Sagan Lewis, an actress on St. Elsewhere and the twice-married wife of Emmy-winning writer-producer Tom Fontana, died Sunday at her home in New York City after a six-year battle with cancer, UTA announced. She was 63.
While auditioning for the acting company at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts in 1978, Lewis met Fontana, then an aspiring writer and assistant to the festival’s artistic director. They shared a small apartment in New York City, then moved in 1980 to Los Angeles, where he was hired for the new series St. Elsewhere.
Bruce Paltrow, the series’ showrunner, created a regular role for Lewis as Dr. Jacqueline Wade, a surgical resident from Maine, and she appeared for seven seasons on 86 episodes of NBC’s acclaimed medical drama.
Lewis later played Judge Susan Aandahl on a handful of installments of NBC’s Homicide: Life on the Street, which Fontana also produced and wrote for.
Fontana won Emmys (three in all) for his work on both shows.
Lewis also appeared on one of the final episodes of the legendary CBS series M*A*S*H as well as on the telefilms Cocaine: One Man’s Seduction in 1983 and Full Ride in 2002.
On Dec. 18, 1982, Lewis and Fontana were married at the Santa Monica home of Paltrow and his wife, actress Blythe Danner. They divorced in 1993, and she moved to Maui, Hawaii, and then to Sedona, Ariz., where she taught acting workshops at the Zaki Gordon Institute of Independent Film and served for seven years as program director at the Sedona International Film Festival.
In 1992, Lewis gave birth to a son, Jade Scott Lewis. During the Christmas holiday in 2014, Fontana proposed to Lewis for a second time, and they remarried in July 2015.
“I was sad when we split up. It was hard for both of us but we knew it was necessary. He understood that I needed to explore other worlds,” Lewis told The New York Times in a story published in March with the headline, “You Married Them Once, but What About Twice?”
Lewis was born in Omaha, Neb., and raised in Counsel Bluffs, Iowa. She attended the University of California at San Diego, where she received a masters of fine arts in acting.
In addition to her husband and son, survivors include her sisters Robin and Laurie and brothers James, John and Joseph. Another brother, Tom, died in 2011 of brain cancer.
Contributions can be made to The Ocean Foundation.