Quite a few pop culture figures have passed so far this month, and sadly I have another one to report. Actor Steven Gilborn, who played Ellen's father on the sitcom Ellen, passed on January 2 at the age of 72. The cause was cancer.
Steven Gilborn was born in New Rochelle, New York on July 15, 1936. He received a bachelor’s degree in English from Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania and a Ph.D. in dramatic literature from Stanford University in Stanford, California. Gilborn then entered the world of academia. He taught at the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University. He was a a Professor of Humanities at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Gilborn started acting in 1970. By 1977 he was appearing on Broadway in a small part in Tartuffe. He also a standby in Teibele and Her Demon in December of 1979 and January of 1980. On stage he also appeared in Awake and Sing at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, New Jersey and in The Tempest and Much Ado About Nothing in Folger Theatre in Washington, D.C.
Gilborn made his big screen debut in the movie Enormous Changes at the Last Minute in 1983. He would go onto appear in the movies Vamping, Anna, He Said, She Said, Timescape, and Nurse Betty.
It would be on television that Gilborn would spend most of his career. He made his television debut in a bit part in the telefilm Doubletake in 1985. He would go onto guest star in such shows as Kate and Allie, Beauty and the Beast, Law and Order, The Golden Girls, Murphy Brown, Coach, Murder One, NewsRadio, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Bernie Mac Show, and Damages. He appeared in recurring roles on several shows, including The Wonder Years, L.A. Law, Picket Fences, Living Single, Get Real, and The Practice. He was perhaps most familiar to audiences in the semi-regular role of Harold, Ellen Morgan's sweet, but perpetually confused father.
Much of Gilborn's career was spent playing lawyers, doctors, and teachers, but in truth he was a good deal more versatile. The fact that he could be convincing as an authority figure such as a doctor or teacher, and yet play Ellen's loving but confused father to perfection shows his range. In fact, Gilborn could even play darker roles, such as his appearance in two episodes of Damages in 2007. A busy actor, he was taken from us much too soon.