David Schramm, Airline Owner Roy Biggins on 'Wings,' Dies at 73

NBC/Photofest
From left: Rebecca Schull, David Schramm and Tony Shalhoub on NBC's 'Wings'

The stage veteran co-founded The Acting Company, where he worked alongside John Houseman and Patti LuPone in the early days.

David Schramm, the veteran stage actor who portrayed the airline owner Roy Biggins for eight seasons on the 1990s NBC comedy Wings, has died. He was 73.

Schramm was a founding member of the New York-based The Acting Company, which announced his death on Sunday. Publicist Rick Miramontez said he died in New York. No other details were immediately available.

Schramm made his first appearance on Broadway in 1973 in Three Sisters and his last in 2009 in Finian's Rainbow. In between, he appeared opposite Judith Ivey in Alan Ayckbourn's Bedroom Farce in 1979.

Schramm also worked in productions for the New York Theatre Workshop, Pasadena Playhouse, George Street Playhouse and the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, D.C., during his four-decade career.

From 1990-97, Schramm starred as the unscrupulous Biggins on Wings, created by David Angell, Peter Casey and David Lee. His character's Aeromass airline competed for business at the fictional Tom Nevers Field in Nantucket, Massachusetts, with Sandpiper Air, owned by brothers Joe and Brian Hackett (Tim Daly and Steven Weber, respectively).

"I knew when we started it was going to be a success," Schramm said in an April interview, "not just because the writers had been involved with Cheers, Taxi and Mary Tyler Moore. But when we sat around the table reading the first script and I saw this buffoon they created for me, this pompous guy who said garish things to women, and all the other rich characters, I turned to [co-star] Rebecca (Schull, who played Fay Cochran on the show) and said, 'I think we've landed in a tub of butter.' And we did. If only I put the money I made under my mattress instead of in the stock market."

A native of Louisville, Schramm had taken acting classes at Western Kentucky University before attending Juilliard from 1968-72.

Faculty member Dr. Mildred Howard "heard that Juilliard was starting a drama division," Schramm said. "She told me, 'You are going to go to school in New York' — to which I said in my Southern twang, 'Doctor, they ain't gonna take me in no school in New York.' She worked on two audition pieces with me, arranged for the flight, packed a lunch and said, 'Go!' I did and got accepted on the spot."

The Acting Company came out of Juilliard. The historic theatrical repertory group was started by John Houseman and Margot Harley in 1972; in addition to Schramm, original alumni include Patti LuPone, Kevin Kline and David Ogden Stiers.