Knight Rider blazed a trail across ’80s television schedules with its high-speed stunts, star-making performance from David Hasselhoff and awesome electro soundtrack. Millions would tune in every week to see Michael Knight (Hasselhoff) get behind the wheel of K.I.T.T. (also known as Knight Industries Two Thousand) to take down that week’s big bad villain.
The original run spawned four seasons, a belated TV movie spin-off, and was even rebooted in a short-lived 2008 series for NBC.
But what happened to K.I.T.T. and the rest of the cast since their ’80s heyday? Here’s Where Are They Now? The Cast Of Knight Rider.
15. William Daniels – voice of K.I.T.T.
William Daniels provided the ever-so-slightly know-it-all, but undeniably humane voice of K.I.T.T. Originally, producers wanted K.I.T.T. to have a monotone electronic voice, but Daniels stipulated that he would only take the part if he could give K.I.T.T.’s voice true character, with the actor quoted as saying that he saw “K.I.T.T. as a Renaissance man. He has a sense of moral values and justice.”
Thankfully, Daniels won out and his relationship with Michael Knight was a highlight of the show – incredible considering Daniels work went uncredited and that he didn’t actually meet David Hasselhoff until a production Christmas party six months into filming.
A mainstay of TV and film, Daniels had already appeared in The Graduate, St. Elsewhere and The Parallax View before voicing K.I.T.T.. Following Knight Rider, Daniels went on to appear as sixth-grade teacher Mr. Feeny in Boy Meets World, and even made a cameo appearance in the show’s 2014 follow-up Girl Meets World. But Daniels wasn’t done voicing K.I.T.T., and reprised the role for the ’90s spinoff Knight Rider 2000 and two episodes of The Simpsons. Already a veteran of ’80s hospital drama St. Elsewhere (seriously, what’s up with that show’s ending?), Daniels showed up on another medical drama when he guest starred in Grey’s Anatomy, playing a mentor to Dr Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh).
14. Jason Bateman – Doug Wainwright
Jason Bateman might be best known nowadays as a comedy actor, but back in the ’80s he was a child star, having appeared in both Little House on the Prairie and Silver Spoons. He also got to fulfill every ’80s child’s dream by getting behind the wheel of K.I.T.T. in the classic Knight Rider episode “Lost Knight”. In the episode, Bateman plays young whippersnapper Doug Wainwright, who befriends K.I.T.T. when the car is separated from Michael. Originally the episode was titled ‘K.I.T.T., Phone Home” in homage to E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, with K.I.T.T. as E.T. to Bateman’s Elliot.
While Bateman was a mainstay of television throughout the ’80s and ’90s, it was Arrested Development that catapulted him to international stardom. Known for his sardonic wit, Bateman has appeared in a string of top tier comedies, including Juno and Up in the Air, alongside mainstream hits like Horrible Bosses and Identity Thief. 2016 has already been a stellar year for the actor, with Bateman providing the voice of Nick Wilde in Disney’s humongous hit Zootopia and an appearance in Central Intelligence alongside Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and Kevin Hart.
13. Richard Basehart – Wilton Knight
Basehart played Wilton Knight, the billionaire behind the Foundation for Law and Government (FLAG). Wilton Knight saves Michael in the show’s pilot, providing him with a new identity, and, through reconstructive plastic surgery, a new face that matches Wilton’s estranged son Garthe (read into that what you will).
Basehart also narrated the show’s totally awesome opening sequence, which features an epic electronic soundtrack, K.I.T.T. cutting it across the desert against a blood red sun, brooding narration: “Knight Rider: a shadowy flight into the dangerous world of a man who does not exist.” HBO, eat your heart out.
Starting out as a film actor, Basehart had worked with such heavy weights as Federico Fellini, playing ‘the Fool’ in the acclaimed 1954 film La Strada. But for many, Basehart will be best remembered for his role as Admiral Harriman Nelson on the Irwin Allen sci-fi show Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (pictured on the left). Knight Rider was one of Basehart’s last roles before he died. The other was providing the narration for the 1984 Summer Olympics in LA.
12. Geena Davis – Grace Fallen
Geena Davis made her TV debut as suspected cat burglar Grace Fallen during the season 2 episode “The Cat”. Named after Grace Kelly’s character in Hichcock classic To Catch a Thief, Fallen teams up with Michael to capture a jewel thief after being framed for the crime.
Knight Rider came straight after her film debut in the Dustin Hoffman ’80s-classic Tootsie. By the end of the decade, Davis had landed major roles in The Fly, Beetlejuice and The Accidental Tourist, which also won her a best supporting actress Oscar. The success rolled over into the early ’90s, with her iconic turn as Thelma Dickinson in the Ridley Scott classic Thelma & Louise, followed by the lead role opposite Tom Hanks in A League of their Own. Davis went on to kick serious butt later in the decade in the Shane Black (he of Iron Man 3) scripted The Long Kiss Goodnight. However, the 90s had a few speed bumps for Davis, with Cutthroat Island bombing hard at the box office. So hard that it wiped production company Carolco Pictures off the road and is often cited as one of the all-time box-office disasters.
Since her ’80s and ’90s heyday, Davis has regularly found work on the small screen, including The Geena Davis Show, Commander in Chief, and most recently, a stint as Dr. Nicole Herman on Grey’s Anatomy.
11. Bruce Davison – Charles Graiman
The veteran actor Bruce Davison lent his natural gravitas to the Knight Rider reboot, playing the designer of K.I.T.T. 3000. In the TV movie that preceded the 2008 series, Charles Graiman’s disappearance ignites the plot, with Knight’s son, Mike Traceur, and Graiman’s daughter, Sarah, searching for the missing designer.
This mainstay of both film and television might be recognized by sci-fi fans as slimy Senator Kelly from the first two X-Men movies, John Langley from the original run of V, or as Dr. Stegman from the Stephen King adaptation Kingdom Hospital. Davidson also appeared in Battlestar Galactica — another Glen A. Larson noughties remake. Following Knight Rider, Davidson continued to regularly appear on TV, including Last Resort, where he played Admiral Arthur Shepard, and the sadly missed Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23. Perhaps most memorably, Davison’s lawyer, Wyck Thayer, made poor George squirm in three episodes of Seinfeld.
10. Deanna Russo – Sarah Graiman
Deanna Russo played Ph.D. student Sarah Graiman and childhood friend of new lead Mike Traceur in the 2008 Knight Rider reboot. When K.I.T.T. informs Sarah that Charles Graiman, her father and K.I.T.T.’s creator, is kidnapped, she hits the road with Mike to find him.
Like many Knight Rider alumni, Russo was no stranger to the lathery world of TV soap operas. Before being cast as Sarah Graiman, Russo played Dr. Logan Armstrong for 22 episodes of The Young and the Restless. Following the rebooted Knight Rider’s cancellation after a solitary season, Russo picked up recurring roles in Gossip Girl, Tainted Love, and two seasons of the vampire-werewolf drama, Being Human, playing Aiden’s love interest Kat Neely. Next up for Russo are two forays into the horror genre, with starring roles in The Ice Cream Truck and Day Six.
9. Rebecca Holden – April Curtis
Rebecca Holden replaced Patricia McPherson for Knight Rider’s second season as new mechanic April Curtis. Ostensibly, this was because McPherson wanted to pursue graduate studies, although there are rumors that Holden was considered a better love interest for Michael. In any case, Holden only provided technical support for a single season.
Like other Knight Rider alumni, Holden went on to make a number of one-off guest appearances in other classic network shows, including The Love Boat and Remington Steel. However, the acting gigs have been sporadic in more recent years, with Holden last showing up in the faith-based direct-to-video release The Book of Ruth: Journey of Faith.
Holden found greater success as a country and western singer, charting with two singles in 1989, before recording the aptly-named album “The Highway Runs Both Ways”. She still tours and even released an album of duets in 2016. Hopefully, a cover of Busta Rhymes’ Knight Rider-infused “Fire it Up” features.
8. Paul Campbell – Billy Morgan
In the 2008 Knight Rider remake Paul Campbell plays Billy Morgan, the braniac responsible for keeping the new K.I.T.T. (Knight Industries Three Thousand) on the road. Brought onto the show to provide some much-needed comic relief, Morgan had actually originally read for the part of Mike Traceur for the initial two-hour TV movie. Campbell was pretty relaxed about not getting to sit in the driving seat, telling newsarama, “I knew just from reading the casting breakdown that there was no way I’d get the part.” While Campbell missed out on the TV movie, he must have done something right, as he was invited back to audition for the part of Billy Morgan.
Paul Campbell will be recognizable to Battlestar Galactica fans as a different Billy entirely, namely President Laura Roslin’s unfortunate Chief of Staff, Billy Keikeya. And just like Knight Rider, Battlestar was a remake of a Glen A. Larson show.
Following Knight Rider’s cancellation, Campbell has popped up in the Al Pacino serial killer drama 88 Minutes, the Steve Martin-Jack Black bird-watching comedy – yes, that’s a thing – The Big Year, before appearing on the PR-set sitcom Spun Out.
7. Peter Parros – ‘RC3’ Reginald Cornelius III
Peter Parros played Reginald Cornelius III, or RC3 for short, in the final series of Knight Rider. RC3 is recruited into FLAG after Michael spots him fighting some no good bank robbers in Chicago. Luckily, RC3’s also a talented mechanic, helping to rebuild a damaged K.I.T.T. and tricking out the car with a new convertible mode. Such was the bond between Michael and RC3 that the new recruit to the team served as best man when Michael married Stevie (poor, poor Stevie). To land the role of RC3, Perros even went so far as to earn a truck-driving license before filming began.
Since Knight Rider, Perros has had a stellar career in soap operas, with recurring roles on The Young and the Restless, Santa Barbara and One Life to Live. Currently Parros plays the juicy role of David Harrington in Tyler Perry’s The Haves and Have Nots.
6. Justin Bruening – Mike Traceur
By the time Justin Bruening donned the leather jacket as Mike Traceur, an ex-army ranger and son of Michael Knight, in the 2008 Knight Rider reboot, the show had been off the air for over twenty years. Nostalgic goodwill would only get it so far. Despite the success of the initial TV movie, the critics were far from kind once the full series debuted, with reviews coming in as overwhelmingly negative. Bruening’s performance, perhaps unfairly, got caught up in the drubbing, with Variety’s Chief TV critic Brian Lowry pining for David Hasselhoff “like a German pop fan”.
Despite following up Knight Rider with another dud, the shelved Wonder Woman TV pilot, Bruening has carved out a successful television career – as befits the man who had already appeared in over 160 episodes of All My Children before Knight Rider. Subsequent roles include staring alongside Sarah Michelle Geller in Ringer (okay, that was also cancelled), and recurring parts in Switched at Birth, Hawaii Five-O and Grey’s Anatomy.
5. Patricia McPherson – Bonnie Barstow
Keeping K.I.T.T. and Michael on the highway of justice was mechanic Bonnie Barstow, played by Patrica McPherson. Bonnie was also responsible for K.I.T.T.’s Super Pursuit Mode, where K.I.T.T. becomes more aerodynamic with the press of a button – this also allows for a totally sweet montage of an airborne K.I.T.T. in the show’s opening sequence.
While McPherson wielded the wrench in season one, she was mysteriously absent for the second season. This was due to producers replacing McPherson with a new mechanic — April Curtis (Rebecca Holden) — while she supposedly completed her graduate studies. The change didn’t last long, with none other than David Hasselhoff protesting the casting decision and getting McPherson back on the show for the third and fourth seasons.
Following Knight Rider, McPherson made guest appearances in a few notable television shows, including Matloock, Murder, She Wrote, Dynasty, MacGyver, and Star Trek: The Next Generation. McPherson retired from acting following the 18-year gap between her 1991 appearance in Matlock and appearing in an episode of Warehouse 13 in 2009.
Sure, Knight Rider might have starred actual people, but the real star was K.I.T.T. A souped up 1982 Pontiac Trans-Am, K.I.T.T. is one of the most stylish crimefighting automobiles to ever dish out justice. In a nod to show creator Glan A. Larson’s previous show, Battlestar Galactica, the red light on the front of K.I.T.T. is a direct homage to Battlestar’s villainous Cylons.
Not only was K.I.T.T. a bullet-proof sentient featuring high-end mods such as voice control and auto-pilot, it also toted a Pursuit mode, which enabled Michael to rev up to 300mph to chase down evil-doers. Filming used one ‘hero’ car for film driving sequences, and a legion of stunt cars that were brought from Pontiac for $1 (they were worth $18,000) and gave their lives in pursuit of justice.
But what happening to the ‘hero’ K.I.T.T. once the show finished? Well K.I.T.T. went through several owners before coming back into the care of Red Harden – the automobile wizard responsible for the car’s sweet customizations in the original show (as well as the General Lee in Dukes of Hazard). Harden gave K.I.T.T. some love and attention – new wiring and the like – before putting the car up for auction.
3. Edward Mulhare – Devon Miles
Edward Mulhare played Devon Miles, Director of the Foundation for Law and Government (FLAG) and mentor-figure to Michael Knight. Devon and Michael had a typical love/hate relationship, but eventually they found their way to delivering vehicular justice. In the non-canonical Knight Rider 2000, Miles is tragically murdered by a team of corrupt police officers.
Knight Rider wasn’t the only classic television show Mulhare appeared in, having made appearances in Murder, She Wrote, Battlestar Galactica, MacGyver, and — perhaps stretching the definition of classic — even reteamed with David Hasselhoff for an episode of Baywatch Nights.
Before Knight Rider, Miles was something of a theater heavyweight. Starting out at the age of nineteen in the Cork Opera House’s production of Othello, Mulhare trod the boards in his native Ireland, England, and even Rhodesia (modern day Zimbabwe). But Mulhare’s Broadway break came when he succeeded Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady, a stint which included playing opposite Julie Andrews’ Eliza.
2. Glen A. Larson
Glen A. Larson, the producer behind Knight Rider, will always have a special place in U.S. television. Larson not only put K.I.T.T. on our screens the world over, but also created some of the best-loved television series of all time, including Battlestar Galatica, Buck Rogers in the 25th Contrary, and Magnum P.I. Knight Rider was Larson’s last big hit, with subsequent shows failing to achieve his previous career highs.
However, the inspiration for the character of Michael Knight didn’t actually come from Larson. That honor belongs to NBC Head of Programming Brandon Tartikoff. Complaining about the shortage of handsome leading men with the requisite acting chops to anchor a TV show, Tartikoff came up with the concept The Man of Six Words. The show would start with the hero getting out of a woman’s bed, before chasing down some villains in his talking car. The car would do the bulk of the chit-chat, while the hero would be limited to six words. Executives liked the idea of a talking crime-fighting car so much that they commissioned Knight Rider.
1. David Hasselhoff – Michael Knight
Knight Rider turned actor David ‘The Hoff’ Hasselhoff into bona-fide television royalty. Sporting the iconic leather jacket, Hasselhoff looked the part as Michael Knight, the injured police officer recruited to drive K.I.T.T. The part earned Hasselhoff a People’s Choice Award and international fame, and he went on to reprise the role in 1991’s Knight Rider 2000.
Hasselhoff followed Knight Rider with the smash-hit Baywatch (aka the most-watched TV show ever), playing lifeguard Mitch Buchannon, and its lamentable spin-off Baywatch Nights. Hasselhoff also found fame as a rock star in Germany, performing his cover of “Looking for Freedom” atop the Berlin Wall in 1989. Admittedly, this was six weeks after the border between East and West Germany was opened.
And before Samuel L. Jackson stamped his name on the part, Hasselhoff stuck it to Hydra as Nick Fury in the TV movie Nick Fury: Agent of Shield. One can only wonder what the Marvel Cinematic Universe would have looked like with The Hoff in charge of the Hulk and Thor. Nowadays, The Hoff is more cultural icon than jobbing actor, featuring as a contestant on Dancing with the Stars and a judge on America’s Got Talent. Next up will be an appearance in Sharknado 4: The 4th Awakens and a cameo in the upcoming big screen take on Baywatch.
But is the Hoff done with Knight Rider? Mysteriously, a trailer for a project called Knight Rider Heroes appeared at the end of 2015, featuring K.I.T.T. zooming through the desert and Hasselhoff signing up a new recruit. Details on this next iteration are scant, but Hasselhoff was talking up the project in an interview with Variety earlier this year. We can only hope The Hoff once again gets behind the wheel of K.I.T.T. to that epic theme music.
What do you think? Should Hasselhoff take to the road again in a new look Knight Rider? Let us know in the comments.
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