Best known as Lorne (aka the Host) from Angel, actor-singer Andy Hallett died earlier this week from congestive heart failure, which has shocked and saddened his legions of fans. He was 33.
Hallett, who was single and the only child of David and Lori Hallett, was taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after experiencing shortness of breath, where he died on March 29. His father was by his side.
He had battled heart disease for five years, having been diagnosed with cardiomyopathy (which literally means “heart muscle disease,” where the actual heart muscle – the myocardium – deteriorates) about a month after filming the series finale of Angel, according to his longtime agent Pat Brady of Cunningham Escott Slevin & Doherty in L.A.
A Massachusetts native, Hallett was allegedly very shy until legendary diva Patti LaBelle invited him onstage at a concert and they sang her hit, “Lady Marmalade” (one of his favorite songs, which he sang on Angel). When he received thunderous applause and requests for photographs, it was a life-changing moment for him, which cured him of his shyness. Inspired and possessing a newfound confidence, Hallett pursued a career in singing.
When Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spin-off Angel, saw Hallett singing in a Universal City blues revue, he created the character of Lorne, who was the singer/proprietor of Caritas, which was a karaoke bar for demons in downtown L.A. Hallett auditioned for the role and got the part, his first acting job ever.
Hallett debuted as the Host (his real name was later revealed to be Krevlornswath of the Deathwok Clan, or “Lorne” for short, a peace-loving demon who would rather sing than engage in the art of war), on “Judgment,” the second season premiere of Angel in 2000. Lorne was green-skinned, red-horned, and clad in a variety of flashy zoot suits reminiscent of Liberace. Hallett portrayed Lorne as a guest star for 45 episodes until he became a series regular as of the Angel Season 4 episode, “Release.” He appeared in a total of 76 episodes of Angel’s entire 110 episodes.
“I was in my trailer, and one of the girls knocked on the door and said, ‘You've got a call from Joss Whedon's office. I think it's kind of important.’ I'm like, ‘No, tell him I'm busy! Tell him I have a towel on my head, and I won't take the call.’ No, seriously, I get on the phone with him, and he says, ‘How are you?’ ‘Fine.’ ‘What are you doing?’ ‘Nothing.’ ‘I have some good news. I wanted to let you know that, for the back nine (the final nine episodes of Angel Season 4), we are making you a series regular.’ I was shocked, stunned. I called my agent. I was totally numb,” Hallett said in a March 14, 2003 interview, an excerpt of which was posted on the Internet Movie Database (IMDB.com).
Interestingly enough, he acquired Brady, his agent, after debuting on the second season premiere of Angel in 2000. Acquiring an agent after the fact is rare in Hollywood.
“Yes, it’s my geek moment if you want to call it that. I loved Buffy, so I automatically watched Angel. I saw Andy and got on the phone to my friend who is also a talent agent…” recalled Brady. “I called the (Angel) casting director the next day. I wanted to meet him for voiceover representation. (Andy) called back and scheduled an appointment with my assistant.”
Brady stated that she hadn’t seen the singer-actor out of makeup when she met him for the first time.
“I was expecting a 55-year-old lounge lizard, but instead this 25-year-old kid got up,” she said. “You’ve got to realize that this young man never did anything in show biz before (Angel). We were together until after the series ended.”
According to Brady, Hallett was close to his Angel cast-mates, including J. August Richards (Charles Gunn) and David Boreanaz (Angel). She mentioned that Hallett and Mark Lutz, who portrayed the Groosalugg on Angel – specifically the final second season episodes where Lorne’s origin was revealed – were best friends.
“Mark is amazing. He’s been by Andy’s side throughout this whole thing,” said Brady. “David Boreanaz called (to offer sympathy and assistance to Hallett’s parents), which I thought was really classy.”
Hallett was always a beloved guest at conventions, who was gracious to his fans and always making sure they got a picture or an autograph – even if it meant staying late.
“He raised so much money for charities at every convention. There wasn’t a con he didn’t do where didn’t raise money for the charity of the con’s choice. He just did it. He was really great about that,” said Brady.
While Angel has been off the air since 2004, the titular character’s adventures – along with Lorne’s – continue in comic book form at IDW Publishing with Whedon overseeing it. Chris Ryall, IDW editor-in-chief, was saddened to learn of Hallett’s passing. He provided Mania.com with a tribute page that will be printed in Angel No. 21.
“Andy was like a son to me,” said Brady. “This has been an ongoing battle for him for 5 years. He was a great guy to the end – he really was. It’s very sad.”
Rest in peace, Andy Hallett.