Walter Olkewicz has died at age 72. As Deadline reported, the veteran character actor, whose television career spanned decades, was in California when he died on April 6, 2021. His son, screenwriter Zak Olkewicz, confirmed the news in a statement on behalf of their family. “He was a good man who pushed his love for creativity and the arts into everything he did,” Zak wrote, per Deadline. “He handed that passion down to me, and I look forward to passing it on to the grandchildren he loved so much.”
As the AV Club observed, the New Jersey native started out as a writer, before becoming a familiar face in comedies like Taxi, Cheers, The Love Boat, Newhart, and Seinfeld. Walter’s longest-running role was in the TV series Grace Under Fire, and in 1990, he appeared as the lecherous Jacques Renault in Twin Peaks. David Lynch later brought Walter back for the 2017 reboot, but he retired from acting later that year.
According to NME, the actor had various ongoing health problems, beginning with a knee surgery in 1999 that caused several infections. In total, he went through 19 subsequent surgeries and was confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. In recent years, friends and family had set up crowdfunding pages so that people could donate and help Walter with his medical bills.
Fans paid tribute to Walter Olkewicz, who appeared in 'Seinfeld' and 'Twin Peaks'
Walter Olkewicz is survived by his son and two grandchildren. In a Facebook post, Zak Olkewicz wrote that his father’s death “was sudden but I don’t believe he woke up or was in any pain or fear,” per NME. “He was a lot of great things, but mostly he was a good good person in his heart,” Zak added in his heartfelt tribute. “And I know from the outreach of kind words from everyone he will be missed by the world as much as by his family.” Those kind words came from fans, friends, family, and former colleagues alike.
Twin Peaks fans were quick to memorialize the character actor who had brought one of the show’s most memorable roles to life. “Arguably Walter Olkewicz did more to craft the seedy malevolence of Twin Peaks than any other actor,” one Twitter user declared. “When people talk about David Lynch capturing the dark underbelly of America, they’re, at least in part, talking about his performance.”
The actor Treat Williams also took to Twitter and shared a picture of himself and Olkewicz on the set of Steven Spielberg’s war comedy 1941. “RIP Walter Olkewicz. My fellow tank crew member in 1941,” Williams wrote.
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