John Erman, an Emmy-winning director-producer who helmed multiple episodes of such classic TV series as Star Trek, M*A*S*H and Peyton Place along with Part 2 of Roots and much of its sequel miniseries Roots: The Next Generations, has died. He was 85.
A friend of Erman’s told Deadline that he died June 25 in New York City after a brief illness.
Born on August 3, 1935, in Chicago, Erman began his show business career as an actor, including an unbilled role in 1955’s Blackboard Jungle before working extensively as a casting director. His first job in that role was with Jim Lister at Republic Studios in New York.
He got his first shot at directing with screen tests and went on to work as a director with numerous Hollywood legends from Marlon Brando, Henry Fonda and Olivia de Havilland to Woody Allen, Angela Lansbury and Ann-Margret — with whom he’d have a long-running working relationship.
Erman began helming for TV in the early 1960s, working on episodes of The Outer Limits, The Fugitive and Ben Casey. By mid-decade, he was directing multiple episodes of My Favorite Martian, Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, That Girl and The Flying Nun, Peyton Place and The Ghost & Mrs. Muir.
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He also helmed the 1968 Star Trek episode “The Empath” and a mid-’70s M*A*S*H episode.
Erman continued to direct for the small screen as the TV movie and miniseries genres exploded in the mid-1970s. He earned his first 10 career Emmy nominations for “Part II” of Roots, the landmark ABC miniseries based on Alex Haley’s bestseller. Erman went on to direct three parts of the seven-part sequel Roots: The Next Generations, which ABC aired in 1979.
From there, Erman won an Emmy for directing Who Will Love My Children? (1983) and scored noms for The Scarlett O’Hara War (1980), A Streetcar Named Desire (1984), An Early Frost (1986) — and the first TV movie concerning the AIDS crisis — The Two Mrs. Grenvilles (1987), The Attic: The Hiding of Anne Frank (1988) and David (1989). He also earned three Emmy noms as a producer, for The Hiding of Anne Frank, David and Breathing Lessons (1994).
Erman also won DGA Awards for Roots and An Early Frost and was nominated for Who Will Love My Children? He earned a pair of awards for telefilm The Blackwater Lightship at the 2004 Monte-Carlo TV Festival.
Erman also helmed a few features during his long career including Stella (1990), Making It (1971) and Ace Eli and Rodger of the Skies (1973). The DGA said he beat out a young Steven Spielberg for the Ace Eli job.
He also served on the DGA’s Western Directors Council from 1980-81 and the Eastern Directors Council from 2001-02.
After retiring from the industry, he spent the past few years teaching theater and film appreciation at Fordham and NYU.
Erman is survived by his husband, Richard Blair.
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