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Many North Dakotans find way onto TV shows

More than 20 actors and performers from North Dakota have had recurring roles on television programs. Last week's article featured 10 actors in a quiz. Due to space constraints, we were unable to include several other television actors from North...

More than 20 actors and performers from North Dakota have had recurring roles on television programs.

Last week's article featured 10 actors in a quiz. Due to space constraints, we were unable to include several other television actors from North Dakota.

Josh Duhamel grew up in Minot, where his father was an ad salesman and his mother was a teacher. After graduating from Minot State University, his hopes of getting into dental school fell through. He moved to California, became a model and took acting classes.

After winning the "Male Model of the Year" award in 1997, Duhamel started finding acting work. His biggest break came in 1999 when he won the role of Leo du Pres, a young, charismatic con artist on the daytime soap "All My Children." In 2002, he won an Emmy for best supporting actor. Later that year, he left "All My Children" and in 2003 took on the co-starring role of Danny McCoy, hotel and casino surveillance expert on the television series "Las Vegas."

Richard Higgs was born and raised in Guelph, 20 miles east of Ellendale in southern North Dakota. After small roles in movies and television, Higgs played the role of Dr. Dan Allison on "The Doctors" in 1971. He then went back to supporting roles in movies, with his most memorable part being that of a tall, serious Secret Service agent that Robert DeNiro struck up a conversation with at a political rally in the Academy Award winning movie "Taxi Driver." Higgs got his big break in 1977 when he assumed the role of Dr. Andrew Marriott on "Love of Life." Tragically, his body was discovered on Oct. 15, 1977, in what was ruled a suicide. The role of Dr. Marriott then went to veteran actor Ron Harper.


Arthur Peterson of Mandan was a veteran character actor who appeared in more than a dozen movies and between 50 and 100 television shows when he got the role of an ex-U.S. Army major in the spoof "Soap." In the series, which ran from 1977 to 1981, Peterson's character crawled around on the mansion floor in his old army uniform, still fighting World War II. Peterson died on Oct. 31, 1996, in Pasadena, Calif.

Child actor Bryan Sullivan from Devils Lake was born in 1991. He was already a veteran of several made-for-television movies when as a 6-year-old he was cast as Spencer Day in the 1998-99 Lifetime channel series "Maggie." When the series ended, Sullivan appeared in other television shows including "ER," and had the recurring role of Ben Ricossa on "Baywatch."

Twins Jason and Simon Westlake were born in Bismarck in 1991. Their first role was in the 1996 Cheryl Ladd television movie "Vows of Deception." In 2001, Jason played Billy Tobin and Simon was his twin Jimmy Tobin in the short-lived television series "Jigsaw." In the 2002 series "Sacred Ground," Simon was given a principle role as Damien Cooper and was replaced in the series for three episodes by Jason.

Marcia Diamond was born in Bismarck in 1942, and after work in the theater played the role of Mrs. Finley, a regular patient on the 1971 television series "Paul Bernard, Psychiatrist." The series initially was popular, but viewer interest disappeared during a CBS strike and the series was canceled. For the next 30 years, Diamond had major supporting roles in 20 movies in the U.S. and Canada before landing the role of the major's grandmother in an upcoming series from Canada titled "72 Hours."

Phyllis Frelich of Devils Lake was a remarkable actress who, in 1981, was selected to receive the Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award, the highest honor given in the state. In 1988, she played the role of Sister Sarah, a deaf nun at Father Michael's church on "Santa Barbara." In 1998-99, Frelich's character on "ER" was Dr. Lisa Parks, a hearing specialist. Phyllis Frelich was featured in an earlier article, which I will gladly provide to anyone who requests it through the e-mail address below.

North Dakota also provided its share of regulars on musical shows. The first was jazz singer Peggy Lee, who shared hosting duties with Mel Torme on "TV's Top Tunes" in 1951. Lee also sang many of the songs on this CBS summer show.

The longest-running musical show on television was also the show that featured the most people from North Dakota. The host of "The Lawrence Welk Show" was from Strasberg. When the show began in 1955, Welk brought two North Dakotans with him. Johnny Klein, his second cousin from Strasberg, was his drummer until a bleeding ulcer forced him out in 1976. Fred Scott of Fargo was his pianist and arranger until 1969. Before joining Welk, Scott was the musical director of WDAY in Fargo. Neil Levang, a guitarist from Adams, joined Welk in 1959 and stayed with him until 1982. Lynn Anderson, born in Grand Forks, was a featured singer on "The Lawrence Welk Show" during the 1967-68 season. Two years later, she recorded her biggest hit, "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden," which won her a Grammy for best female country vocal performance.

"Did You Know That" is a Sunday column that focuses on interesting people, places and events that had an impact on North Dakota, or even the country. It is written by Curt Eriksmoen and edited by Jan Eriksmoen of Fargo. Send your suggestions for columns, comments or corrections to the Eriksmoens at: cjeriksmoen@cableone.net .

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