Van Williams, star of the 1960s action sci-fi series The Green Hornet, has died, according to The Hollywood Reporter. He was 82.
Born Van Zandt Jarvis Williams on Feb. 27, 1934 in Forth Worth, Texas, the actor passed away Nov. 29 of kidney failure in Scottsdale, Arizona where he lived with his wife of 57 years, Vicki Flaxman Richards.
Williams grew up on a ranch outside Fort Worth and later studied animal husbandry and business at Texas Christian University. When he and his father wrangled over ranch policy, Van lit out for the wide open spaces of Hawaii in 1956. It was there, while working as a diving instructor at the Hawaiian Village hotel in Honolulu, that Williams met producer Mike Todd (Around the World in 80 Days), who suggested he come to Hollywood and try acting. Todd died in a plane crash a short time later, but Williams, intrigued, went anyway. He quickly landed small parts, including a General Electric Theater production hosted by Ronald Reagan.
The actor starred in crime drama Bourbon Street Beat (1959) and drama series Surfside 6 (1960) before scoring the leading role of newspaper publisher Britt Reid/The Green Hornet on The Green Hornet in 1966, in which he donned an eye mask and a trench coat. He starred opposite Bruce Lee (Kato), who played his martial arts expert manservant-partner on the ABC series. On the show, the duo would jump into their gadget-packed Black Beauty ultra car and zap bad guys.
“I really didn’t want to do the show,” Williams previously told PEOPLE of his role. “I did it because the producers said it wouldn’t be like Batman. I wanted to do it straight, but I started receiving criticism. I started to hate the show.”
After earning notoriety as The Green Hornet, Williams went on to star in Westwind (1975) and took recurring guest roles in numerous crime and adventure-centric series, including The Streets of San Francisco, The Red Hand Gang and How the West Was Won. Most recently, Williams appeared in the 1993 biography Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story as the Green Hornet director.
Following The Green Hornet, offers of new parts began to wane, as did his interest in acting. “I don’t miss show business at all,” Williams said. “I felt like a monkey in the zoo. There was absolutely no privacy.”
The six foot, dark-haired, blue-eyed actor shared two children — twin daughters Lisa and Lynne — with ex-wife Drucilla Jane Greenhaw (they divorced in the late 1950s), and three children — daughters Nina, Tia and Britt — with Vicki, to whom he was married up until the time of his death.