A true giant in the late 1960s series Land of the Giants has died. Don Marshall, who portrayed the expedition’s first officer Dan Erickson on the ABC series, died Sunday in Los Angeles. He was 80.
“Don transitioned peacefully. At his bedside were his daughter, son and twin brother Doug Marshall.”
Marshall was cast in the Irwin Allen series not long after he made a guest appearance on Star Trek, in what would become a somewhat popular episode, “The Galileo Seven” in 1967. His role was considered significant in helping to improve how African-Americans were portrayed on television, allowing him to serve in a leadership role that was virtually unheard of during that time.
In fact, the only other prominent African-American role in such a positive light was Nichelle Nichols’ portrayal of Uhura in Star Trek.
Marshall would become a tremendous asset on set as well, especially since his athleticism would allow him to perform many of his own stunts. He even injured himself once during a scene with Land of the Giants star Gary Conway, details of which he lated shared with Actor Database.
“I dislocated my shoulder. I dived over a fire to save Gary. Gary was lying down and couldn’t get up, and I was trying to block myself. What I did was, I put my left hand out, and I dislocated my shoulder. I went back to work the next day after I dislocated my shoulder, and we started to shoot new scenes – we started another show, as a matter of fact.
“That’s when you saw me with a sling on.”
Even more impressive was the fact Marshall was doing double-duty. Not only was he starring in Land of the Giants, but he also played opposite Diahann Carroll in a recurring role on the ABC series Julia.
Marshall would return to character acting in the 1970s, showing up on television shows like Bewitched, The Bionic Woman, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and The Incredible Hulk. His career would slow down significantly in the 1980s, and his last credited screen role was as a concierge in the 1992 television movie Highway Heartbreaker starring John Schneider, Linda Gray and Heather Locklear.
Don Matheson, who played Mark Wilson in the series, died in 2014 at the age of 84. Kurt Kasznar, who played Alexander Fitzhugh, was 65 when he died in 1979.
Donald James Marshall was born May 2, 1936, in San Diego. In his early 20s, he left his engineering studies to try out acting, even though he was still serving in the U.S. Army. He would earn his first screen credit in 1963 as Cpl. Jenks in the Kraft Suspense Theatre episode “The Case Against Paul Ryker.”
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