Biography

Instantly recognizable for his sophisticated and grim-visaged manner of speech and his sharp, expressive features, popular character actor Jonathan Harris' villainous role on the beloved series Lost in Space earned him both a noted spot in the annals of television history and a warm place in the hearts of TV viewers everywhere. Born Jonathan Charasuchin in November 1914, the son of impoverished Russian-Jewish immigrants worked as a pharmacy box boy in his early teens, later pursuing a pharmacology degree from Fordham University. Though successful in his early career, the young pharmacist couldn't resist the lure of the stage, and after changing his surname, Jonathan Harris began making frequent appearances on the local stock company stages. Though his talent was undeniable, Harris felt that his thick New York accent impeded his ability to pursue the roles he wanted. Taking to British film as a means to remedy this, Harris took in as many British movies as possible in order to re-create their speech patterns, an ability he used to striking effect on both stage and screen -- so effective, in fact, that it became his trademark, with many of his fans failing to realize that offscreen, Harris' accent was pure "New Yorkese." Eventually drawn to the bright lights of Broadway, Harris became a fixture in the office of the Henry Miller Theater. Introduced to Gilbert Miller by Miller's sympathetic secretary, Harris' Broadway career subsequently took off following a small role in The Heart of a City. After finding a steady career on the stages of New York and on live television, Harris packed his bags for Hollywood and made his feature debut in 1953's Botany Bay. Television roles in The Twilight Zone and Bewitched followed in short succession, and in 1965 Harris received the biggest break of his career when cast in Lost in Space. Crediting producer Irwin Allen with giving him free rein regarding character interpretation, Harris quickly became the biggest draw of Lost in Space due to his unique comic villainy. Despite his co-stars' rumored aggravation over his breakout performance, Harris' utter professionalism and genuinely friendly demeanor won over cast and crew as effectively as his villainous persona did the viewing public. Also appearing in such popular television series as Zorro, Sanford and Son, and Night Gallery, Harris would frequently lend his distinct voice to numerous cartoons (Darkwing Duck, Freakazoid!) in addition to the infrequent theatrical release (A Bug's Life [1998] and Toy Story 2 [1999]). Married to high school sweetheart Gertrude in 1938, the couple's marriage endured to Harris' death in late 2002 resulting from a blood clot in his heart. He was 87. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi