Walter Raney, Longtime L.A. Drama Coach, Dies at 79

Walter Raney
Courtesy Leanne Rayman

Walter Raney

He mentored the likes of Jason Patric, Amy Jo Johnson and John Larroquette during his career.

Walter Raney, a onetime Fox casting director who ran a Los Angeles repertory company and mentored actors including Jason Patric, Amy Jo Johnson and John Larroquette, has died. He was 79.

Raney died Jan. 2 in Los Angeles of natural causes, his niece, Leanne Rayman, told The Hollywood Reporter.

In 1976, Raney produced and directed a Los Angeles production of the Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning basketball drama That Championship Season after striking up a friendship with playwright Jason Miller. From that, Raney launched the New Theatre League Repertory, a workshop and showcase for new talent in Hollywood.

Raney produced and/or directed plays for Miller around the country for more than two decades, and he taught acting to his son, Patric.

Raney approached Johnson at a diner in Hollywood and encouraged her to keep going as an actress. In a Facebook post, the Felicity and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers star thanked him "for every ounce of confidence you instilled in me. You were a great coach. My life would not have been the same without you."

Born in 1941, Walter James Raney left his hometown of Haverhill, Massachusetts, just shy of his 17th birthday. He worked in regional theater, dinner theater and summer stock around the country and got bit roles on television. In the 1970s, he cast pilots at Fox.

Raney later worked with William Peter Blatty (The Exorcist) to direct a stage version of the author's novel The Ninth Configuration and was hired by Jerome Lawrence (Mame, Inherit the Wind) to helm a play about the tragic personal life of explorer Jacques Cousteau.

At the New Theatre League Repertory, Raney also helped boost the acting careers of future General Hospital stars Sarah Brown and Kin Shriner, Walter Jones and Thuy Trang of Power Rangers fame and Mary Hart.

"The hardest thing to teach an actor is how not to act," he once said. "Essentially, you always play yourself. You just lock into some deeper aspect of yourself, the good, bad or ugly, so to speak. For a director, the most difficult thing to learn is when to shut up, when to get out of the way and not invade a talented actor's intuition, even if it's not precisely what you envision for the part."