Peter Scolari, the screen and stage actor who rose to fame alongside Tom Hanks in the gender-bending sitcom Bosom Buddies and won an Emmy for his guest-starring role on Girls in 2016, has died after a two-year battle with cancer. He was 66. He is survived by his wife, Tracy Shayne, and four children: Nicholas, Joseph, Keaton and Cali.
Scolari was paired with then-unknown Hanks in 1980’s Bosom Buddies, about two men who pose as women in order to rent in an affordable, all-women apartment building. The two actors forged a friendship that endured for decades afterwards, with Scolari appearing in Hanks’s 1996 directorial debut, That Thing You Do!, as well as the Emmy-winning 1998 HBO miniseries From the Earth to the Moon, which Hanks produced. The two more recently collaborated on the 2017 audiobook for Hanks’s collection of short stories, Uncommon Type.
Post-Buddies, Scolari worked steadily in TV, guest-starring in shows such as Happy Days, Family Ties and The Love Boat. He notably played Michael Harris in Newhart, which ran from 1984 to 1990. In a statement to Deadline, Bob Newhart said Scolari’s death was “a great shock.” “We were friends and colleagues for over 40 years. Julia [Duffy] and Peter, as a vacuous couple [Michael and Stephanie], were an essential part of the success of Newhart. In life, he was a fantastic person, and it was a joy to work together. He will be sorely missed and his passing at 66 is much too early. Duffy, meanwhile, tweeted out a photo of the two from the show, declaring that there was “no better partner.”
From 1997 to 2000, Scolari starred as inventor Wayne Szalinski in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: The TV Show. In 2012, he joined the cast of Girls as the father of Hannah Horvath (played by Lena Dunham), winning an Emmy for his guest role in 2016. Following his first appearance on Girls, he appeared on shows such as White Collar, Gotham, The Good Fight, and Fosse/Verdon. Most recently, he recurred on the Paramount+ series Evil as Bishop Thomas Marx.
His time on the Broadway stage included roles in Wicked, Sly Fox, and Hairspray. He re-teamed with Hanks in 2013’s Lucky Guy, which was written by Nora Ephron.
Scolari’s peers in Hollywood offered tributes to their friend and colleague. Robert King, co-creator and showrunner of Evil, wrote on Twitter, “Peter Scolari, who died today, was one of the funniest — sneakily funny — actors we’ve worked with. He always took a nothing scene and found different ways to twist it, and throw in odd pauses that made it jump. I will try to collect my thoughts more. He was just wonderful.”
Dunham took to Instagram for a poignant remembrance that read in part: “The shyest extrovert, the most dramatic comedian, the most humble icon. … Thank you, Scolari, for every chat between set ups, every hug onscreen and off and every ‘Oh, Jeez.’ We will miss you so much.”
Harvey Fierstein tweeted, “Sad to see the news that Peter Scolari lost his battle with cancer. There wasn’t a sweeter man on the planet. We performed together in Hairspray for a time and he was always a total delight. Farewell, dear Peter.”
Only Murders in the Building actress Jackie Hoffman shared, “#RIP dear Peter Scolari. I was lucky enough to work with you and learn from you onstage and screen. A sweet funny cool dude. I hope you get gigs wherever you are.”
Better Call Saul actor Michael McKean wrote, “We knew this was coming. Doesn’t make it easier. RIP, Peter my friend.”