It seems rare to me that the mother of a second-generation performer in Hollywood is more famous than the father. Oh, it happens, and in this case “more famous” still isn’t “incredibly famous.” We’re not talking Carrie Fisher, here—though of course Carrie’s father had been famous when she was young, and it’s more that Debbie Reynolds remained famous longer. However, in the case of William Katt, his father doesn’t seem to me to have ever really risen above C-list fame, if that, and while his mother was regularly second-billed, she was second-billed in one of the longest running TV shows of the Golden Age of Television. Week after week, she was Della Street, and that’s more famous than quite a lot of people.
William Katt, who acts under his father’s original last name, is the son of actor Bill Williams and actress Barbara Hale. And I won’t deny there’s some Hollywood nepotism involved in his career; while his character on the Perry Mason Movies was the son of William Hopper’s Paul Drake, it’s quite clear he got the job because he was actually the son of Barbara Hale. You’d hope it was nice for them, working together. In a way, he was the child of the show that way. (You don’t want to know my elaborate head canon about the triad formed by Perry, Paul, and Della.) I have no doubt it’s why he was cast.
Still, he’s done a fair amount of work outside that particular franchise that shows he is not himself a bad actor. For starters, there’s Pippin, admittedly not something a lot of people necessarily remember these days but a fine show for all that. Weird, I grant you, but it’s got at least a couple of really good songs in it; I happen to think “Corner of the Sky” is mighty fine, and while Katt is no Ben Vereen, well, he still does sell the song. Sells the role as the hapless Pippin, eldest son of Charlemagne.
It’s an odd show, but he’s had an odd career—consider, if you will, his role of The Greatest American Hero, where his character’s name had to be changed because his name turned out to be Ralph Hinkley, an inauspicious name in the Reagan years. Apparently, he hated the suit so much that his TV Guide cover was an illustration. I’ll admit I’m not terribly familiar with the show, but I know enough to know that there are plenty of people who think of him from that first. My high school best friend’s mom loved it enough to own the theme song on a record still in 1995.
And he did Carrie, early in his career. Some of the standard TV of the ’70s—Ironside and M*A*S*H and Emergency! A Doc Savage movie even before Carrie where he played “Indian Assassin,” which I’m sure has aged well. He did Models, Inc., in the ’90s, and he’s still puttering about. Including doing some voicework for the DC animated shows of relatively recent vintage, which means he also got a brief guest spot on Supergirl, because that’s how the WB stuff works. He’s still going, as much as anyone is these days. Not bad, really, and I’m sure his parents would approve of a career so similar to theirs.