Biography

Kevin Hagen is a veteran character actor long associated with intense dramatic roles. He has portrayed everything from hitmen and rapists to prosecutors and police officers, but is perhaps best known to television audiences for his portrayal of the avuncular Dr. Baker on the long-running series Little House on the Prairie. Hagen was born and raised in and around Chicago, but moved to Portland, OR, during his teens. Following a two-year hitch in the United States Navy, he attended college on the G.I. Bill, majoring in international relations, and later worked for the U.S. State Department in Germany. Bored with that job, he considered a career in law but dropped out after one year. While trying to figure out what he wanted to do for a career, he auditioned for a production of the play Blind Alley and won a small role, despite the fact that he had never acted before. Within a year, Hagen had moved up to playing the lead in a production of James Thurber's play The Male Animal, and spent the next few years scraping out a living in small theatrical productions around Los Angeles in between studying with Agnes Moorehead, among other notables. His breakthrough came with his portrayal of stern patriarch Ephraim Cabot in a production of Eugene O'Neill's Desire Under the Elms -- that led to his getting an agent and, in turn, led to his television debut in an episode of Dragnet. He appeared in various dramatic anthology shows and played important guest-star parts on programs such as Gunsmoke, Rawhide, Cheyenne, M-Squad, and The Untouchables -- in one episode of the latter, "Stranglehold," Hagen brought a startling degree of humanity and depth to the part of a professional killer. Hagen made his feature-film debut in 1958 in the Disney-produced The Light in the Forest, and that same year, he got his first regular role in a series when he was cast in the part of John Colton, the city administrator of post-Civil War New Orleans, in Yancy Derringer. The show only ran for one season, but Hagen had more work than ever following the conclusion of filming, on such series as Bonanza, Perry Mason, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Felony Squad, and Mission: Impossible. He also did some film work, most notably in Andrew V. McLaglen's Civil War drama Shenandoah (1965), in which Hagen played the scavenging deserter who murders James Stewart's son (Patrick Wayne) and rapes and murders Stewart's daughter-in-law (Katharine Ross). During this period, he also began a string of appearances in television series produced by Irwin Allen, guest starring in episodes of Lost in Space, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, and Time Tunnel. Those roles led to Hagen's being cast as Inspector Kobick, the security officer pursuing the diminutive earthlings, in Allen's Land of the Giants. He brought a great deal of humanity and complexity to his portrayal of the character in the course of the series' two-season run. During the 1970s, Hagen made frequent guest appearances on series such as M*A*S*H, Quincy, and Knot's Landing. In 1974, Hagen was cast in the role for which he has become best known, as Dr. Baker in Little House on the Prairie. He portrayed the part for ten seasons and developed a serious fandom among the series' legions of viewers. Hagen left Hollywood for Oregon in the early '80s, and has continued his work in regional theater productions of such plays as West Side Story, Follies, and Oklahoma! He also performs his own one-man show, a mixture of songs, monologues, and prairie wit and wisdom drawn from his Little House persona. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi