Peter Scolari, who rose to fame alongside Tom Hanks in the offbeat sitcom “Bosom Buddies” and later appeared opposite Bob Newhart in “Newhart,” has died after a two-year battle with cancer. He was 66.
His manager, Ellen Lubin Sanitsky, confirmed his death to Deadline.com on Friday.
Scolari won an Emmy for his work on HBO’s “Girls,” portraying the father of series star Lena Dunham’s character.
Dunham paid tribute to Scolari on Instagram.
“The shyest extrovert, the most dramatic comedian, the most humble icon,” she wrote. “… I couldn’t have been raised by a better TV `papa.’ Thank you, Scolari, for every chat between set ups, every hug onscreen and off and every `Oh, Jeez.’ We will miss you so much.”
Scolari was also nominated three times for a supporting-actor Emmy for his work on “Newhart.”
“I knew that Peter was sick, but his death still comes as a great shock,” Bob Newhart said in a statement Friday. “We were friends and colleagues for over 40 years. Julia (Duffy) and Peter, as a vacuous couple, were an essential part of the success of `Newhart.’ In life, he was a fantastic person, and it was a joy to work together. He will be sorely missed and his passing at 66 is much too early.”
Scolari, a New York native, most recently appeared in the series “Evil,” a supernatural drama that aired on CBS in the 2019-20 season and on the Paramount+ streaming service this year.
He has an extensive list of credits, appearing on TV shows including “Happy Days,” “Hotel,” “Family Ties,” “The Love Boat,” “Empty Nest,” “The West Wing” and “Sabrina the Teenage Witch.”
He lent his voice to the animated Christmas film “The Polar Express,” which starred Hanks. His former “Buddies” co-star also directed him in the 1996 film “That Thing You Do.”
It was “Bosom Buddies” that made Scolari a star. The ABC sitcom aired from 1980-82, with Scolari and Hanks portraying roommates who donned dresses and wigs so they could live in an affordable apartment in a building for women only.
Scolari was also an accomplished stage actor, appearing in Broadway shows including “Hairspray” and “Wicked.” He also appeared on stage with Hanks in “Lucky Guy” in 2013, and portrayed multiple roles — including Jerry Buss, Pat Riley and Red Auerbach — in the short-lived 2012 Broadway play “Magic/Bird.”
Scolari’s 2016 Emmy for best guest actor in a comedy series for “Girls” was notable not just for being the actor’s only win, but also for the way in which he won it. Scolari was not originally among the five nominees in the category. But he was added to the list following the disqualification of Peter MacNicol of HBO’s “Veep,” after it was discovered MacNicol had appeared in more than half of the show’s episodes.
Scolari is survived by his wife, Tracy Shayne, and children Nicholas, Keaton, Joseph and Cali.