Actor Michael Jeter, 50, dies

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com April 02 2003 12:00 AM ET

Award-winning stage and screen actor Michael Jeter, an "actor's actor" who was beloved by children as Sesame Street's the Other Mr. Noodle, died over the weekend in Los Angeles, his publicist said Tuesday. Jeter, who revealed in 1997 that he had contracted HIV and who was a longtime supporter of AIDS charities, was found dead in his Hollywood hills home on Sunday, his publicist said. The cause of his death has not been determined. Jeter was 50.

The slight, prematurely balding actor won fame and an Emmy award in 1992 for his role as wimpy assistant coach Herman Stiles in TV's Evening Shade opposite Burt Reynolds. He was nominated twice more for Evening Shade before the show ended in 1994 and twice for guest appearances on Picket Fences and Chicago Hope. The Tennessee native earned a Tony award and other honors in 1990 for his Broadway performance as a dying clerk enjoying a last fling in Berlin in Grand Hotel.

At the time of his death, Jeter was wrapping up a role in The Polar Express with actor Tom Hanks, with whom he shared the screen in The Green Mile. In that film Jeter played a condemned murderer who befriends a cell block mouse. Filming was suspended on The Polar Express on Monday in observance of Jeter's death, his publicist said.

Born the son of a physician on August 26, 1952, in Lawrenceburg, Tenn., Jeter discovered his love of acting while studying medicine at Memphis State University. After graduation, he moved to New York and worked at a law firm while trying to land his first acting job. That came in 1979, as a small role in Milos Forman's film Hair. Dubbed an "actor's actor" by critics, Jeter earned rave reviews for his turn as a homeless cabaret singer in The Fisher King opposite Robin Williams. He starred again with Williams in Patch Adams and Jakob the Liar and in Clint Eastwood's True Crimes. His credits include Air Bud, Mouse Hunt, Waterworld, Tango and Cash, Zelig, and numerous guest-starring TV and stage roles.

In 2000 Jeter began his run as the bumbling Mr. Noodle for the children's TV series Sesame Street. He is survived by his life partner, Sean Blue; his parents; and five siblings.