Dabney Coleman, Actor from “9 to 5 ”and“ Tootsie”, Dead at 92

The Emmy-winning character actor appeared in more than 60 projects in his six-decade career

<p>Aaron Rapoport/Corbis via Getty</p> Dabney Coleman.

Aaron Rapoport/Corbis via Getty

Dabney Coleman.

Dabney Coleman has died at the age of 92, PEOPLE confirms.

The actor died Thursday, May 16, at his home in Santa Monica, Calif., his daughter Quincy Coleman told PEOPLE in a statement.

"My father crafted his time here on Earth with a curious mind, a generous heart and a soul on fire with passion, desire and humor that tickled the funny bone of humanity,” Quincy said. “As he lived, he moved through this final act of his life with elegance, excellence and mastery."

"A teacher, a hero and a king, Dabney Coleman is a gift and blessing in life and in death as his spirit will shine through his work, his loved ones and his legacy eternally."

He is survived by his sister, Beverly Coleman McCall; his children Meghan, Kelly, Randy, and Quincy Coleman; and grandchildren Hale and Gabe Torrance, Luie Freundl, and Kai and Coleman Biancaniello.

Coleman worked in Hollywood for over six decades, with roles in films including 9 to 5, Tootsie and You've Got Mail. On TV, he starred in shows including Buffalo Bill and Boardwalk Empire. He appeared in more than 60 film and TV projects and was best known for playing bad guys.

Coleman was born in Austin in 1932. He was one of four children, raised by a single mother after his father died of pneumonia. In a 1984 interview, he linked his affinity for playing louts to his childhood.

“Since I was a kid I played that role. I was very small until I got out of college,” he told The Washington Post. “Until then I was a mini-person, and I think that I was a little extra aggressive to compensate. To be the brat — maybe even that was to attract attention, some kind of identity."

He attended college at the Virginia Military Institute, and he was drafted into the Army in 1953.

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<p>R. Diamond/WireImage</p> The main cast of the 1980 film '9 to5': (from left) Dolly Parton, Dabney Coleman, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin.

R. Diamond/WireImage

The main cast of the 1980 film '9 to5': (from left) Dolly Parton, Dabney Coleman, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin.

After his return, he finished college at the University of Texas. After meeting an actor, he realized he wanted to be one too. From 1958 to 1960, he trained with Sanford Meisner at New York City’s Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre.

One of his first TV roles came on 1961’s Naked City. He appeared on series like The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Fugitive, I Dream of Jeannie, The Donna Reed Show, That Girl, The Flying Nun, Bonanza and The Mod Squad. His early film roles included Cinderella Liberty and The Towering Inferno.

In 1973, he grew a mustache, which he kept for the rest of his life and career.

“Without the mustache, I looked too much like Richard Nixon,” he told Vulture in 2010. “There’s no question that when I grew that mustache, all of a sudden, everything changed.” In 1975, he got attention for his role as Merle Jeeter on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.

<p>Columbia Pictures/Getty</p> Jessica Lange, Dustin Hoffman, Dabney Coleman and George Gaynes in 'Tootsie'

Columbia Pictures/Getty

Jessica Lange, Dustin Hoffman, Dabney Coleman and George Gaynes in 'Tootsie'

But the turning point in his career came when he was cast in 1980’s 9 to 5 as Franklin Hart Jr., the diabolical boss that terrorizes the characters played by Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton.

“The girls were so supportive of me, and included me in everything,” he explained to Vulture. “They were on a whole different level than I was at the time, but they were very sensitive about that, and made sure that I was included in every publicity shot and tour. All three of them insisted, ‘Where’s Dabney? Get him in here!’ They’re all three unique and wonderful ladies, all three of them.”

Coleman would work with Tomlin again on 1993’s The Beverly Hillbillies. She told PEOPLE at the time that the actor "makes me laugh. He can razz you so bad."

<p>Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty </p> Dabney Coleman on 'The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson' in 1991.

Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty

Dabney Coleman on 'The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson' in 1991.

Coleman played another sexist jerk in the 1982 film Tootsie, which he didn’t expect to be as successful as it ultimately was. “We really had no idea when we were making the film how good it was going to be. At the time, it just didn’t seem that funny. No one was laughing on set,” he told the Los Angeles Times in 2012.

The actor had a rare starring role on the 1983–1984 sitcom Buffalo Bill, playing the titular Bill, a sexist radio show host in Buffalo, New York. “I don't consider myself an evil s.o.b., but it is fun to play those characters because they are so well defined,” he told PEOPLE in 1983. Looking back on his career in 2012, he told The A.V. Club it was his favorite role, calling it “heaven on earth.”

<p>George Chinsee/WWD/Penske Media via Getty</p> Dabney Coleman in 1990.

George Chinsee/WWD/Penske Media via Getty

Dabney Coleman in 1990.

Other film roles for Coleman included The Muppets Take Manhattan, WarGames, Dragnet and Hot to Trot. On TV, he starred on short-lived series like The Slap Maxwell Story, The Guardian and Madman of the People. Beginning in 1997, he voiced Principal Prickly on the beloved cartoon series Recess and in the series’ four films. He also appeared on Columbo twice, in 1973 and 1991, and was one of only three actors to play a police officer and a murderer on the series.

Because he played the same type of horrible man over and over, audiences started to assume that’s who he was. "It isn't me," he told The New York Times in 1994. “Well, it is me socially, in a way. It's me kidding around. I mean, I kid around with that humor. And with that kind of character. And so in the course of a social evening, you'll see a lot of that, but that isn't who I am. That's just a guy that I'm playing, just to fool around, you know."

<p>Everett</p> From left: Tom Hanks, Dabney Coleman and John Randolph in 'You've Got Mail'


From left: Tom Hanks, Dabney Coleman and John Randolph in 'You've Got Mail'

In 1998, he played the lothario father of Tom Hanks' Joe Fox in You’ve Got Mail. Entertainment Weekly called him “marvelously dry as zwieback” in the role, though Coleman told Vulture he “wasn’t even familiar with computers” when he did the movie (in which the plot revolves around emails).

He joined the cast of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire in 2010, and in 2023, he appeared on Yellowstone as John Dutton Jr., the father of Kevin Costner’s character John Dutton III.

<p>Angela Weiss/Getty</p> Dabney Coleman with his Hollywood Walk of Fame star in 2014.

Angela Weiss/Getty

Dabney Coleman with his Hollywood Walk of Fame star in 2014.

Coleman was a six-time Emmy nominee, winning in 1987 for the TV film Sworn to Silence. He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2014.

He was also an accomplished tennis player; PEOPLE wrote in 2002 that he was “once considered the best celebrity player in Hollywood.”

He married Ann Courtney Harrell in 1957, and they shared daughter Meghan. They divorced in 1959. In 1961, he married Jean Hale, an actress. They shared three children: Kelly, Randy and Quincy. They divorced in 1984.

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