David Ogden Stiers (born October 31, 1942) is an American actor, director, vocal actor, and musician, noted for his role in the television sitcom M*A*S*H as Major Charles Emerson Winchester III and the science fiction drama The Dead Zone as Reverend Gene Purdy. A connoisseur of classical music, Stiers has been a guest conductor for over 50 orchestras in North America and maintained a position as associate conductor of the Newport Symphony Orchestra and the Ernest Bloch Music Festival.
Stiers was born in Peoria, Illinois, the son of Margaret Elizabeth (née Ogden) and Kenneth Truman Stiers. He attended Urbana High School, at the same time as film critic Roger Ebert. He later relocated to Eugene, Oregon, where he graduated from North Eugene high school and briefly attended the University of Oregon. He later ventured to San Francisco, where he performed with the California Shakespeare Theater, San Francisco Actors Workshop, and the improv group The Committee, whose members included Rob Reiner and Howard Hesseman. Soon after, Stiers studied drama at Juilliard. During his studies, Stiers was mentored by accomplished theater actor John Houseman and would later join his City Center Acting Company.
Stiers first major Broadway role was in The Magic Show as Goldfarb, the rival magician to protagonist Doug Henning. Despite success in New York, Stiers returned to California and made the transition into television. His early credits include The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Kojak, and Rhoda. Stiers also appeared in the pilot of Charlie’s Angels and was reportedly offered a role on the show; however, Stiers turned down the opportunity. Another source indicates rather that his character was written out of the show following the pilot, a not uncommon occurrence in the world of television.