Josh Gad Pens Tribute to Late 'Wedding Ringer' Co-Star Ken Howard
The late SAG-AFTRA leader died March 23 at age 71.
A version of this story first appeared in the April 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
The term "titan among men" is very often thrown around in our industry to describe trendsetters and those who have, in some way, left an indelible mark. In describing Ken Howard and his legacy, however, there is no more appropriate term to use than "titan." On the one hand, you have Ken Howard, the literal "titan." His sheer physical prowess would cast an intimidating shadow over anyone in his presence. For instance, when I first met him on the set of The Wedding Ringer, alongside Kevin Hart, it felt like we were Lilliputians making acquaintances with Gulliver for the first time. He immediately broke the ice however, with his booming laugh and welcoming embrace, enwrapping us in his arms like two minnows caught in a friendly net. But, it was not hard to see how that same commanding stature might be used in a board room to demand attention and corral adversaries to come around to his point of view.
Which brings us to Ken Howard, the political "titan," the man who by sheer will and desire helped advance a once unthinkable merger of two separate unions into one thriving and united guild. SAG-AFTRA in many ways was his crowning achievement because it not only called upon his skills as an actor, but also as an orator, leader and savvy businessman. In many ways, Ken Howard was the shining example of what SAG-AFTRA was all about. How can you argue with a man who over the course of four decades worked his craft onstage, came into our living rooms on television, towered over us in cinemas and graced our radio airwaves with his unmistakable basso? He held himself up as a beacon to all who were willing to follow his path, and we trusted his guidance because it inspired in all of us a desire to be as good and well-rounded as the great Ken Howard. Under his two-term reign as president of SAG-AFTRA, he unwaveringly led thousands of actors who came to regard him as a friend, a leader and unsurprisingly, yes, as a titan. His guidance and direction will surely be missed.
Finally and perhaps most significantly, there was Ken Howard the philanthropic "titan." Having been blessed with a kidney transplant himself, he ultimately felt compelled to give back by performing the role of chancellor of the National Kidney Foundation, working tirelessly to ensure that others benefit from the same life-saving procedure afforded to him. He was a member of the board of the Los Angeles Alzheimer's Committee and along with his incredible wife, Linda, served as a board member of the Shambala animal preserve and as the national spokesperson for the Onyx & Breezy Foundation. In one lifetime, one can only dream of achieving a fraction of Ken's success. In one lifetime, he was both the White Shadow and Thomas Jefferson. In one lifetime his work on TV earned him Emmys while his work onstage earned him a Tony. In one lifetime, he was both a proud member of SAG and AFTRA and the leader of SAG-AFTRA.
That, my friends, is what we call a titan among men.