Who starred in the title role of the American Playhouse mini-series Oppenheimer?
Starting in 1982 and running for 13 seasons, American Playhouse was an anthology series featuring small screen adaptations of plays and other literary works by notable and emerging writers. The series featured performances by an amazing array of talent, both known and unknown, and became a springboard for numerous performers. In the fall of 1982, American Playhouse broadcast a seven-episode mini-series about Robert Oppenheimer, the American physicist who led the US effort to develop the atomic bomb during World War II. The series was originally shown in 1980 in the UK and starred an actor who would later go on to star in a long-running network series. But who was it? Who played Oppenheimer in this American Playhouse presentation?
It was veteran actor Sam Waterston. He may be best known for his sixteen years on NBC’s Law & Order but Waterston also has a noticeable PBS presence. He played Forest Bedford on I’ll Fly Away (the series originally aired on NBC but was rebroadcast on PBS in advance of a 1993 PBS-produced I’ll Fly Away TV movie) and he provided the voice of Abraham Lincoln on Ken Burns’ landmark series The Civil War. The are a few other credits as well, so it’s plain to see that Waterston has had a long and venerable association with PBS.