He Played Johnny on "Emergency!" See Randolph Mantooth Now at 77.
The star is still close to his TV partner—and the first responders they portrayed.
Long before George Clooney took on the role of Doug Ross on ER or Patrick Dempsey wooed viewers as Dr. McDreamy on Grey's Anatomy, Randolph Mantooth played America's favorite first responder, Johnny Gage, on the NBC drama Emergency!. He co-starred with Kevin Tighe, who played Roy DeSoto, as well as an ensemble cast of other EMS workers and hospital staff. Mantooth's affable character and the show, which aired from 1972 until 1979, were so influential and popular at the time that they're credited with new innovations in real-life emergency services and objects from the set of the iconic series are now on display at the Smithsonian Institute. Read on to learn about the life and career of the man behind Johnny Gage, now 77.
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He's been on dozens of TV shows.
Playing Johnny wasn't Mantooth's first TV job by a long shot. By the time the show premiered, he'd been in McCloud, Rod Serling's Night Gallery, Sarge, and Adam-12, among other shows, and he also took on other roles in the seven years the show was on, including in Operation Petticoat and Detective School.
After Emergency! went off the air, Mantooth stayed busy. On the big screen, he appeared in Agent Red, He Was a Quiet Man, and Killer Holiday, among other movies. But the majority of his performances continued to be on TV. He had recurring roles in the soap operas Loving, The City, General Hospital, and As the World Turns. And he appeared in episodes of L.A. Law, China Beach, Diagnosis: Murder, ER, Criminal Minds, and other shows. His most recent TV credit was playing Charlie Horse in two 2011 episodes of Sons of Anarchy.
Mantooth is also a stage actor and has appeared in many productions over the years, including several at Jeff Daniels' Purple Rose Theatre Company in Michigan.
He's a cancer survivor.
In 2015, Mantooth shared on Facebook that he had been dealing with some health issues. "Earlier this year, I was diagnosed with cancer, and I decided to share that news with only a small circle of family and friends, who respected and honored my request for privacy, and were there to help every step of the way."
Mantooth continued, "It pleases me to say that I have successfully completed treatment and have begun the long recovery process. I am feeling stronger every day and am focusing now on getting back to my normal life as quickly as I can." In the same post, he also revealed that his sister had recently died from cancer.
In 2019, the actor noted in a speech at an EMS awards dinner in Pennsylvania that his recovery impacted his ability to travel. "I was diagnosed with cancer about four years ago and I'm still recovering from that," he said. "There was a time when I did 22 events in a year, but this year it's about 10 appearances."
Supporting Mantooth throughout his cancer treatment, no doubt, was his wife of 20 years, Kristen Connors. He was previously married to Rose Parra from 1978 to 1991.
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He took his Emergency! role seriously.
Mantooth's performance as a joke-cracking paramedic and eventual firefighter on Emergency! was steeped in a deep admiration for the work that first responders do in real life. He said in a 2014 interview with the Television Academy that the cast trained seriously with actual paramedics before even filming the pilot and that the first time he actually administered an IV on a patient during training, he understood why paramedics do what they do and his motivation for the role. "I went, 'Cool, I can do this' I think I got the fever [for the role] at that time," he said.
His appreciation for first responders goes beyond informing how he played Johnny Gage. Since starring on Emergency!, Mantooth has spent much of his free time supporting and advocating for causes that benefit first responders of all kinds. He's a longtime spokesperson for the International Association of Firefighters and won the James O. Page Award of Excellence from the International Association of Fire Chiefs. He's also a spokesperson and an advocate for many regional organizations for EMS, firefighter, and other emergency response personnel across America.
He's still close with his former co-star.
Mantooth and Tighe's friendship was not just for the cameras—the actors have remained close over the years. "Roy was the backbone; he was the senior guy and he would always say, 'Johnny, you're out of your mind,'" Mantooth told EMS1.com in 2013 of their characters. "Without Kevin, my role wouldn't have lasted very long. We would not have gone seven years. To break up the team would have been a disaster for the show. Universal tried to do it: They felt I could do the show by myself because I was getting the fan mail. But I couldn't do it without Roy. They weren't watching because of me; they were watching because of us, and I knew that."
He then added, "[Kevin is] my best friend, and I talk to him once a week. Emergency! never worked out for him [in terms of promoting him] as an actor. He couldn't get a job for two years after the show. He had to go out and reinvent himself, so he became a villain in shows, and a damn good one. If there's a role for a very bad guy, they call Kevin. He played John Locke's father in Lost, a smirking SOB if there ever was one. But Kevin couldn't be more opposite. He's the sweetest, most gentle guy in the world."