Daniel Davis (born November 26, 1945) is an American stage, screen, and television actor.
Davis is best known for portraying Niles the butler on the sitcom The Nanny (1993 to 1999), and for his two guest appearances as Professor Moriarty on Star Trek: The Next Generation, affecting an upper class English accent for both roles. He voices the intelligent Cro-Magnon, Longhair, from the Longhair and Doubledome cartoon shorts from Cartoon Network’s Big Pick.
Life and career
Davis was born in Gurdon, Arkansas, and grew up in Little Rock. His parents operated a cinema. His first acting job was at the age of 11, when he was cast in a local broadcast program, Betty’s Little Rascals.
Davis graduated from Hall High School in Little Rock in 1963. He graduated from the Arkansas Arts Center with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, followed by work with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, and six years with the American Conservatory Theater (ACT). During his time at ACT, he taught acting classes.
Davis first became popular in daytime television playing opposite Beverlee McKinsey as her character Iris Cory’s former (and presumed dead) husband, Elliot Carrington, on the soap opera Texas, a spin-off of Another World, from October 1980 to December 1981. In 1985, he played a renegade soldier in the Season 4 episode, “The Doctor is Out”, of the television series The A-Team.
Davis played his most famous character, Niles the Butler, on the television series The Nanny throughout its run from 1993 to 1999 and in its reunion special in 2004 (in cameo flashbacks only). Niles was known for his frequent use of deadpan one-liners, usually insulting character C. C. Babcock, with whom Niles eventually fell in love and married in the series’ last season.
Davis’ natural accent is Southern American; however, his English accent as Niles was so accurate that many viewers have been convinced that Davis actually is English. He also used an English accent as Professor Moriarty in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes “Elementary, Dear Data” and “Ship in a Bottle”. However, as the commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise in the 1990 film The Hunt for Red October, Davis spoke with his own American accent. Davis’ cartoon voice for the afore-mentioned Longhair character used a British accent.
In 2000, Davis was nominated for a Best Actor Tony Award for his role in David Hirson’s Broadway play Wrong Mountain. In 2003, he appeared in the Alan Bennett play Talking Heads. In 2004, he portrayed George Bernard Shaw in the Stephen Sondheim musical The Frogs. He co-starred in La Cage Aux Folles with Gary Beach from November 2004 to March 2005. (Reportedly, he clashed frequently with Beach and others. He was eventually replaced by Robert Goulet.)
In 2002, Davis guest-starred on the television series Frasier, playing Dr. Shafer in Season 10, Episode 8, “Rooms with a View”.
Davis was among the group of celebrities lip-synching to the Bee Gees’ Stayin’ Alive on the “Idol Gives Back” episode of American Idol on April 25, 2007. He appeared briefly in the 2006 film The Prestige, directed by Christopher Nolan.
In July 2008, Davis portrayed King Lear at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, under the direction of Bonnie J. Monte. That year he also guest-starred on the television series Ugly Betty.
In November 2010, Davis was part of the Celebrity Autobiography series at the Long Center in Austin, Texas. He performed along with fellow Nanny alum Lauren Lane and Ugly Betty alum Michael Urie.
In December 2010, he guested on The Fran Drescher Show through Skype.
In 2012, he recorded the audiobook of the Star Wars novel Star Wars: Darth Plagueis, by James Luceno.
Davis is an established theatre actor. He has appeared in both Broadway and off-Broadway productions in New York, and has appeared at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Off-Broadway, he played Rubin in Lake No Bottom in 1990, the Duke of Buckingham in The Tragedy of Richard III, Graham in the Alan Bennett monologue “A Chip in the Sugar” for the series Talking Heads in 2003, and he starred as Gaev in The Cherry Orchard in 2011.
On Broadway, he played Antonio Salieri in Amadeus in 1980, Maurice Montesor in Wrong Mountain in 2000, Oscar Wilde in The Invention of Love in 2001, Georges in La Cage aux Folles in 2004, George Bernard Shaw in The Frogs, also in 2004.
In 2007, Davis was a member of the cast of an audio production of the play Blue/Orange, in which he took the part of Dr. Robert Smith.
In 2012, he played Prospero in The Tempest at Hartford Stage.
In 2016, he appeared on Broadway as Selsdon Mowbray in the Roundabout Theatre revival of Noises Off at the American Airlines Theatre.
|1970||The Sidelong Glances of a Pigeon Kicker||Skinny||Uncredited|
|1986||Blind Justice||Attorney Seth Thompson||TV Movie|
|1990||The Hunt for Red October||Captain Davenport|
|2005||Thru the Moebius Strip||Arthur||Voice|
|2018||Roses are Blind||Addison Spelling|
|1974||Great Performances||Moulineaux||1 episode|
|1980–81||Texas||Eliot Carrington||71 episodes|
|1983||Hardcastle and McCormick||Joe Kello||Episode: “The Day the Music Died”|
|1984||Cagney & Lacey||Arthur Cole||1 episode|
|1984||Highway to Heaven||Lance Gaylord||Episode: “Catch a Falling Star”|
|1985||Remington Steele||Pierre Fumar||Episode: “Gourmet Steele”|
|1985||Scarecrow and Mrs. King||Robert Castille and Tony Martinet||Episodes: “Vigilante Mothers” and “All the World’s a Stage”|
|1985||The A-Team||Phillips||1 episode|
|1985||The Eagle and the Bear||Underhill||TV Movie|
|1986||George Washington II: The Forging of a Nation||Patrick Henry||TV Movie|
|1986||Matlock||James Billings||Episode: “The Professor”|
|1986||Cheers||Mr. Reinhardt||Episode: “The Peterson Principle”|
|1986||Tall Tales & Legends||Congressman||1 episode|
|1987||Dynasty||Harry Thresher||Season 8 – 5 Episodes: “The New Moguls”, “The Spoiler”, “Images”, “The Rifle”, & “The Scandal”|
|1987||The Spirit||Simon Teasdale||TV Movie|
|1988||Frank’s Place||Arnold David Tuney||1 episode|
|1988||The Equalizer||Eddie Mason||1 episode|
|1988||What Price Victory||Trainer||TV Movie|
|1988-93||Star Trek: The Next Generation||Professor James Moriarty||Episodes: “Elementary, Dear Data” and “Ship in a Bottle”|
|1989||MacGyver||Mr. Helman / Nicholas Helman||Episode: “Halloween Knights”|
|1991||She Stood Alone||Parker Elsworth||TV Movie|
|1991||The Perfect Tribute||Gov. Curtin||TV Movie|
|1992||Columbo||Alex Varrick / Wedding photographer||Episode: “No Time to Die”|
|1992||Civil Wars||Harvey Gutfruend||Episode: “Tape Fear”|
|1992||L.A. Law||C. Howard Grady||Episode: “Love in Bloom”|
|1992||Murder, She Wrote||Neal Dishman||Episode: “Badge of Honor”|
|1993–99||The Nanny||Niles||145 episodes|
|1996||Aaahh!!! Real Monsters||Lugo||1 episode|
|1996||Adventures from the Book of Virtues||The Horse / Schoolmaster Dobbins||1 episode|
|1997||Remember WENN||Desmond Quist||1 episode|
|1999||Rugrats||Conan McNulty / Wrestler||TV Series Short; 1 episode|
|2000||The Practice||Judge Barton Wolfe||Episodes: “Summary Judgment”, “Germ Warfare” and “Appeal and Denial”|
|2000||Longhair and Doubledome||Longhair||Failed pilot; voice only|
|2002||Frasier||Dr Shafer||Episode: “Rooms With A View (Part 2)”|
|2008||Ugly Betty||Dr. Morgan Remus||Guest, Episode: “Burning Questions”|
|2010||The Fran Drescher Show||Himself||Guest|
|2015||Gotham||Jacob Skolimski||Episode: “Under the Knife”|
|2017||The Blacklist||Baldur Magnusson||Episode: “Natalie Luca [#184]”|
|2019||Elementary||Antoine LaGrange||Episode: “The Price of Admission”|
|2019||The Good Fight||Professor Harrison||1 episode|