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A respected performer on Broadway, Dwight Schultz found everlasting fame by playing the certifiable "Howling Mad" Murdock on the action series "The A-Team" (NBC, 1983-86). A living, breathing cartoon with a seemingly endless selection of voices and accents at his command, Murdock provided the air power for the A-Team's clandestine adventures, provided that his compatriots could break him out of the mental hospital where he resided. One of the show's most popular and memorable figures, Murdock ensured Schultz steady work on television in series like "Star Trek: The Next Generation" (syndicated, 1987-1994) and countless animated shows like "Chowder" (The Cartoon Network, 2007- ). However, little boys of all ages remembered him best as Murdock, and were pleased to see him make a guest appearance in the 2010 film version of "The A-Team."
Born William Dwight Schultz in Baltimore, MA on Nov. 24, 1947, his father was a postal worker, while his mother was a telephone company employee. Schultz developed a fascination for audio and recordings at an early age, which in turn fostered an interest in dialects and imitations; both of which would serve him well in his future career. As a student at Calvert Hall College High School, he discovered acting through the drama club, and made it his major at Townson University. His talent for stage work and improvisation gave him the opportunity to begin teaching introductory courses at the college while still a senior.
In 1969, he helped to form the Baltimore Theater Ensemble, the artists-in-residence company for Townson's Theater Arts department, which provided students with a hands-on opportunity to learn their craft through live performance. He was later a member of the Center Stage Company in Baltimore and the Alley Theatre Company in Houston, TX; both of which provided him with steady work in regional theater throughout the United States. Schultz lit out for New York to try his hand at its fabled theater scene, but found the city a considerable challenge. For a while, he worked as a waiter and for the city pest control service, earning a few dollars on the side by consulting on audio systems for home use. After several lean years, he scored the lead in David Mamet's "The Water Engine" for Joseph Papp's Public Theatre in 1977; the off-Broadway show was a hit, and soon moved to Broadway, where it earned the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding New Play. Schultz later won the Dramalogue Award for his performance in the original Broadway production of "The Crucifer of Blood" in 1978. He repeated the role in the Los Angeles production in 1980 and 1981.
Schultz's success on stage spurred him to try his hand at film and television, and he was soon making numerous bit and supporting appearances in episodes of "Hill Street Blues" (NBC, 1981-87) and in TV features like "Thin Ice" (CBS, 1981) and the 1981 remake of "Dial M for Murder" (NBC). His movie debut came with the crass 1981 horror film "The Fan," in which he appeared as a theater director working with Lauren Bacall. A more significant role came with 1982's "Alone in the Dark," a disturbing tale of three psychopaths who invade the home of their therapist, played by Schultz. Amusingly, he would find stardom a year later by playing one of the most memorably unstable roles in television history.
In 1983, Schultz was cast in the pilot for "The A-Team," a new action-adventure series from prolific producer Stephen J. Cannell. Reportedly, Schultz was informed midway through shooting that his character would be written out of the series. The decision was reversed when test audiences responded with overwhelming favoritism towards Captain. H.M. "Howling Mad" Murdock. He was quickly reinstated as a series regular, and became one of the most colorful and critically praised aspects of the show. An ace chopper pilot in the Vietnam War, Murdock was institutionalized in a mental hospital following his arrest for involvement in the robbery of the Bank of Hanoi, which sent his Special Forces compatriots - Hannibal Smith (George Peppard), Templeton "Faceman" Peck (Dirk Benedict) and B.A. Baracus (Mr. T) - to jail. After their escape, Murdock was frequently sprung from his cell to aid the A-Team in various missions. Though his behavior smacked of insanity - Murdock was given to obsessive thinking, uncontrollable outbursts of cartoon voices and frequent costume changes - it was never confirmed that he was actually mentally ill. On one occasion, Murdock admitted that his insanity was his key to free room and board at the hospital.
In the series' fifth season, Murdock was finally dismissed from the mental hospital as part of the sweeping story changes deemed necessary by the network to save the show, which was flagging in the ratings. The A-Team was pardoned by the military in order to work as a suicide squad; no longer incarcerated, Murdock filled his time between missions with a series of menial jobs, which he naturally carried out with the expected level of eccentricity. However, the shift in focus, along with a timeslot change from Tuesdays to Fridays, spelled the end for "The A-Team, which was cancelled without airing the final nine episodes of the season.
Schultz worked steadily in television in the years after the demise of "The A-Team," and landed a major co-starring role in the film "Fat Man and Little Boy" (1989), in which he portrayed scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer, director of the Manhattan Project and developer of the atomic bomb. After co-starring with Whoopi Goldberg in "The Long Walk Home" (1990), he mentioned to the actress - who was at the time co-starring on "Star Trek: The Next Generation" - that he was a fan of the original "Star Trek" series (NBC, 1966-69). Goldberg recommended Schultz to play Lt. Reginald Barclay on "Next Generation." Initially designated as a guest appearance, Schultz's turn as the anxious, occasionally obsessive and not entirely un-Murdock-like Barclay was popular with fans, and appeared in several significant later episodes, as well as in the feature "Star Trek: First Contact" (1996) and the spin-off series "Star Trek: Voyager" (UPN, 1995-2001).
While working for the "Trek" franchise. Schultz was a busy character actor on episodic TV and features. But after providing a variety of voices to the English-language dub of the 1997 Japanese animated feature "Princess Mononoke," he also became one of the busiest voice-over artists for films, television series and video games. He tackled numerous characters for the "Final Fantasy" game series and "Animatrix" (2003) short films; voiced such Marvel Comics characters as The Vulture, Magneto and Kraven the Hunter for games and animated programs; and provided the sinister tones for Dr. Amino, a mad scientist who unleashes monsters to fight "Ben 10" (The Cartoon Network, 2005-08) on the popular sci-fi adventure series of the same name. In 2010, he earned two Annie nominations for his performance as Mung Daal, the ancient chef and mentor to "Chowder." That same year, Schultz was confirmed as making a cameo appearance in the big-screen version of "The A-Team," which saw South African actor Sharlto Copley of "District 9" (2009) fame take over as Murdock. In addition to his busy acting career, Schultz hosted several radio programs, including "Dark Matters" and a conservative political podcast called "Howling Mad."