The highly regarded actor Daniel J. Travanti was born Danielo Giovanni Travanty in the southeastern part of Wisconsin on March 7, 1940, but raised for a time in Iowa before returning to his native state. The youngest son of an American Motors auto worker, he showed both athletic and academic prowess in high school on both the football and debate teams.
It was during the course of his studies at the University of Wisconsin that Dan first developed a strong, abiding interest in drama, appearing in many college plays while there. He, in fact, turned down top football scholarships in order to pursue his acting dream. Following training at the Yale School of Drama, he co-starred as Nick with Colleen Dewhurst in a touring company of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” in 1965 and he was off and running.
The following year Travanti relocated to Los Angeles, appearing in scores of TV roles as assorted buddies and villains while still billing himself under his actual last name of Travanty (until the early 1970s). Starting with his film debut in the sordid stalker drama Who Killed Teddy Bear (1965) starring Sal Mineo and Juliet Prowse, he found a sturdy, if routine, niche in drama with supporting roles in the films The Organization (1971) and St. Ives (1976), and TV guest spots on The Defenders (1961), Perry Mason (1957), Judd for the Defense (1967), The F.B.I. (1965), Mannix (1967), Cannon (1971), and Barnaby Jones (1973).
A consummate professional and chronic overachiever, he quickly approached burnout when he obtained only a measure of the success he expected of himself. Travanti turned to drinking to combat his career dissatisfaction. He finally was forced to seek professional help in 1973 after a collapse and breakdown on stage during the middle of a show in Indianapolis.
Following extensive treatment, Travanti did an about-face. In 1978 he earned a master’s degree in English literature at Loyola of Marymount in Los Angeles and the following year nabbed a six-month stint on the ABC daytime soap General Hospital (1963). This renewed resurgence came to a peak came after being cast as the serious, somber-looking Capt. Frank Furillo for six seasons on the classic drama Hill Street Blues (1981). The actor not only won both Emmy (twice) and Golden Globe awards, but developed unlikely sex-symbol status at the age of 41. This showcase to a host of highly acclaimed TV minimovie parts, notably that of John Walsh, the father who turned activist after his child was murdered, in Adam (1983) and its sequel, Adam: His Song Continues (1986), and the title role of broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow in Murrow (1986).
Seen less and less in years gone by, Travanti was back briefly sporting a police badge on TV in the series Missing Persons (1993). Avoiding the limelight and focusing on theater endeavors with early millennium stage roles in “All My Sons” (2002), Major Barbara (2003) and “The Last Word…” (2005), he has been seen of late on such TV crime dramatics as “Prison Break,” “Criminal Minds,” and “The Defenders,” and most recently been spotted in a continuing role on the Boss (2011).
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