Joel Fabiani: American film and television actor (1936-)
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Joel Fabiani
American film and television actor

Joel Fabiani

Joel Fabiani
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro American film and television actor
Is Actor Stage actor Film actor Television actor
From United States of America
Field Film, TV, Stage & Radio
Gender male
Birth 28 September 1936, Watsonville, USA
Age 87 years
Star sign Libra
Spouse: Katharine Ross
The details (from wikipedia)


Joel Fabiani (born September 28, 1936 in Watsonville, California) is an American film, television and theater actor. Generally most famous for the British TV series Department S, he has also guest starred in The FBI, Barnaby Jones, The Streets of San Francisco, Banacek, Cannon, The Rockford Files and Starsky and Hutch.

His film appearances include Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977), Reuben, Reuben (1983) and Tune In Tomorrow (1990), and he has also had recurring roles in soap operas such as Dallas, Dynasty, As the World Turns, and All My Children.


Fabiani was born in Watsonville, California, as the youngest of three children to parents whose backgrounds were a mix of Italian, Austrian, Irish and Native American roots. The family moved a lot, so young Joel attended a total of no less than 17 different schools. After graduating from high school, he joined the Army, then went to college, where he earned a degree in English and became interested in acting. After graduation, he studied at the Actors Workshop in San Francisco for two years.

Early years in theater

At the San Francisco Actors Workshop, he learned acting, as well as stagecraft, and appeared in plays such as The Alchemist (1960, as Kastril), Saint's Day and Twinkling of an Eye, as well as classics such as King Lear.

After two years at the Workshop, he moved to New York, where he started out playing in summer stock and Off-Broadway productions. He appeared in One Way Pendulum (1961), was an understudy for Robert Shaw and Alan Bates in a Broadway production of The Caretaker (1961), had his Broadway debut in "The Affair" (1962), and played in A Thousand Clowns, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and others, plus more Shakespeare, such as Romeo and Juliet, Richard II, and Henry IV, Part 1, as well as the U.S. tour of Beyond The Fringe (1965).


He became the star of a series of commercials for a cigarette, in which he played what Fabiani himself described as a "watered-down James Bond character", usually wearing a tuxedo and being surrounded by beautiful girls while smoking that particular brand of cigarette. His first small roles on television shows were in Love of Life and The Doctors (in 1963, and later again in 1968), Look Up and Live (1964) and Dark Shadows (1966). Afterwards he played Dr. Schley in the pilot episode of Ironside (1967).

Department S

Fabiani and his wife moved to the United Kingdom, where he co-starred in Department S. The show is considered to be a forerunner of The X-Files and deals with a special branch of Interpol dealing with particularly baffling cases that other agencies had failed to solve. Fabiani played the field team leader Stewart Sullivan, a pragmatic man of action and determination and a bit of a temper to go with it.

In episode 2, "The Trojan Tanker", Fabiani was once more in a tuxedo, gambling in a casino, and looking very Bond-ish; and there were several episodes in which he wore the tuxedo at least for one scene, usually whenever he was meeting the head of the Department, Sir Curtis, for a briefing during some gala, opera or exclusive party. Like most SpyFi shows of the 1960s, Department S did have elements of Bond. Episode 7 for instance, "Handicap – Dead", where Sullivan attends a golf tournament in Scotland and ends up investigating the suspicious death of one of the golfers, was inspired by Goldfinger.

Fabiani was highly esteemed and appreciated by his fellow cast members. Guest star Kate O'Mara described him as "most charming" and a "perfect American gentleman". His co-star Rosemary Nicols called him "a very sweet guy, and extremely professional. He always came prepared, and he knew exactly what he was doing." And Peter Wyngarde declared, "Joel was wonderful!"

The show ran successfully in the UK and was syndicated worldwide, including the US, where it ran for its full season-length. At one point in the early 1970s it was voted the most popular series in the world. However, the producers set their sights on other projects, such as the equally short-lived spin-off "Jason King" and the Roger Moore/Tony Curtis-show "The Persuaders!", which also only ran for one season.

"For his part, Fabiani wasn't too disappointed that no more episodes were commissioned. 'When I came back to the States from England, I […] wanted to go out and conquer Hollywood, which is what I immediately set out to do – and didn't – but I had an awful lot of fun trying.' "


Fabiani returned to television work, at first still very much in line with his Department S character, such as playing the FBI agent Barris in the TV movie The Longest Night (1972) opposite David Janssen. Then he went on to guest star in many other television shows, including The FBI, Banacek, Barnaby Jones, Cannon, The Streets of San Francisco, The Rockford Files, Matt Helm, S.W.A.T., Starsky & Hutch, Columbo and Black Sheep Squadron, playing good guys and villains alike, from lawyers, prosecutors and doctors to pilots, P.I.s and gangsters.

He also appeared in numerous TV movies, including Brenda Starr (1976) with Jill St. John, thrillers like the Edgar Allan Poe Award-nominated One of My Wives Is Missing (1976) with Jack Klugman and The President's Mistress (1978) with Beau Bridges and Larry Hagman, and the prison movie Attica (1980) with Morgan Freeman, which was nominated for several Emmys and won one.

In between, he still worked in the theatre, appearing in Broadway plays such as Love for Love (1974) and Luigi Pirandello's The Rules of the Game (1975, as Barelli) – a show that was also featured in the PBS Great Performances series – as well as "Ashes" (1977, as Colin), the original run of the musical I'm Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road (1978, as Joe Epstein), the courtroom drama As To The Meaning of Words (1981, as Alexander Thomas), and more.

In addition he appeared in several feature films, including high-profile movies such as Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977), the Oscar-nominated Reuben, Reuben (1983), and Tune In Tomorrow (1990). Others were the independent movie Dark Echoes (1977), which, ahead of its time, was a kind of forerunner of John Carpenter's The Fog (1980), and mainstream movies like Snake Eyes (1998).

Prime time dramas

From the 1980s on, he had several recurring roles in prime time soaps, where he appeared as publisher Alex Ward in Dallas and played the role of King Galen of Moldavia on Dynasty, where his son's wedding, unceremoniously interrupted by terrorists shooting at the gathered crowd, provided the famous season 5 cliffhanger finale. The viewers then had to wait quite a while until it was finally revealed that most of the characters, including King Galen, had – despite initial rumors to the contrary – indeed survived the attack. Fabiani also guest starred in Hotel, and had the somewhat difficult task of assessing Jane Wyman's mental capacities as Dr. Quentin King in Falcon Crest. Later he moved back to New York, and also played in day time dramas, where he served as temporary replacement for Michael Zaslow as Roger Thorpe three times on Guiding Light in August 1992, early 1994 and late May to June 1995 while Zaslow was on personal leave, played a major part in The City as Jared Chase in 1996, had a recurring role in As the World Turns as Winston Lowe/"Mr. Smith" in 2000 and a long run on All My Children (from 1999-2010) as Barry Shire (whom a soap magazine labelled a "bona fide scene stealer" ), a lawyer who never seemed to run out of work trying to get either Chandler Enterprises or various members of the Chandler clan out of trouble, out of court, or out of jail... or all of the above. (Or, as the magazine put it, "Adam's crazy antics on AMC keep Barry - and Fabiani - busy!" )

He continued to guest star in other shows too, including Murder, She Wrote (in 1992 and 1994), Third Watch (2000), Law & Order (2004) and Law and Order: Criminal Intent (2004). The latter's episode meant a reunion with Claire Bloom - with whom he had worked over thirty years before in the theater - and centered around the events at a fundraiser. In between he had occasional parts in TV comedy series, such as The Cosby Show (1988), Strangers With Candy (2000) and Ed (2003), and also kept appearing in plays in the theater.

Other projects

Apart from that, he appeared as presenter in theater documentaries, such as "Ghosts of Glory" about Eugene O"Neill and his plays, which was hosted by Joanne Woodward, and as narrator on several Barbara Walters Specials. Fabiani, who "has an uncanny ability to imitate numerous voices, moods, and inflections" also narrates audio books, including Norman McLean's "A River Runs Through It", Conrad Richter's "The Light in the Forest" and Loren D. Estleman's award-winning "Aces and Eights".

Other notes

In 2008, when The Smiths released their album "Singles Box" (Cf.The Smiths Singles Box), Morrissey personally chose a PR picture of Joel Fabiani (from 1970, for Department S) as the cover for the album.

At the very beginning of his career, he was married to Katharine Ross. (They first met and started dating at Santa Rosa Junior College in 1957, then later resumed dating when studying at the San Francisco Actors Workshop together.) They married on February 28, 1960 and later divorced after about two and a half years of marriage, in 1962.

Fabiani then married actress Audree Rae, whom he also met while they were doing a stage play together. This proved to be a long-lasting relationship (until her death in 2009), while Ross went on to have four more husbands. While Fabiani and Ross had appeared on stage together, they never had any screen appearances together. (The closest they came was in 1985/86, when Ross appeared on the Dynasty spinoff The Colbys, while Fabiani appeared on Dynasty.) He lives in New York with his current wife.

Joel was also the voice-over for dozens of Sony television and radio commercials in the late 1970s and early 1980s when the New York advertising agency McCann-Erickson had the account.


Fabiani started out at the San Francisco Actor's Workshop and afterwards worked with several theater companies over the years, including the National Touring Company, Phoenix Theater Company, Paper Mill Playhouse, and the American Shakespeare Festival, appearing in numerous plays both on and off Broadway, including:

  • Career (Stage Debut)
  • The Alchemist (1960)
  • The Marriage of Mr. Mississippi (1960)
  • The Devil's Disciple (1960)
  • Saint's Day (1960)
  • Twinkling of an Eye (1961)
  • King Lear (1961)
  • The Caretaker (1961)
  • One Way Pendulum (1961) (US Version)
  • Richard II (1962)
  • Henry IV, Part 1 (1962)
  • The Affair (1962)
  • Dark Corners (1963)
  • A Doll's House (1963)
  • Escurial
  • Sabrina Fair
  • A Thousand Clowns
  • A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
  • The Seven Year Itch
  • Bus Stop
  • Mr. Grossman
  • Romeo and Juliet
  • The King and I
  • Any Wednesday (1964)
  • Beyond The Fringe (1965) (US Tour)
  • Do I Hear A Waltz? (1966)
  • Marat/Sade (1966)
  • Hedda Gabler (1968)
  • One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (1971)
  • Death Of A Salesman
  • Candle in the Wind (1974)
  • Love For Love (1974)
  • The Rules of the Game (1975)
  • Ashes (1977)
  • I'm Getting My Act Together And Taking It On The Road (1978)
  • As To The Meaning of Words (1981)
  • Family Values (1996–97)

Television and film

Fabiani appeared in many television shows in either starring, recurring, or guest starring roles, as well as numerous television movies and half a dozen feature films. Overview:

  • Love of Life (1963)
  • The Doctors (1963 and 1968)
  • Look Up and Live (1964)
  • Dark Shadows (1966)
  • 1999 A.D. (1967)
  • Ironside (Pilot) (1967)
  • N.Y.P.D. (1967)
  • The Hero (1967)
  • Department S (1969–1970)
  • The Sixth Sense (1972)
  • The Longest Night (1972)
  • Particular Men (1972)
  • Owen Marshall, Counsellor at Law (1972)
  • Marcus Welby, M.D. (1972)
  • Banacek (1973)
  • The FBI (1973)
  • Beg, Borrow...or Steal (1973)
  • The Wide World of Mystery (1973–1975)
  • The Streets of San Francisco (1973, 1975)
  • Cannon (1973, 1975)
  • Nicky's World (1974)
  • Women in Chains (1974)
  • Barnaby Jones (two appearances, 1974)
  • The Rockford Files (1975)
  • Great Performances – The Rules of the Game (1975)
  • Starsky and Hutch (1976)
  • Matt Helm (1976)
  • Risko (1976)
  • McNaughton's Daughter (1976)
  • Jigsaw John (1976)
  • City of Angels (1976)
  • S.W.A.T. (1976)
  • Brenda Starr (1976)
  • The New Daughters of Joshua Cabe (1976)
  • One of My Wives Is Missing (1976)
  • Black Sheep Squadron (1977)
  • Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977)
  • Dark Echoes (1977)
  • Switch (1977)
  • Columbo (1978)
  • Wonder Woman (1978)
  • The President's Mistress (1978)
  • Tom and Joann (1978)
  • King Crab (1980)
  • Attica (1980)
  • Flamingo Road (1981)
  • Dallas (1980–1981)
  • Reuben, Reuben (1983)
  • Santa Barbara (1984)
  • Dynasty (1985–1986)
  • Hotel (1986)
  • American Masters: Eugene O'Neill – A Glory of Ghosts (1986)
  • The Cosby Show (1988)
  • Falcon Crest (1989)
  • Tune In Tomorrow (1990)
  • Murder, She Wrote (1992, 1994)
  • General Hospital (1994)
  • Guiding Light (1995)
  • Loving (1995)
  • The City (1996)
  • Feds (1997)
  • Port Charles (1997)
  • Snake Eyes (1998)
  • Barbara Walters Specials (Narrator) (1987–2003)
  • As the World Turns (1999–2000)
  • Strangers With Candy (2000)
  • Strong Medicine (2000)
  • Third Watch (2000)
  • Law & Order (2004)
  • Law and Order – Criminal Intent (2004)
  • Ed (2005)
  • Wanna Watch a Television Series – Ch.1: Variations on a Theme (2008)
  • Wanna Watch a Television Series – Ch.2: A Fish out of Water (2008)
  • All My Children (1999–2010)
The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 18 Apr 2020. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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