes of Star Trek: Discovery, Larry Loomis in eight episodes of Lodge 49, and Fenric the Vile in two episodes of Charmed. He portrayed Martin in an upcoming episode of The Kids in the Hall revival, which will now be released posthumously.
Our thoughts are with Welsh's family, friends, and fans at this time.