John Hillerman, who played stuffed-shirt Higgins to Tom Selleck’s freewheeling detective Thomas Magnum in 1980-88 CBS detective drama “Magnum, P.I.” died Thursday of natural causes at his home in Houston. He was 84.
Born December 20, 1932 in Denison, Texas, Hillerman made his his film debut in “They Call Me Mister Tibbs!” in 1970 in an uncredited role as a reporter. Director Peter Bogdanovich, with whom Hillerman had previously worked during his stage career, cast Hillerman in his films “The Last Picture Show,” “What’s Up, Doc?,” and “Paper Moon.” Hillerman worked steadily thereafter in motion pictures and television through the 1970s, including notable supporting roles in the 1974 films “Chinatown” and “Blazing Saddles.”
Prior to his Emmy Award winning role “Magnum, PI,” he appeared as a regular on NBC detective drama “Ellery Queen” in 1975 and CBS sitcom “The Betty White” Show in the 1977-78 season, and he had a recurring role on CBS’ “One Day at a Time” from 1976 to 1980. After being cast in “Magnum, P.I.,” he shot only four additional pictures between 1980 and 1996, with his final film performance in “A Very Brady Sequel” in 1996. He alsoappeared in the final season of NBC comedy “The Hogan Family” in 1991.
Hillerman’s survivors include a sister, Jo Ann Tritico, and seven nieces and nephews including Chris Tritico, a Houston attorney.