Family & Companions
Though he was a Shakespearean trained performer capable of delivering strong performances in some of the Bard's most challenging roles, actor Ted Lange gained celebrity as everyone's favorite bartender, Isaac Washington, on "The Love Boat" (ABC, 1977-1986). Prior to becoming a household name, Lange became known in Hollywood circles following his attention-grabbing performance in the original Broadway production of the musical "Hair" (1968), which led to a starring role on the short-lived sitcom "That's My Mama" (ABC, 1974-76). But it was "The Love Boat" that earned him his greatest acclaim, even though being recognized as Isaac dogged him for the rest of his career. While most other actors might have run away from such vehement recognition, Lange embraced Isaac and often reprised the character on a number of sitcoms and even animated series throughout the years. Meanwhile, he stepped behind the cameras to direct numerous episodes of various sitcoms and dramas, while continuing to pay homage to Isaac in several "Love Boat" television movies and on a later reboot series that lasted only two seasons. Though he was relegated to mostly guest starring appearances later in his career, Lange remained one of the few "Love Boat" alums to be a consistent presence on screen.
Born on Jan. 5, 1948 in Oakland, CA, Lange was raised by his father, Ted, and his mother, Geraldine. He had his first taste of the stage while attending the all-black Golden Gate Junior High School when an English teacher put him in a play after he acted up in class. Despite causing trouble, Lange secured the leading role of Scrooge in a production of "A Christmas Carol." Following another leading performance in "Macbeth," the youngster knew that he wanted to become an actor. While at Oakland Technical High School, Lange was featured in a number of school productions and quickly joined the New Shakespeare Company in San Francisco following his graduation. Following a notable performance as Romeo in "Romeo and Juliet," he played the lead in "King Henry VI, Part II" at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival before traveling to London, where he attended the Royal Academy of Arts. But when he embarked on his professional career in the late 1960s, Lange was told there were no parts for black actors. To fix the problem, he became a playwright in order to pen roles for himself.
Back in the United States, Lange joined the likes of Ben Vereen, Keith Carradine and Meat Loaf for the original Broadway production of the hippie musical "Hair" (1968), which helped propel his career exponentially forward. He soon made the transition to the screen, appearing in the blaxploitation flick "Black Belt Jones" (1974) before landing a role on the short-lived sitcom "That's My Mama" (ABC, 1974-76). Lange was next cast in the role that would make him famous, playing the finger-pointing cruise ship bartender Isaac Washington "The Love Boat" (ABC, 1976), a made-for-television movie that spawned two sequels, "The Love Boat II" (ABC, 1977) and "The New Love Boat" (ABC, 1977), before being turned into the Aaron Spelling-produced hit series, "The Love Boat" (ABC, 1977-1986). With Captain Merrill Stubing (Gavin MacLeod) steering the ship, Doc Bricker (Bernie Kopell) tending to ailing passengers and Gopher (Fred Gundy) trolling the lido deck for ladies, "The Love Boat" sailed each week to sunny Porta Vallarta with a new group of guest stars looking for new love or trying to rekindle an old one. A bit too campy for some, the show nonetheless was a big ratings winner and spawned several made-for-television movies over the years. Through it all, Lange, Koppel and MacLeod were noted for being the only actors to appear in the series and the spin-off movies.
While most actors would have bristled at being pigeonholed in a particular role, especially if they were Shakespearean trained, Lange embraced the character and the image even decades later, always eagerly greeting calls of "Isaac!" from fans on the street who replicated his double-point trademark seen famously each week in the opening credits. Immediately after the show left the airwaves, he appeared as Isaac Washington in the television movies "The Love Boat: The Shipshape Cruise" (ABC, 1986), "The Love Boat: The Christmas Cruise" (ABC, 1986) and "The Love Boat: Who Killed Maxwell Thorn?" (ABC, 1987). He also appeared in feature films like the comedy thriller "Double Exposure" (1987), the teen comedy "Glitch" (1988), and even played the title role in an independent adaptation of "Othello" (1989), which he also directed. But it was on the small screen where Lange maintained his steadiest presence with guest spots on series like "In the Heat of the Night" (CBS, 1987-1994) and "Evening Shade" (CBS, 1990-94) while again appearing as Isaac Washington for "The Love Boat: A Valentine Voyage" (ABC, 1990). He also appeared on several TV series as himself, logging cameos on "The Show" (Fox, 1996), "Malcolm and Eddie" (UPN, 1996-2000) and "Boy Meets World" (ABC, 1993-2000), while playing Isaac on an episode of "Martin" (Fox, 1992-97) and even voicing the character for "Futurama" (Fox/Comedy Central, 1999-13).
Meanwhile, Lange stepped behind the camera to direct television, helming series "Moesha" (UPN, 1995-2001) and "The Wayans Bros" (The WB, 1996-99), while also directing the short-lived reboot series "Love Boat: The Next Wave" (UPN, 1998-99), on which he of course appeared again as everyone's favorite bartender. From there, Lange directed episodes of "Dharma & Greg" (ABC, 1997-2002), "Eve" (UPN, 2003-06) and "All of Us" (UPN, 2003-07), while appearing on camera for "The Hughleys" (UPN, 1998-2002), "Scrubs" (NBC/ABC, 2001-2010) and "The King of Queens" (CBS, 1998-2007). Turning to print, Lange began writing a sex advice column for FHM called "Ask Isaac," a point-counterpoint series where he and porn star Jenna Jameson offered sex tips to readers. While Jameson treated her pieces with a degree of seriousness, Lange often injected some humor into his advice. The column quickly became a "reader" favorite and was one of the most missed aspects of the magazine after it went out of print in 2006. Of course, Lange maintained a steady presence on the small screen, appearing in an episode of the popular "Psych" (USA Network, 2005-14) and voicing himself on "The Cleveland Show" (Fox, 2009-13).
Director (Feature Film)
Cast (Feature Film)
Writer (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Had regular role on "That's My Mama" (ABC)