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Terrence O’Hara, who directed 85 episodes of the CBS dramas NCIS and NCIS: Los Angeles from 2003 until this year, died Dec. 5 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after a five-year battle with cancer, his family announced. He was 76.
A former actor who studied at the American Film Institute, O’Hara was a director for more than 30 years, also working on such other shows as The Blacklist, Smallville, Nikita, Lie to Me, Rosewood, Heroes, The Unit, Legends, Dollhouse, Grimm, Sons of Anarchy, The Shield, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, JAG, Angel, Magic City, The X-Files, Dark Angel, Touched by an Angel and Pacific Blue.
His 56th and final NCIS episode, “Birds of a Feather” — the show’s 19th-season finale — aired May 23; the last of his 29 NCIS: Los Angeles assignments, “Bonafides,” aired in March. He also helmed four episodes of NCIS: New Orleans in 2014-16.
“One of Terrence’s many strengths as a director came from his curiosity and understanding of human nature,” NCIS executive producer Mark Horowitz said in a statement. “He loved exploring human emotion and the things that make people tick. Whether it was a new actor in their first role onscreen or the star of the show, Terrence had such an instinct for helping actors, for quickly figuring out what each one of them needed. His ability to guide and take them to the next level was amazing to watch.”
“He was always searching and pushing to find and reveal the human moments, the things that an audience recognizes as the truth. No matter how stressful the circumstances, everyone working with him knew, Terrence is here, we’ll get through this, and it’s going to be great. With empathy and openness, Terrence was a great director, an artist, a truly honest man and a dear, dear friend.”
The son of an accountant, Terrence Joseph O’Hara was born in Newark, New Jersey, on Christmas Day in 1945. He started acting at Essex Catholic for high school and attended Rutgers University for two years and then the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.
He performed in off-Broadway, regional and repertory plays before landing TV gigs on such shows as Ryan’s Hope, Mrs. Columbo, CHiPs and The Greatest American Hero in the late 1970s and early ’80s.
He moved to Los Angeles in 1981 and got into the AFI as a directing fellow for one year, then was invited back for a second. He made his directing debut on the slasher film Darkroom (1989), then called the shots for several episodes of Silk Stalkings and Renegade for Stephen J. Cannell and Stu Segall.
He entered the CBS fold in 1996 with Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.
Survivors include his second wife, Shanna (they were married 36 years); children Stacey, Jon and Maddie; sister Judy; brothers Steve and Chris; grandchildren Brian and Katherine; and Jesse, a 14-year-old Terrier mutt.
“Terrence waged a heroic battle with cancer until he couldn’t but for five years wore his struggle with unimaginable grace,” his family said. “He continued to direct, do the dishes, walk the dog, shovel snow, hang Christmas lights and have dinner with friends and never felt sorry for himself, though that would have been OK. His fortitude is one for the ages. He will be deeply, dearly, madly missed.”
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