Paxton Whitehead, actor, director (b at East Malling, Kent, England 17 October 1937). Whitehead attended Rugby School and London's Webber Academy of Dramatic Art. At 18, he made his professional stage debut in Eastbourne, then joined the Royal Shakespeare Company and toured Russia in Hamlet (1958). After touring the UK in The Grass Is Greener (1959) he moved to New York, making his Broadway debut in The Affair (1962) followed by Beyond the Fringe (1964).
Whitehead first appeared in Canada at the MANITOBA THEATRE CENTRE in Heartbreak House (1965). He joined the SHAW FESTIVAL in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, in 1966, and served as artistic director from 1967 to 1977. Within this decade, he also became artistic director of VANCOUVER PLAYHOUSE THEATRE COMPANY (1971- 1973). At the Shaw Festival, he both acted and directed, leading the Festival to new heights: he expanded the season, established a loyal audience, and opened a new 850-seat Festival Theatre. Whitehead's business acumen led him to choose crowd-pleasing comedies, while his consummate comic skills, based on a haughty but rubber-legged dignity and a talent for the subtly grotesque, proved vastly entertaining. When critics and the Festival's Board called for a more serious exploration of the Festival's mandate, Whitehead moved on, playing Sherlock Holmes in The Crucifer of Blood, Helen Hayes Theatre, New York (1978); Oscar Wilde in The Trials of Oscar Wilde, CITADEL THEATRE, Edmonton (1979); and the title role in Richard III in San Diego (1985). Notably, he played Freddy in Noises Off on Broadway from 1983 to 1985.
Whitehead also acted in films such as Jumping Jack Flash (1986) and The Adventures of Huck Finn (1993). He appeared in many television specials, such as CBC's Lady Windermere's Fan (1966) and The National Dream (1974). Beginning in the late 1980s Whitehead turned more to film and television in such roles as Hal Conway in Mad About You (NBC, 1992-1999), but he continued to work on the New York stage in London Suite (1995) and A Song at Twilight (2000).
Whitehead was nominated for a 1981 Tony Award for his role as King Pellinore in Camelot and holds an honorary Doctor of Law from Trent University (1986).