Lance Kerwin, a former child actor who was a familiar face on TV in the 1970s, has died at age 62. Kerwin was best known for starring in the series James at 15, which was James at 16 in its second season, and for his role in Salem's Lot, the 1979 TV adaptation of the Stephen King novel, USA Today reports. His many other credits included roles in Little House on the Prairie, Gunsmoke, TV movie The Boy Who Drank Too Much, and several ABC Afterschool Specials. One of his last roles was in the 1995 movie Outbreak, but he returned to acting in the 2022 historical drama The Wind & the Reckoning.
James at 16, which dealt with controversial issues including premarital sex, made Kerwin a "teenage heartthrob" at a time when most shows about teenagers, including Happy Days, starred actors in their 20s, Variety reports. The show was canceled in 1978 amid controversy over an episode in which James loses his virginity to a Swedish exchange student. Daughter Savanah Kerwin, one of his five children, said Kerwin died at his home in San Clemente, California, and the family is awaiting autopsy results to determine the cause of death, the New York Times reports.
In the late 1990s, Kerwin said he had been struggling with drug addiction for years. He later became a youth pastor in California and Hawaii. Savanah Kerwin tells the Times that he helped run the rehab program U-Turn for Christ. "He was constantly trying to help people who were struggling to find God or become sober," she says. "That was his focus for the rest of his life." (Read more obituary stories.)