'Star Trek' Villain Michael Ansara Dies at 91

Michael Ansara in "Law of the Plainsman."
Michael Ansara in "Law of the Plainsman."
 Courtesy of Everett Collection

Michael Ansara, the rugged character actor who played Klingon commander Kang on three different Star Trek TV series, has died. He was 91.

Ansara, who was married to actress Barbara Eden of I Dream of Jeannie fame, died July 31 at his home in Calabasas, Calif., after a prolonged bout with Alzheimer's disease, his former publicist, Michael B. Druxman, said.

Born in a small village in Syria to American parents, Ansara starred as Native American characters on two 1950s primetime series: ABC's Western Broken Arrow (as Cochise) and NBC's Law of the Plainsman (as Deputy U.S. Marshal Sam Buckhart, another Apache).

Ansara is beloved by Star Trek fans as one of only seven actors to play the same character -- in his case legendary Klingon warrior Kang -- on three versions of the sci-fi series: the original (in the 1968 episode "Day of the Dove"), Deep Space Nine (1994's "Blood Oath") and Voyager (1996's "Flashback").

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He also had major roles in such films as 1953's Julius Caesar and The Robe (as Judas); 1955's Jupiter’s Darling (his co-star in that film, swimmer-turned-actress Esther Williams, died in June); 1961's Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (he also appeared in the subsequent ABC series); The Comancheros (1961) with John Wayne; The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965); Guns of the Magnificent Seven (1969); The Bears and I (1974); The Message (1977); and It’s Alive (1974).

Ansara came to the U.S. with his American parents at the age of 2. As a teen, he and his family relocated to California, and he entered Los Angeles City College with the intention of becoming a doctor.

A stint at the Pasadena Playhouse (where fellow students included Charles Bronson, Carolyn Jones and Aaron Spelling) led to roles on stage and in films.

He was married to Eden from 1958-74. Their son, Matthew Michael Ansara, died in 2001. An actor, he died of an accidental heroin overdose at age 35.

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The senior Ansara's many TV appearances also included The Untouchables, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Perry Mason, The Outer Limits, Lost in Space, I Dream of Jeannie with his wife, Hawaii Five-0 and James Michener's Centennial miniseries. He also voiced the role of Mr. Freeze on the animated Batman series. 

The deep-voiced Ansara, who has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, also was married for a brief time in the 1950s to the late Jean Byron, who played the mom on The Patty Duke Show. His third wife was actress Beverly Kushida, who survives him; they were married for 36 years.

His Sam Buckhart character was introduced in two episodes of another ABC Western, The Rifleman.

"After that series I went two years without working at all," Ansara recalled in a 1979 interview. "If you play one thing [in his case, a Native American], and you play it well, they would type you, and it would be difficult to get other roles."

Survivors also include his sister Rose, his niece Michelle and nephew Michael John.

A private service is pending. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to St. Michael's Antiochian Orthodox Church in Van Nuys.
 
 
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