Prolific and versatile character actor William Sanderson was born on January 10, 1944, in Memphis, Tennessee. His mother was an elementary school teacher and his father was a landscape designer. William served two years in the US Army. Following his military service he attended Southern Methodist University. He earned both a BBA degree and a JD law degree from Memphis State University. William went to New York to try his luck as an actor. He studied his craft with Herbert Berghof and William Hickey.
Sanderson began his acting career in off-Broadway stage productions and appeared in several independent pictures. He gave a superbly lively and intense performance as vicious racist and escaped convict Jessie Lee Kane in the brutal exploitation feature Fight for Your Life (1977). William was likewise marvelous as gentle toymaker J.F. Sebastian in the fantastic science-fiction cult favorite Blade Runner (1982). He has played his fair share of loathsome bad guys (he refers to these particular characters as “prairie scum”), such as nasty lout Calvin in Raggedy Man (1981), lowlife hick Lee Dollarhide in Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980) and weaselly criminal Snow in Lone Wolf McQuade (1983). Not surprisingly, considering his distinctive Southern drawl, he has also appeared in such westerns as the comedy Wagons East (1994), Crossfire Trail (2001), Monte Walsh (2003), Andersonville (1996), Gods and Generals (2003) and the acclaimed TV mini-series Lonesome Dove (1989) (one of several projects in which Sanderson has acted alongside Tommy Lee Jones). Sanderson gave a lovely and touching portrayal in a rare lead role as emotionally dysfunctional recovering alcoholic ukulele minstrel Stanley Myer in the poignant indie drama Stanley’s Gig (2000). He achieved his greatest popularity, however, as flaky backwoodsman Larry on the hit sitcom Newhart (1982) on which he uttered the memorable catchphrase, “I’m Larry. This is my brother Darryl and this is my other brother Darryl.” More recently Sanderson had a terrific role as conniving hotel proprietor E.B. Farnum on the sensationally gritty cable western TV series Deadwood (2004). Among the TV shows William has done guest spots on are The Practice (1997), The Pretender (1996), ER (1994), The X-Files (1993), Walker, Texas Ranger (1993), Sirens (1993), Matlock (1986), Babylon 5 (1993), Married… with Children (1987), The Twilight Zone (1985), Knight Rider (1982), Coach (1989), The Dukes of Hazzard (1979) and Starsky and Hutch (1975).
He has also done voices for numerous cartoon characters, radio commercials and books on tape. Outside of his substantial film and TV credits, William has acted on stage in productions of such plays as “The Taming of the Shrew,” “When Ya Comin’ Back, Red Ryder?,” “Insect Comedy,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Dutchman,” “Fishing,” “Authentic Life of Billy the Kid,” “Tobacco Road,” and “Scotch Rocks.” William Sanderson lives in Burbank, California, with his wife Sharon Wix.
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