Donald James Marshall (May 2, 1936 – October 30, 2016) was an American actor best known for his role as Dan Erickson in the television show Land of the Giants.
Marshall was one of four children and was schooled at San Diego High School. While studying engineering between 1956 and 1957, he was encouraged to try acting by a friend, Peter Bren. Marshall was still in the army at this time, but later studied acting at the Bob Gist Dramatic Workshop, while undertaking a course in Theatre Arts at Los Angeles City College.
Marshall provided consultation on matters connected with his work and with racial issues, and received an award for "Outstanding Achievement in his field as a Black Achiever in the United States."
Marshall died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on October 30, 2016.
Marshall's first professional role was in a 1961 Columbia Studios feature The Interns. In 1964 he took the role of Chris Logan, playing opposite Nichelle Nichols in Great Gettin' Up Mornin,' a TV production about an African-American family preparing their children for their first day at a racially integrated school in America's south.
That same year, Nichols played Marshall's fiancée in a controversial episode of Gene Roddenberry's series The Lieutenant.
In 1965, Marshall appeared in a pilot for a series Braddock. In 1966 he appeared as Luke in Daktari, in the episodes Predator of Wameru, The Killer Lion and Trail of the Cheetah.
Later in the 1960s he appeared in Roddenberry's next series, Star Trek portraying Lt. Boma in the episode "The Galileo Seven" (1967).
Other TV series he appeared in were Tarzan (the series with Ron Ely), Dragnet 1967, and Ironside. In 1968 he appeared as Ted Neumann, the recurring love interest of Julia Baker, in the television series Julia, a series about an African-American widow raising her son on her own.
Marshall had a role in the film The Reluctant Heroes, aka The Egghead on Hill 656 (1971), a film that was directed by Robert Day. This was a war film set in the Korean War with men under a newly commissioned lieutenant who are trapped on a hill surrounded by the enemy. His character as Pvt. Carver LeMoyne was subject to continual racial abuse by Cpl. Leroy Sprague (Warren Oates).
In the seventies he set up his own company called DJM Productions, Inc., which produced television commercials and documentary films.
In the 1980s, Marshall had few roles, appearing occasionally in episodes of Little House on the Prairie as Caleb Ledoux.
LAND OF THE GIANTS
As a result of appearing in the pilot for the TV series Braddock, the actor met Irwin Allen, leading to Marshall gaining his the role in Land of the Giants, in which he performed alongside Gary Conway, Don Matheson, Kurt Kasznar, Stefan Arngrim, Deanna Lund and Heather Young. The series, created by Irwin Allen, featured Marshall as a competent African-American in a leading role. This was also a first for an African American male in the 1960s to be featured so prominently in science fiction. The only other African American actors to be in such a position in the 1960s were Nichelle Nichols, known for her role as Lt. Uhurain the TV series Star Trek, and Greg Morris as electronics expert Barney Collier in Mission: Impossible.
On set, the actors had to perform many of their own stunts and Marshall's athleticism was an asset, he credited his previous football, track and pole vaulting work that helped him with the stunts required. In one of the episodes, "Ghost Town," while diving over a fire, Marshall actually dislocated his shoulder and the next day they had to shoot new scenes with Marshall's arm in a sling. Another episode "Giants and All That Jazz" that featured former world champion boxer Sugar Ray Robinson as Biff Bowers and Mike Mazurki as Loach, where Marshall had to teach Biff Bowers how to play the trumpet was one that Marshall in his own words calls "Beautiful" seems to be a favourite of his and made him want to act rather than follow or figure out what dialogue to use or say. He also says that actors had a better time on the set when Irwin Allen wasn't on the set. When he was it was much different and people would get uptight.
In later years Marshall wrote a script for a sequel to the series called Escape from a Giant Land. He hoped that it would be a big screen production and would feature as many original cast members as possible.
THE THING WITH TWO HEADS
Marshall was subsequently cast in the role of Dr. Fred Williams in the science-fiction horror exploitation film The Thing with Two Heads (1972) which starred Ray Milland and Rosey Grier. This was a tale about a wealthy and racist white man who has his head transplanted onto the body of a black prisoner from death row.