‘James at 16’ Star Lance Kerwin Dies @ 62

Lance Kerwin, one of the most familiar faces among youth talent on TV in the '70s, died January 24, 2023, his eldest daughter reported on Facebook.

Lance at 17 on James at 16 (Image via NBC)

He was 62.

Savanah Kerwin posted, "Hello everyoneI am so sorry to those we have not been able to reach out to personally to notify but Lance Kerwin passed away yesterday morning. We appreciate all the kind words, memories, and prayers that have been shared. As the coming weeks progress, I will share more information about after life ceremonies. He loved each and every one of you."


Lance Kerwin Dies — Was the Star of TV's Most Controversial Teen Show of the '70s

♬ original sound - Matthew Rettenmund/BoyCulture

Kerwin, who had that '70s winsome look, was born to act — his dad was an acting coach and his mom, formerly an actress, became a talent agent.

He was making his TV debut by 1974, when he appeared on an episode of Emergency!

His work on an episode of Little House on the Prairie that year brought him to the attention of Michael Landon (1936-1991), who would cast him in one of his best projects, the semi-autobiographical The Loneliest Runner (1976). In it, Kerwin played a teen bedwetter who had to run home daily to retrieve the soiled sheets his twisted mom would hang outside to punish him — leading to a sterling career as an Olympian.

It was emblematic of Kerwin's special talent for vulnerability in topical TV movies. It was that quality that made him perfect for five ABC Afterschool Specials (1974-1976) and the teen-drinking TV movie The Boy Who Drank Too Much (1980).

In the meantime, after working in the ensemble on the series The Family Holvak (1975), a '30s-set tearjerker, he landed the lead on James at 15 — soon retitled James at 16 — playing James Hunter, a kid struggling to come of age.

Though it lasted just 21 episodes (1977-1978), it made him a major star in the teen set.

Soon after, he booked his other iconic role, as Mark Petrie in the vampire miniseries Salem's Lot (1979), based on Stephen King's (b. 1947) second published novel. It was a smash, so much so it was released as a feature overseas, providing Kerwin with a role that inspired fans for the rest of his life.

Some other highlights of his acting career, which initially ended in 1995, include the TV movies The Healers (1974), The Greatest Gift (1974), Reflections of Murder (1974), The Meanest Men in the West (1974), Amelia Earhart (1976), The Death of Richie (1977), Young Joe — The Forgotten Kennedy (1977), The Busters (1978), Children of Divorce (1980), Side Show (1981), Advice to the Lovelorn (1981), The Mysterious Stranger (1982), A Killer in the Family (1983), The Fourth Wise Man (1985) and Final Verdict (1991).

He guested on hits like Shazam! (1974), Cannon (1974), Gunsmoke (1975), Wonder Woman (1977), Trapper John, M.D. (1982 & 1985), Faerie Tale Theatre (1985) and Murder, She Wrote (1989).

Kerwin's supremacy on TV also led to two Battle of the Network Stars appearance in 1977 and 1978.

Though he came out of his acting retirement to take a part in a 2022 film, Kerwin was away from the business for over 25 years at the time of his death, having worked as a pastor in Hawaii.

He is survived by his wife of over 20 years, Yvonne, and their four children, as well as his daughter Savanah.

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