R.I.P. John Aylward, Scene-Stealing Veteran of The West Wing and ER Dead at 75

Aylward could also be seen on Northern Exposure, Mad Men, and most recently, Briarpatch

john aylward rip obituary cause of death er the west wing mad men
John Aylward, photo by Walter McBride/Getty Images

    John Aylward, who doled out gruff advice as Dr. Donald Anspaugh on ER and former DNC chairman Barry Goodwin on The West Wing, died in Seattle Monday at the age of 75.

    As Deadline reports, his passing was confirmed by his wife Mary to his longtime agent Mitchell K. Stubbs. “Received a devastating call from Mary Fields, John Aylward’s wife,” Stubbs wrote on Twitter. “This kind man and wonderful actor has left us. Very grateful to have known and worked with you, sir.” The cause of death has not been disclosed, but he is said to have been in declining health.

    Born November 7th, 1946, in Seattle, Washington, Aylward co-founded Seattle’s Empty Space Theater and was a company member at Seattle Repertory Theatre for 15 years. He began to emerge in Hollywood in the 1990s, booking a recurring role on Northern Exposure and playing small parts in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, Third Rock from the Sun, and more.


    His big break came in 1996 when Carol Flynt, co-producer of ER, saw him on stage at the Mark Taper Forum performing in John Patrick Shanley’s play Psychopathia Sexualis. Aylward joined the series in its third season, and as the Chief of Staff and later Chief of Surgery, would go on to appear in 74 episodes through 2008.

    Aylward had parts in Grace Under Fire, The Practice, Michael Bay’s Armageddon, Diagnosis Murder, the television adaptation of The FugitiveFamily LawDharma & GregAlly McBeal, The Practice, The X-Files, Judging Amy, Nip/Tuck, Alias, and Carnivàle. In 2005 he reunited with ER producer John Wells to play Barry Goodwin on The West Wing, serving a key role in the election plot that dominated the seventh and final season.

    Since then Aylward had continued to work in high-profile series, guest starring as Geoffrey Atherton in two episodes of Mad Men, and booking roles in Water for Elephants, Fringe, American Horror Story, Shameless, and Yellowstone. His final part saw him appear in five episodes of the Rosario Dawson series Briarpatch in 2019 and 2020.

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