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‘Rescue Me’ star James McCaffrey dies

James McCaffrey portrayed firefighter and 9/11 victim Jimmy Keefe, haunting Dennis Leary’s Tommy Gavin


Actor James McCaffrey attends the premiere of “Meskada” during the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival at the Village East Cinema on April 22, 2010, in New York City. (Michael Loccisano/Getty Images For Tribeca Film Festival/TNS)

Michael Loccisano/TNS

By Nardine Saad
Los Angeles Times

LARCHMONT, N.Y. — James McCaffrey, the “Rescue Me” star and actor who brought vigilante police detective Max Payne to life in the eponymous video game, has died. He was 65.

McCaffrey died Sunday at home in Larchmont, New York, after being diagnosed with multiple myeloma — a cancer that forms in white blood cells — his talent agent David Elliott confirmed Monday to The Times.

The native of Albany, New York, was surrounded by family and friends when he died. The Actor’s Studio-trained performer was billed by his agent as “one of Dick Wolf’s proteges” after starring in 13 episodes of the famed producer’s 1996 crime thriller “Swift Justice.”

“(H)e never lost his love for creating characters; however, his good looks often pushed him toward leading man roles,” Elliott said.

McCaffrey racked up dozens of TV and video game credits during his 35-year career, including many in law enforcement-related dramas and games. He also starred in seven seasons of “Rescue Me” as firefighter and 9/11 victim Jimmy Keefe, haunting Dennis Leary’s Tommy Gavin during seven seasons of the acclaimed FX drama. McCaffrey told Saratoga Living in 2020 that playing the ghost was his favorite role.

He also played a specialized driver in the short-lived 1990s NBC drama “Viper” and more recently appeared in two episodes of the CBS procedural “Blue Bloods” and three episodes of the USA Network drama “Suits.”

But one of his most enduring roles remains that of the gruff Payne in every installment of the noir third-person shooter franchise that launched in 2001. Although he voiced the fictional agent in only the first two installments of the game, he also provided motion capture for the character in the third and final installment in 2012. McCaffrey worked on the huge sets of the Rockstar game that transplanted the New Yorker to Brazil. “Bringing that physicality into the character made things flow more naturally,” he told VideoGamer in 2012. The work, he said, was more physically demanding than he expected.

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“I’m not a big fan of video games, and I never have been,” he noted in 2020. “The first time I did ‘Max Payne,’ it was, like, six hours a day in a sound booth, and it was about 400 pages of script. But, I’ve never seen it, I’ve never played it, I have no desire to. I lack the proper appreciation for video games.”

McCaffrey is survived by his wife, actor Rochelle Boström, and daughter Tiernan McCaffrey.

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