R.I.P. Robert Culp

Veteran actor Robert Culp died yesterday as the result of head injuries sustained when he collapsed while on a walk near his Los Angeles home. He was 79.

I first saw Culp as hard-charging FBI agent Bill Maxwell assigned to both protect and exploit super-suited Special Ed teacher Ralph Hinkley on Stephen J. Cannell’s The Greatest American Hero (1981-83). Though he mostly played the cool strategist to William Katt’s overwhelmed character, Culp also infused his performance with humor at times.

Thanks to cable TV, I got to see Culp in what was probably his best-remembered role: secret agent Kelly Robinson, teamed with Bill Cosby’s Alexander Scott in I Spy (1965-68). Years later, Culp would guest-star in The Cosby Show as an old friend of Cliff Huxtable’s, Scott Kelly.

I also remember Culp as the flawed U.S. president in The Pelican Brief (1993), but there were countless other roles, each made memorable by his ability to remain relatable to viewers while projecting a wide range of attitudes. He was one of those familiar presences I didn’t expect to go when he did. At least we fans have his long career to look back on.

–Gerald So