William Devane

William Devane is a well known American film, theater, and television actor. He is best known for his role as Greg Sumner on the prime time soap opera, Knots Landing. Devane is also famous for playing the character, James Heller on the hit FOX crime drama 24.


William is a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, a two year performing arts school located in New York City. He started appearing on stage soon after his graduation from the Dramatic Arts Academy.

Many sources suggest this renowned television actor was born on September 5th, 1939 in Albany, New York though some dispute this and claim he was born in 1937 or 1940. His full birth name is William Joseph Devane. His height is approximately 1.78 meters.

His father was Joseph Devane, who notably once served as a chauffeur for Franklin D. Roosevelt when he was the Governor of New York. William Joseph Devane’s father was of Irish ancestry, while his mother had German and Dutch ancestry.

Before moving to New York, in his early life, there was a period of time when he worked as an apprentice electrician and was a worker at a construction site.

Acting Career

William Devane started his acting career soon after graduating from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, though he had been previously acting in neighborhood theaters when he was attending high school classes in Albany. With a career spanning nearly 50 years and having played more than 45 unique roles, he has played numerous and varied types of characters, such as the tough guy archetype in films like Hollow Man (2000), the Alfred Hitchcock-directed Family Plot (1976), and Testament (1983) .

He has also acted in many TV productions, including the Dallas spin-off prime time soap opera Knots Landing and the drama series 24. William appeared on Knots Landing from 1983 to 1993 as Greg Sumner. Above everything else, he is most well-known for decade-long role as Greg Sumner on Knots Landing, where he played an ambitious senator and CEO. He appeared on the FOX show, 24 from 2005 to 2007 and reprised his role as James Heller in the 24 mini series, Live Another Day in 2014.

In the television movie The Missiles of October (1974), Devane played the role of United States President John F. Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis. In addition to looking like the former President, he had the unique ability to master Kennedy’s Boston accent. The role bolstered his reputation and catapulted him to stardom. He has continued to act in various roles as a politician or president, and has played a member of the Presidential Cabinet on two evening dramas.

On The West Wing (1999), he guest starred as the Secretary of State and potential vice presidential nominee, while on 24 (2001), as the character James Heller, he was the Secretary of Defense. On the science fiction series Stargate SG-1 (1997), he played President Henry Hayes for three episodes, and reprised his role in the direct to DVD movie Stargate: Continuum. Devane also played the President of the United States in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises (2012).


Soon after his star making performance in The Missiles of October, Devane again gained critical acclaim for his portrayal of John Henry Faulk, a blacklisted radio host, in another TV movie, the Emmy Award-winning Fear on Trial (1975). He has also been fortunate enough to have appeared in two movies that opened in the same weekend, Space Cowboys and Hollow Man. They were both theatrically released on August 6, 2000 and gave William the chance to earn twice the money.

In addition to his major roles, he has also appeared in Lady Liberty (1971), Marathon Man (1976), Rolling Thunder (1977), Yanks (1979), Timestalkers (1987), Forgotten Sins (1996), Exception to the Rule (1997), and Payback (1999). On television, he had a role on Lois & Clarke: The New Adventures of Superman (1994) as the infamous gangster Al Capone, and also had a recurring guest role as the lead character’s father on the CBS show Early Edition (1996-2000).

In the later years of his career, from the 2000s and onwards, he has continued to appear in movies and television. He appeared in ABC’s What About Brian (2006-2007) and starred in the short-lived ABC sitcom Crumbs (2006). Devane had a guest role on the NCIS episode “Worst Nightmare.” In 2012, he began playing the recurring role of Grandpa Edward Grayson on ABC’s primetime soap opera Revenge (2011-2015). He has most recently been seen in the Christopher Nolan film Interstellar (2014), and was a cast member on the TV sitcom The Grinder (2015).

Personal Life

In 1961, Devane tied the knot with his wife Eugenie Devane and they are still presently and happily married after more than 55 years in the entertainment industry. William and Eugenie had two children, the eldest of whom tragically died in an accident. Their remaining child, Joshua, also works in the entertainment industry and has had roles in several movies.

As a hobby, William Devane is an ardent polo player and he has even won many awards. In his free time, he enjoys horseback riding and also loves to go fly fishing. Business wise, he owns a restaurant that specializes in Italian and New York cuisine. The restaurant was originally located in Indio, California before expanding to Rancho Mirage, California. Devane is also currently a spokesman for Rosland Capital, a precious metal company, and stars in their commercials.

It is clear that William Joseph Devane has had a very successful career in the American film, theater, and television industries with a prosperous and acclaimed career spanning decades. Due to his large body of work and achievements, critics and fans alike believe that he is a popular celebrity worthy of admiration. Many of his fans agree that he is a good actor and hope to see him continue to play more interesting and captivating roles on television and in movies. He can be relied on and many producers call on him when they need a professional.

Last Modified: Apr 8, 2020

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