Christopher Evan Welch, Character Actor of Stage and Film, Dies at 48

News   Christopher Evan Welch, Character Actor of Stage and Film, Dies at 48
Christopher Evan Welch, a prolific character actor in television and film who performed in a host of plays on the New York stage, died Dec. 2 at a Los Angeles hospital. He was 48. The cause of death was not immediately known.

Christopher Evan Welch
Christopher Evan Welch Photo by Monica Simoes

In recent years, Mr. Welch had become a familiar face on screen, working with some of the best directors in the business. His roles were typically brief, but often memorable. He played a clerk in Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln," a party guest critical of cult leader Philip Seymour Hoffman in Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master," a pastor in Charlie Kaufman's "Synecdoche, New York," a photography technical officer in Robert DeNiro's "The Good Shepherd" and the narrator of Woody Allen's "Vicky Cristina Barcelona."

Tall, with a thick head of dark lank hair, a beakish nose, a sharp chin, and a look of panicked desperation around the eyes, he was frequently cast as characters who were weak, foolish, conniving or otherwise beset by moral turpitude. Despite the low character of many of the figures he played, he regularly managed to lend each portrayal a full measure of humanity, his performances often a complex mix of the tragic, comic and pathetic.

He first appeared as a comic servant on the New York stage in 1997 in Bill Irwin's adaptation of Moliere's Scapin, and quickly drew attention (the New York Times called it "a sensational New York debut"), winning a Drama Desk Award nomination for his performance. In 1999 he began an artistic relationship with experimental Dutch director Ivo van Hove, appearing in his radical interpretation of Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire (for which he won an Obie Award). He would work with van Hove again in 2010, playing the ill-fated husband of Elizabeth Marvel's Regina Giddens.

Adept at Shakespeare, he was the easily gulled Roderigo to Liev Shrieber's Iago in the Public Theater's Othello in 2001, and the pandering Pompey in a Central Park production of Measure for Measure that same year. Also in the park, in he was the dastardly Don John in Much Ado About Nothing in 2004, and the valiant Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet in 2007.

The comic skills were put to good use in Theresa Rebeck's cutting The Scene at Second Stage in 2007 and the same playwright's Our House at Playwrights Horizons in 2009. At the Roundabout Theatre Company, in 2008, he played the hard-drinking hapless newlywed in a revival of Christopher Durang's The Marriage of Bette and Boo. And, he was the harried defense attorney in David Mamet's wild courtroom satire Romance, at Atlantic Theatre Company in 2005. At the same theatre, in 2003, he was part of a starry ensemble that appeared in Woody Allen's Writer's Block. On Broadway, he played the dissolute dandy Richard Dazzle in Dion Boucicault's London Assurance in 1997, the cowardly churchman Reverend Parris in The Crucible in 2002, and Helmut in Festen, a stage version of the Danish film "Celebration," in 2006.

Mr. Welch's most recent stage roles were in Nick Jones' The Coward at Lincoln Center Theater in 2010 and and Liz Flahive's The Madrid at Manhattan Theatre Club, opposite Edie Falco, in early 2013.

In an interview about The Coward, he said of his character, a brigand named Henry who finds himself involved in a duel, "My ability to laugh at life and make the best of every situation is something I share with Henry… He's somebody who's willing to take what comes and have fun with it, and I probably have that in common with him."

Other films included "Marie and Bruce," "The Stepford Wives," "Keane," "War of the Worlds," "Whatever Works," "My Idiot Brother" and "Admission." On television he performed in episodes of "Law & Order" (all three iterations), "Nurse Jackie," "The Good Wife," "The Sopranos" and "Third Watch." His first, and longest-running television gig, beginning in 1993, was as the voice of Miles "Tails" Prower, the sidekick of the title hero, on the "Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog" series.

At the time of his death, Welch was filming a role in the upcoming HBO series "Silicon Valley."

Christopher Evan Welch was born in 1965. He attended college in Washington State and was, for a time, the lead singer of a Seattle-based band called the Ottoman Bigwigs. The group disbanded after Mr. Welch moved to New York to pursue acting.

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