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Peter Scolari, who starred opposite lifelong friend Tom Hanks in the early 1980s sitcom Bosom Buddies, died Friday. He was 66.
Scolari, an Emmy winner whose credits also included Newhart and HBO’s Girls, had been living with cancer for the past two years.
A native of New Rochelle, New York, Scolari landed his first major acting role in the short-lived 1980 ABC comedy Goodtime Girls. Later that year, he and a then-unknown Hanks starred in Bosom Buddies, playing two guys who disguise themselves as women to live in an affordable, all-female apartment building.
The show, also on ABC, lasted just two seasons, but it sparked a 40-plus year friendship between the two actors. Scolari and Hanks would work together several times over the ensuing decades, with Scolari appearing in his friend’s directorial debut, That Thing You Do!, and the Hanks-produced HBO miniseries From the Earth to the Moon. The two both did voice work on 2003’s The Polar Express.
Following the 1982 cancellation of Bosom Buddies, Scolari joined Newhart in 1984 and remained with the show until its conclusion in 1990. He became close friends with and a frequent golf partner of star Bob Newhart during the show’s run, and they remained close afterward.
“I knew that Peter was sick, but his death still comes as a great shock,” Newhart said in a statement. “We were friends and colleagues for over 40 years. Julia [Duffy] and Peter, as a vacuous couple (Michael and Stephanie), were an essential part of the success of Newhart. In life, he was a fantastic person, and it was a joy to work together. He will be sorely missed and his passing at 66 is much too early.”
Scolari was nominated for three Emmys for his role on Newhart. Twenty-seven years after his third nomination for that show, he won a guest acting Emmy for playing Hannah’s (Lena Dunham) father on Girls.
Dunham, who created the series, wrote on Instagram that Scolari was a generous and loving castmate: “Becky Ann [Baker] and I loved every second of playing your family and I couldn’t have been raised up by a better TV ‘papa.’ Thank you, Scolari, for every chat between set ups, every hug onscreen and off and every ‘Oh, Jeez.’ We will miss you so much.”
In recent years, Scolari has recurred on the CBS turned Paramount+ drama Evil and appeared on series including Fox’s Gotham, FX’s Fosse/Verdon and Lisey’s Story at Apple TV+.
Evil co-creator Robert King, wrote on Twitter Friday that Scolari “was one of the funniest — sneakily funny — actors we’ve worked with. He always took a nothing scene and found different ways to twist it, and throw in odd pauses that made it jump. … He was just wonderful.”
“Beyond everything else, Peter Scolari was a mensch, a hard worker, a thoughtful actor, always a pleasure on a set,” King added.
Scolari also had an extensive list of stage credits, playing roles in Wicked, Hairspray and the play Lucky Guy — which marked another reunion with Hanks — on Broadway.
Scolari is survived by his wife, Tracy Shayne, and children Nicholas, Joseph, Keaton and Cali. He was previously married to Debra Steagal and Cathy Trien.
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