OBITUARY: Michael O'Hare (1952-2012)

Kevin Long
Kevin Long's picture

Michael O'Hare died today.

He was sixty. He had a major heart attack on the 23rd, and was in a coma until he passed today.

O'Hare was best known for playing Commander Jeffrey David Sinclair of Babylon 5. He left the series after the first season, though he made two return appearances after that to finish out the most important aspects of his character arc. Series creator/producer Joe Straczynski and O'Hare both maintained that the departure was amicable and a mutual decision. Straczynski said that the series basically ended up moving in a different direction than he'd originally thought it would, which left less room for Sinclair. O'Hare said that he was basically a stage actor, and the rigors of a weekly action series were more than he'd anticipated, and he simply wasn't up to the challenge.

Born and raised in Chicago, O'Hare went to the Juliard school for the performing arts, then went on to perform in many Broadway productions. Most notable among them, he originated the role of "Colonel Jessup" in the original cast of "A Few Good Men." When the play became a film some years later, Jack Nicholson won an Oscar playing that character.

He had a penchant for playing career military officers, and his portrayal of Sinclair won accolades from actual servicemen. When asked why he was so believable in these parts, O'Hare once said that he was largely imitating his brother, who was a career naval officer. There was an interesting subtext of tiredness in his performace, seeing as the character was continually overworked and sleep-deprived, which any serviceman can identify with, and a quiet desperation behind his eyes that anyone who's seen combat can respect. I've never done either, but I've been told by those who have that Sinclair's understated PTSD deathwish moved them.

B5 marked the high point of his career as an actor, and once he left the show, his life becomes murky. His TV appearances were few and far between. He had some substance abuse problems, conquered them, and put on a lot of weight, as is so often the case. He adopted a son, about which I never heard anything else. In 1998 he married a woman named Ruth. They evidently moved to London, where he apparently continued to work on the stage, though around the same time he completely disappeared.

The last reasonably credible report I'd heard about him was about two years ago, and said that he'd retired from acting and was now working as a stock broker in Chicago.

Our prayers go out for his soul and for his family.