Jason Bernard was born in Chicago, Illinois on May 17th 1938 and burst onto our screens in 1969 with roles in The Bold Ones: The New Doctors, Then Came Bronson, and Medical Center. Whilst these roles were small he was the kind of actor who still managed to make himself memorable to an audience. Further roles included Thomasine & Bushrod, Movin’ On, and Friday Foster.
In 1976 Bernard began the reoccurring role of R.C. Turner in Starsky and Hutch; this led to other reoccurring roles in The Blue Knight, and A Woman Called Moses. Other roles in that time period included Marcus Welby, M.D., Car Wash, Switch, Delvecchio, Wilma, Coma, Death Wish, The White Shadow, The Night the City Screamed, and M*A*S*H.
As the 1980’s rolled in Bernard appeared as the gym teacher in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Flamingo Road, The Greatest American Hero, Blue Thunder, and Benson. Other roles included the reoccurring role of Inspector Marquette in Cagney & Lacey, Preston Wade in Days of Our Lives and a recurring role in the first season of Night Court as Judge Stone’s arrogant rival Judge Willard.
In 1983 came the role that thrust him dead and centre on the Cult Faction radar! As Caleb Taylor in V and its sequel V: the Final Battle. Taylor was a chemical plant and widower with two sons, Benjamin and Elias, at the time of the initial Invasion. Taylor struggled with his family and often hassled his son Elias about becoming more worthwhile than a black market dealer, often using Benjamin; a doctor, as an example and this led Elias to despise Benjamin. Caleb was injured in an accident at the plant, and is rescued by one of the Visitor technicians Willie (Robert Englund), which leads them to become friends. When Benjamin joined the Resistance and was killed by the Visitors, Caleb and Elias both become active members of the Resistance to avenge his death.
When Willie was captured for research into the Visitors biology several months later, Caleb vouched for his survival and freedom as he considered him more trustworthy than most Visitors. During the discussion for the final attack on the Visitors with the Red Dust toxin, Caleb feared nuclear annihilation and voted against it, while Elias supported it. Caleb is proud of the man Elias has now become and accompanies The Resistance onto the Visitor Mothership orbiting Los Angeles and helped kill the entire crew with the Red Dust, allowing the ship to be captured by the Resistance and Earth be saved from destruction
His other big TV role was in Herman’s Head as Herman’s boss, Mr. Paul Bracken; he also appeared in the video games Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger and Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom as Captain William Eisen.
Bernard also left his mark on The Jeffersons, Murder She Wrote, Wiseguy and Partners. He also appeared, as the chief security guard, in The Dukes Of Hazzard episode “The Dukes in Hollywood”. Later Bernard appeared as blind musician Tyrone Wattell in the film All of Me.
Between 1990-91 another reoccurring role came in the tv show The Flash as Dr. Desmond Powell aka Nightshade. Nightshade was a 1050’s superhero who mentors The Flash, Nightshade captured criminals using tranquilizer darts. He gave up being a vigilante after he stopped The Ghost in 1955. Later, he became a doctor and the Chief of Staff at Central City Hospital. When the Ghost reappeared in 1990, Powell becomes Nightshade once again and teams up with The Flash to apprehend the Ghost. He later unknowingly inspires the Deadly Nightshade and was framed for multiple counts of murder, but clears his name and captures the impostor. He then makes his secret identity public and becomes a celebrity.
Sadly, Bernard’s final appearance was in the 1997 film Liar Liar as Judge Marshall Stevens. Shortly after the film completed filming Bernard suffered a heart attack. He had been driving his car in Burbank, California when he was stricken, and was involved in a rear-end accident. Bernard was rushed to Providence St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Burbank where he died on October 16th 1996. He was survived by his wife Debra and son Jason Jr. Liar Liar was dedicated in memory of him.