The world of entertainment has lost a shining star, as Lance Kerwin, the former child actor who rose to fame in the late 1970s as the lead in the highly popular and sometimes controversial NBC teen drama series James at 15, passed away on Tuesday in San Clemente, CA. He was just 62 years old. The cause of death has yet to be determined.
The news of his death was announced by his daughter Savanah in a heart-wrenching Facebook post, leaving fans and colleagues alike mourning the loss of a beloved actor and friend.
Throughout the 1970s, Kerwin was a busy child actor, starring in various productions and captivating audiences with his talent and charm. He also starred in the critically acclaimed 1979 TV miniseries Salem’s Lot, based on the novel by Stephen King, playing the central character of Mark Petrie, the young horror film buff-turned-vampire hunter. In the film’s most chilling and memorable scene, Kerwin’s character is visited by a schoolmate who has become a vampire and floats eerily outside Mark’s bedroom window.
Kerwin’s TV career began in the early- to mid-1970s with appearances on popular shows such as Little House on the Prairie, Emergency! and Wonder Woman. However, his breakthrough role came in 1977 with James at 15, the coming-of-age drama series that was an attempt by creator-writer Dan Wakefield to present a more realistic depiction of teenagers than was common at the time. The show made headlines in 1978 when, with the new title James at 16, Kerwin’s character lost his virginity with a Swedish exchange student.
Two years later, Kerwin co-starred in the TV movie The Boy Who Drank Too Much, starring Scott Baio as a teenage alcoholic.
Despite his success as a child actor, Kerwin continued to act throughout the mid-1990s, usually as a guest star on episodic TV. By the end of the decade, he had retired from acting to become a youth minister. He later moved to Hawaii to work for the U-Turn for Christ ministry. A 2021 GoFundMe page indicated Kerwin had fallen on hard times after suffering various health issues.
Lance Kerwin leaves behind a legacy of outstanding performances that will be remembered for years to come. He is survived by his children Savanah, Fox, Terah, Kailani, and Justus. Information on a planned after-life ceremony is expected in the coming weeks. May he rest in peace.