Felix Silla, the actor behind such famous TV characters as Cousin Itt on The Addams Family and Twiki on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, has died at the age of 84.
Silla’s death was reported by Deadline and confirmed by the actor’s former co-star, Gil Gerard.
Born in the small Italian village of Roccacasale, Silla first entered show business as a circus performer. His early professional years were spent touring with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, where he worked as a trapeze artist and tumbler. Given those skills, it makes sense that the actor’s first foray into Hollywood was as a stuntman. His first film was the Shirley Jones, Red Buttons 1963 comedy A Ticklish Affair.
In 1965, the 3’ 11” actor scored his first recurring role when he was cast as Cousin Itt for the television series The Addams Family.
“These two guys sat at a table,” he recalled to the Los Angeles Times. “They take one look at me and say, ‘You got the job.’ And I say, ‘That’s it? Don’t I even need to audition?’ They say, ‘No, just show up on Monday.’”
The character, which Silla claimed was dreamed up by a producer “in some nightmare,” became one of the actor’s most identifiable roles – not that fans could actually identify him. The part required Silla to wear a full-body costume made of real hair, while another actor later dubbed in the voice work.
“It was hot and heavy. Like wearing a brick,” he’d later recall of the famous costume. Producers eventually switched designs as a safety precaution. “All the guys on the set smoked,” Silla explained. “They just dropped their butts and stepped on them. The producers worried that I might step on a smoldering cigarette and go up in flames. They gave me synthetic hair, which was flame-retardant.”
The Addams Family ran until 1966, lasting a total of 64 episodes. Silla would pop up occasionally on other series in the following years, including Bewitched, The Monkees and H.R. PufnStuf.
In the ‘70s, Silla had recurring roles on Battlestar Galactica, as the Cylon Lucifer, and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, as the robot Twiki. In a strange twist of fate, Silla died exactly 40 years after Buck Rogers aired its final episode.
In later part of his life, Silla became a regular at TV conventions, smiling, signing autographs and sharing stories from his fascinating career. He also became known for his sense of humor.
It’s that quality which Gerard, who played Captain William “Buck” Rogers on the classic series, said he’d remember most. “I will miss him terribly,” Gerard tweeted, “especially the great time we had at our panels. Just him telling me to, ‘go ‘f‘ myself.’”