Warren Frost, Who Played Doc Hayward on 'Twin Peaks,' Dies at 91

Twin_Peaks_Warren Frost_Still - Photofest - H 2017
Courtesy of Photofest

The father of Mark Frost, the co-creator of the ABC show, he also had memorable turns on 'Seinfeld' and 'Matlock.'

Warren Frost, the late-blooming actor who played the dependable town physician Will "Doc" Hayward on Twin Peaks, has died. He was 91.

Frost died Friday morning at his home in Middlebury, Vt., after a lengthy illness, according to his son, Mark Frost, who created the surreal 1990s ABC show with David Lynch.

Warren Frost also is known for his stint as Mr. Ross, the father of George Costanza's fiancee Susan Ross, on NBC's Seinfeld. His character had an affair with the author John Cheever; his house was burned down by Kramer's Cuban cigar; and his daughter was poisoned to death from licking glue from cheap wedding-invitation envelopes.

Frost also played Andy Griffith's pal Billy Lewis, the father of private investigator Cliff Lewis (Daniel Roebuck), on the NBC-ABC legal drama Matlock.

His survivors also include another son, Scott Frost, a novelist and photographer who also has written for Twin Peaks and other shows including Babylon 5, and his daughter, actress Lindsay Frost, whose credits include TV's Crossing Jordan and the 2002 horror film The Ring.

"We're saddened today to announce the passing of our dear old dad, Warren Frost," Mark Frost said in a statement. "From the Normandy shores on D-Day to his 50-year career onstage and screen, he remained the same humble guy from Vermont who taught us that a life devoted to telling the right kind of truths can make a real difference in the lives of others. We're grateful to have shared him with the world for as long as we did."

Warren Frost had appeared in small roles in films and on several TV shows like Perry Mason and Make Room for Daddy in the late 1950s but didn’t see his acting career blossom until Mark gave him a regular job on Twin Peaks.

"You have to remember something about the arts," Frost said in a 2014 interview with the Burlington (Vt.) Free Press. "The most important thing an actor can have is nepotism. Without it, it's a very tough road."

His Doc Hayward was on the scene soon after the dead body (wrapped in plastic) of homecoming queen Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) was discovered on Twin Peaks. He appeared on 30 episodes of the show and will be seen on the now-shooting, highly anticipated revival at Showtime that premieres in May.

Frost guest-starred on five episodes of Seinfeld, including the series finale in 1998, during a six-year span.

Born on June 5, 1925 in Newburyport, Mass., Frost was raised in the Bronx and in Essex Junction, Vt. At age 17, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy, and when he got out, he enrolled at Middlebury College in the Champlain Valley as a 21-year-old English major. 

In New York, he landed a job in the drapery department at CBS, which led to a three-year stint as the floor director and stage manager for the acclaimed live weekly drama Philco Playhouse; there, he worked with the greats Sidney Lumet, John Frankenheimer and George Roy Hill.

He then appeared in The Mating Game with Debbie Reynolds and Tony Randall and It Started With a Kiss, both released in 1959.

Frost taught at the University of Minnesota, served as artistic director of the Chimera Theater Company in St. Paul, Minn., and played a driver in Hill's Slaughterhouse-Five (1972), some of which was shot in the Minneapolis area.

In 1988, he was a regular for a year on the CBS daytime drama As the World Turns, and he played Garry Shandling's dad on a 1994 episode of HBO's The Larry Sanders Show.

He left Los Angeles and returned to Middlebury to retire in 2000.

Mark Frost is a three-time Emmy-nominated screenwriter who worked on Hill Street Blues and is a partner with Lynch on Lynch-Frost Productions. He also co-wrote and directed the 1992 feature Storyville, starring James Spader, and penned the acclaimed 2002 book The Greatest Game Ever Played, about the birth of golf in America.

Lindsay Frost's son (and Warren's grandson) is Lucas Giolito, a pitcher with the Chicago White Sox. The No. 16 overall pick of the Washington Nationals in the 2012 MLB Draft, he uses the Seinfeld theme as his warm-up music.

"Guys are always asking about my grandfather being on Seinfeld and everything, which is awesome," Giolito told MLB.com in a story that was published this week. "I know it's one of the best sitcoms ever."

Survivors also include his wife of 68 years, Virginia, whom he met at Middlebury College, and other grandsons Casey and Travis.