Michael Ontkean Biography

Michael Ontkean is a former Canadian actor who is known for his role in the TV show ‘The Rookies’. Check out this biography to know about his birthday, childhood, family life, achievements, and fun facts about him.

Quick Facts

Birthday: January 24, 1946

Nationality: American, Canadian

Famous: Actors American Men

Age: 74 Years, 74 Year Old Males

Sun Sign: Aquarius

Also Known As: Michael Leonard Ontkean

Born Country: Canada

Born in: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Famous as: Actor

Height: 6'1" (185 cm), 6'1" Males


Spouse/Ex-: Frances Ontkean (m. 1971–1980), Jamie Smith Jackson

father: Leonard Ontkean

mother: Muriel Ontkean

siblings: Sheri Ontkean

children: Jenna Millman, Sadie Sapphire Ontkean

Notable Alumni: University Of New Hampshire

City: Vancouver, Canada

More Facts

education: St. Michael's College School, University of New Hampshire

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Michael Ontkean is a former Canadian actor who is popularly known for his role of ‘Officer Willie Gillis’ in the television show ‘The Rookies’. Starting as a promising hockey player in his college years, Ontkean moved to The United States and decided to pursue a career in acting. Since his debut in the television show ‘Hudson's Bay’, Ontkean has appeared in over fifty films and television shows combined. After getting his break on the silver screen in the 1970s, Ontkean appeared in a number of films during the 1980s. Some of his most important works on the silver screen came in that decade, including his career-best performance in the film ‘Bye Bye Blues’. He won a nomination at the Genie Awards for his performance in the film. He appeared in the horror television show ‘Twin Peaks’ in the early 1990s, as one of the lead cast.

  • Michael Ontkean grew up in a family where both his parents were associated with the show business. The influence of his parents drove Ontkean to chase his dream of becoming an actor from his boyhood. In 1959, Ontkean received his first big break in the show business. He was just thirteen years old when he was cast in the role of ‘Jeremy Warrant’ in the episode ‘Pierre's Three Evils’ of the television show ‘Hudson’s Bay’. After that role, Ontkean didn’t receive any offer for the next decade. He went on to complete his education and played hockey for the University of New Hampshire.
  • Michael Ontkean moved to the United States towards the end of the 1960s with his family. Moving to Hollywood proved to be fruitful for the versatile actor. He received more offers and appeared in a guest role in the TV show ‘Ironside’ in 1970. A year later, Ontkean received his first offer for a film. He appeared in the film ‘The Peace Killers’ as ‘Jeff,’ and later in the same year, he featured in the television show 'The Partridge Family’.
  • In 1972, Ontkean appeared in three films, starting with ‘Necromancy’. He then received his first big break as a regular cast member on television. He was picked by the makers of ‘The Rookies’, a police procedural series on ABC. The show ran from 1972 to 1976, with Ontkean being part for two seasons. He portrayed the character of ‘Officer Willie Gillis’, a rookie officer, before leaving the show in 1975, being unhappy with his character arc for the next season.
  • In the 1980s, Ontkean appeared in a number of film roles, including a very challenging role in the drama film ‘Making Love’. The film was based on a male character who had to deal with his homosexuality. Ontkean was not the first choice for that role; in fact, he was not even considered until five popular figures rejected the role, including Harrison Ford. Although Ontkean’s performance in the film was praised, overall the film failed to impress the critics or the fans.
  • One of the most important roles in Ontkean’s career was the portrayal of ‘Sheriff Harry S. Truman’ in ‘Twin Peaks’. Ontkean was one of the lead cast members on the mystery horror drama series beside Kyle MacLachlan and Mädchen Amick. The show ran for three seasons on ABC with Michael Ontkean being part of the initial two. The creator of the show, David Lynch, initially wanted actor Robert Wallace Forster Jr. to play the character of ‘Sheriff Harry S. Truman’. When things didn’t materialize, Lynch decided to cast Ontkean for the role which became a fan favorite on the show.
  • After his successful stint in the show, Ontkean received a few offers to appear in films and television shows. He played lead roles in a few films like ‘The Stepford Husbands’, ‘Swann’, and ‘Summer of the Monkeys’. He also played key roles in films like ‘A Chance of Snow’, ‘Just a Little Harmless Sex’, and ‘The Descendants’ which was his last work in the show business. Michael Ontkean has also played a few guest roles in television shows like ‘PSI Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal’, ‘The Outer Limits’, ‘North Shore’, and ‘Sophie’.
  • Michael Ontkean was supposed to play his original character in the third season of ‘Twin Peaks’. The third season was a revival of the popular show and was aired in 2017. Unfortunately, Ontkean never appeared in the revival series, which was named ‘Twin Peaks: The Return,’ due to some unspecified reasons. The makers removed the character 'Sheriff Harry S. Truman’ and replaced him with his brother, ‘Frank,’ portrayed by Robert Forster.
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Family & Personal Life
  • Michael Leonard Ontkean was born on January 24, 1946, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. He is the son of actress Muriel Cooper and boxer Leonard Ontkean. Ontkean attended St. Michael's Choir School and later went to St. Michael's College School. Thanks to his talent as a hockey player, Ontkean received a scholarship to the University of New Hampshire where he played hockey for the next three years.
  • Ontkean has been married twice in his life. His first marriage was to Frances E. Knight in 1971. They were divorced in March 1980. Michael Ontkean married again, this time tying the knot with actress Jamie Smith Jackson in 1987. They have two daughters, Jenna Millman and Sadie Sapphire Ontkean.
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Michael Ontkean

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