The Unknown Actor Who Appeared in More Twilight Zones Than Anyone Else
He acted in more Twilight Zone episodes than anyone other than Rod Serling himself.* Eight, to be specific — twice as many as Zone veterans Jack Klugman and Burgess Meredith. Yet hardly anyone remembers his name.
I’m talking about Jay Overholts. If you’ve never heard of him, don’t feel bad. He always assumed bit parts, often with little dialogue. But you’ve definitely seen Jay.
Remember the doctor in “One for the Angels”, the one who tells Lew about Maggie’s condition? That was him.
Or the taxi driver in “The Jungle”, who simply drops dead at a stoplight for no apparent reason? Jay again.
Or the ambulance driver at the end of “A Thing about Machines”, talking to the policeman about why Bartlett Finchley wound up dead at the bottom of his own swimming pool? You guessed it.
We also see him aboard a special flight with an unplanned detour to the Jurassic period in “The Odyssey of Flight 33”.
He dons a mustache and a 10-gallon hat to belly up to the bar in “Showdown with Rance McGrew”.
Heck, he’s even in the very first episode, “Where is Everybody?”, playing a reporter (the one who asks about the wires that were attached to Mike Ferris’s head).
That’s six appearances there. His other two were vocal-only: as a PA announcer in “Twenty-Two” and as one of the voices we hear on the radio in “Static” (not the main announcer, however — that was Bob Crane).
And that still doesn’t cover all of Overholts’s work in the Serling-verse. As Nick Parisi notes in “Rod Serling: His Life, Work, and Imagination”, he was in four episodes (and possibly more) of the early 1950s’ TV show “The Storm” — and each one was written by the future creator of The Twilight Zone.
Overholts later appeared in the Serling-penned live teleplay “The Rank and File”, broadcast on CBS’s Playhouse 90 a few months before TZ premiered. Then in 1962, he took a part in the film “Incident in an Alley”, which was based on a 1955 teleplay written by … you know who.
I wish I could say he went on to bigger roles and enjoyed a long and illustrious career, but he didn’t. He died in a car accident in 1966. He was only 43.
He lives on in the fifth dimension, though. Maybe he’s swapping stories with Lew even as we speak …
*A man named Robert McCord DID appear in many more TZs than Overholts did, but my focus here is on acting. McCord was an extra who took non-speaking parts in crowd scenes and the like. In fact, because of the fleeting nature of many of these appearances, the exact number of times he was on TZ is in dispute. IMDb, for example, puts him in 32 episodes, while the “Twilight Zone Museum” website says he’s in 67 … then proceeds to list 72!
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Hope to see you in some corner of the fifth dimension soon!