John Hillerman

John Hillerman

Hillerman and Betty White, 1977.
Born John Benedict Hillerman
(1932-12-20) December 20, 1932
Denison, Texas, USA
Years active 1957–99

John Benedict Hillerman (born December 20, 1932) is an American actor, known for his starring role as Jonathan Quayle Higgins III on the television show Magnum, P.I.

Personal life

Hillerman was born in Denison, Texas, the son of Christopher Benedict Hillerman, a gas station owner, and Lenora Joan (née Medlinger).[1][2] His father was the grandson of immigrants from Germany and France. His mother was the daughter of immigrants from Austria and Germany. Young Hillerman grew up in Denison and attended St. Xavier's Academy.

After graduation, he attended the University of Texas at Austin for three years where he majored in journalism.[3] In 1953, he joined the United States Air Force, serving for four years and achieving the rank of Sergeant. During his years of military service, he worked with various theatrical groups, and on his discharge he moved to New York City to study at the American Theatre Wing. In 1957, he began his career in professional theater.

Hillerman retired in 1999, and now resides in his home state of Texas. As of 2010, he was confined to a mobility scooter.[4]


Hillerman appeared on Broadway in 1959 and worked in live performances in a variety of venues before making his motion picture debut in 1970. He had roles in such noteworthy films as The Last Picture Show (1971), What's Up, Doc? (1972), High Plains Drifter (1973), Paper Moon (1973), Blazing Saddles (1974), and Chinatown (1974). His other roles include Lucky Lady (1975), At Long Last Love (1975), and a small appearance in the comedy film Up the Creek (1984).

In 1975, he was a co-star in Ellery Queen as Simon Brimmer, a radio detective who hosted a live radio show and tried to outsmart Ellery Queen (Jim Hutton). From 1976 to 1980, he had a recurring role as Mr. Conners on the television series One Day at a Time, and he co-starred as Betty White's ex-husband on the short-lived The Betty White Show in 1977.

He is probably best remembered for his role as former British Army Sergeant Major Jonathan Quayle Higgins III ("Higgins") on the television series Magnum, P.I. (1980–88). Hillerman learned to speak with the English accent of Higgins by watching and listening to performances by Laurence Olivier. He had acted as Magnum's foil and often used Higgins's catchphrase, "Oh my God!" whenever Magnum did something Hillerman's character would probably call, "Utterly ridiculous and stupid!"

In 1982 John Hillerman played in the television pilot of Tales of the Gold Monkey, where he played a German villain by the name of "Fritz the Monocle".

In 1984, he hosted the David Hemmings-directed puzzle video Money Hunt: The Mystery of the Missing Link. In 1990, Hillerman returned to television to perform for one season as Lloyd Hogan in the series The Hogan Family. That same year, Hillerman portrayed Dr. Watson to Edward Woodward's Sherlock Holmes in Hands of a Murderer.

In 1993, he appeared in Berlin Break for one season. He played the role of Mac Mackenzie, a former spy and currently the proprietor of "Mac's", a bar in West Berlin considered to be neutral territory during the Cold War. He teamed up with two jobless spies as investigators: Valentin Renko (Nicholas Clay), an ex-KGB agent, and Willy Richter (Kai Wulff), an ex-BND (West German secret service) operative. The show reunited him with Jeff MacKay, who portrayed "Mac" MacReynolds in Magnum P.I..



Year Title Role Notes
1970 They Call Me MISTER Tibbs Reporter Uncredited
1971 Lawman Totts
1971 The Last Picture Show Teacher
1972 What's Up, Doc? Hotel Manager Kaltenborn
1972 The Carey Treatment Jenkins
1972 Skyjacked Walter Brandt
1972 The Outside Man Manager
1973 The Thief Who Came to Dinner Edmund Lasker
1973 High Plains Drifter Bootmaker
1973 Paper Moon Deputy Hardin/Jess Hardin
1973 The Naked Ape Psychiatrist
1974 Blazing Saddles Howard Johnson
1974 The Nickel Ride Carl
1974 Chinatown Yelburton
1975 At Long Last Love Rodney James
1975 The Day of the Locust Ned Grote
1975 Lucky Lady McTeague
1977 Audrey Rose Scott
1979 Sunburn Webb
1981 History of the World, Part I Rich Man (French Revolution)
1984 Up the Creek Dean Burch
1989 Gummibärchen küßt man nicht Padre
1996 A Very Brady Sequel Dr. Whitehead


Year Title Role Notes
1971 Sweet, Sweet Rachel Medical Examiner Television film
1972 The Sixth Sense Adrian Weems Episode: "Once Upon a Chilling"
1972 Mannix Larry Lawton Episode: "Light and Shadow"
1972 The Great Man's Whiskers Major Underwood Television film
1973 Mannix J. H. Morell Episode: "Silent Target"
1974 Maude Drunk Episode: "The Commuter Station"
1974 Kojak Mark Gallant Episode: "The Only Way Out"
1974 The Law Thomas Rachel Television film
1975 Mannix Norman Thompson Episode: "Search for a Dead Man"
1975 The Bob Crane Show Dean Harrington Episode: "The Son of the Campus Capers"
1975–76 Ellery Queen Simon Brimmer 8 episodes
1976 Serpico Raoul Christie Episode: "Rapid Fire"
1976 Hawaii Five-O Donald Blair Episode: "Man on Fire"
1976 Wonder Woman Conrad Steigler Episode: "Wonder Woman vs Gargantua"
1976–80 One Day at a Time Mr. Connors 6 episodes
1977 Delvecchio Dr. Augustus Hamilton Episode: "Licensed to Kill"
1977–78 The Betty White Show John Elliott 14 episodes
1978 Hawaii Five-O Nelson Bodine Episode: "A Stranger in His Grave"
1978 Little House on the Prairie Sterling Murdock Episode: "Harriet's Happening"
1979 The Love Boat Ed Hartnett 2 episodes
1980 Soap Minister Episode: "3.12"
1980 Young Maverick McBurney Episode: "Makin' Tracks"
1980 Hart to Hart Victor Sutter Episode: "Cruise At Your Own Risk"
1980 Tenspeed and Brown Shoe William Whitney Episode: "Diamonds Aren't Forever"
1980 Lou Grant Sturbridge Episode: "Pack"
1980–88 Magnum, P.I. Jonathan Higgins 158 episodes
Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film (1983, 1985, 1987–88)
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (1984–86)
1982 Tales of the Gold Monkey Monocle 2 episodes
1982 Simon & Simon Jonathan Higgins Episode: "Emeralds Are Not a Girl's Best Friend"
1983 The Love Boat Manfred Episode: "The Last Case"
1986 Murder, She Wrote Jonathan Higgins Episode: "Magnum on Ice"
1989 Around the World in 80 Days Sir Francis Commarty 3 episodes
1990 Hands of a Murderer Dr. John Watson Television film
1990–91 The Hogan Family Lloyd Hogan 13 episodes
1992 Murder, She Wrote Edgar Greenstreet Episode: "Murder on Madison Avenue"

Awards and nominations

Year Nominated work Category Result
1982 Magnum, P.I. Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV Nominated
1984 Magnum, P.I. Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Nominated[5]
1985 Magnum, P.I. Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Nominated[6]
1986 Magnum, P.I. Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Nominated[7]
1987 Magnum, P.I. Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Won[8]


  1. "John Hillerman Biography". Retrieved July 4, 2014.
  2. Sheff, David (April 18, 1983). "The Lean Years Are Over for John Hillerman, Who's Finding a Magnum of Success in Hawaii". People. Retrieved July 4, 2014.
  3. Quttman, Monika (June 17, 1987). "'Higgins' Not Really British". The Victoria Advocate. Tribune Media Services. Retrieved July 4, 2014.
  4. "John Hillerman - Magnum p.i. - TOM SELLECK INFORMATIONSCENTER". Retrieved 21 July 2016.
  5. "Nominees/Winners". 1984. Retrieved July 4, 2014.
  6. "Nominees/Winners". 1985. Retrieved July 4, 2014.
  7. "Nominees/Winners". 1986. Retrieved July 4, 2014.
  8. "Nominees/Winners". 1987. Retrieved July 4, 2014.
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