Actor, director, and comedian Stephen Furst passed away yesterday, from diabetic complications. According to the Associated Press, he was 63 years old. The news was first made public in a Facebook post by his sons, and then followed up in a Twitter post by his Babylon 5 co-star Bruce Boxleitner .
Furst was born on May 8, 1955. He graduated from Virginia Commonwelth University with a theater degree, then set about delivering pizza to make a living. Creatively, he would include his headshot and resume in the pizza boxes in the hopes of getting discovered. It worked, Producer Matty Simmons discovered Furst’s information with his pizza and ended up casting the young actor in National Lampoon’s Animal House as Kent “Flounder” Dorfman. Furst reprised the role in the short lived spinoff TV series Delta House.
Following Animal House Furst made a number of appearances in film and TV movies. He also guest starred on several popular series, including Newhart, CHiPs, and The Jeffersons. After five years, Furst got his next starring role in a series, he played Dr. Elliot Axelrod on St. Elsewhere. After that show ended, Furst continued to make guest appearances on numerous TV shows. He also began to work steadily in animation, voicing characters on Jungle Cubs and Buzz Lightyear: Star Command.
In 1994, Furst began playing Vit Cotto on Babylon 5. It was during the show’s run he had a bad scare. Both of Furst’s parents had died from diabetes and Furst himself had been diagnosed with the disease years earlier. He lost nearly a hundred pounds in between the third and fourth seasons of Babylon 5, so much weight that his costumes no longer fit. He was able to go off insulin thanks to the weight loss, but his body was already damaged.
Furst suffered from renal failure and was on dialysis for two years when an anonymous donor came forward and offered him a kidney. Miraculously, they were a match and Furst credited the donor with saving his life. He became a spokesperson for both The American Diabetes Association and The National Heart Association and published a book about how he took control of his disease called Confessions of a Couch Potato.
Aside from acting, Furst directed a number of indie films and made for TV movies for the Syfy channel, as well as three episode of Babylon 5. He also produced several films, including the Cameron Diaz movie My Sister’s Keeper. He continued acting through 2006, his final role in the made for TV movie Basilisk: The Serpent King, which he also directed under the name Louie Myman.
Furst’s sons Nathan and Griffith Furst encourage his fans to watch their father’s movies and show bits to other people in order to make them laugh.