The Tragic Death Of John Reilly, TV Soap Star

John Reilly, soap opera actor and a star of General Hospital, passed away at the age of 84, according to Us Weekly. News broke of the star’s death when his daughter, Caitlin Reilly, announced the death of her father on Instagram on Jan. 10, 2021.

She shared a photo of her father holding her as a little girl and added the caption: “John Henry Matthew Reilly AKA Jack. The brightest light in the world has gone out. Imagine the best person in the world. Now imagine that person being your dad.”

Caitlin went on. “I’m so grateful he was mine. I’m so grateful I got to love him. I’m so grateful I made it in time to hold him and say goodbye. I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do, but I know he’ll be with me. I love you forever Daddy.” She didn’t mention the cause of death. It’s a tragic time for the Reilly family and those who worked with the soap star, so here’s everything to know about the actor’s life and passing.

How John Reilly landed his role on General Hospital

Born in Chicago, John Reilly first embarked into the acting world in his 30s through small roles in major TV shows in the 1970s. According to Reilly’s IMDb credits, he started with minor parts in shows like Kojak, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Lou Grant, and Hawaii Five-O.

Things picked up in 1978 when Reilly was cast as the character Jeremiah Taylor in How the West Was Won — and instead of appearing in a single episode, Reilly had a recurring role in four episodes. In 1983, he landed the role of Roy Ralston in Dallas for six episodes, per his IMDb page.

Reilly got his big break in 1984, according to Us Weekly, when he was cast as the character Sean Donely in the American drama series General Hospital. It was a huge gig to land because the ABC series is “the longest-running American soap opera in production,” per the outlet. Reilly played the character of Donely until 1995, but returned briefly as his character in 2013 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of General Hospital.

John Reilly's co-stars commemorate him

It’s clear that John Reilly was a favorite wherever he went, because social media is full of co-stars and friends commemorating the beloved actor. Finola Hughes, who played Anna Devane in General Hospital alongside Reilly, wrote a touching tribute to him on Instagram. “Darling John Reilly. One of the first days I walked on the GH set this tall, handsome man in a leather jacket sauntered towards me,” she wrote. “In his deep, all American growl he welcomed me to the show and told me he would be there for me should I ever need anything. Boy was he true to his word.”

Meanwhile, the official Twitter account for General Hospital wrote the tribute: “The entire General Hospital family is heartbroken to hear of John Reilly’s passing. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his loved ones. Rest in peace.”

Kristina Wagner (pictured), who played Felicia Jones on General Hospital, wrote on Twitter: “Rest in peace John Reilly. YOU were a treasure. Sending love to his family.” In addition, Frank Valentini, who was an executive producer on General Hospital, wrote on Twitter: “The entire GH family mourns the passing of John Reilly. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.” What a loss for the acting community!

John Reilly's legacy lives on in daughter Caitlin

John Reilly was so well known that he was the reason fellow actor, John C. Reilly (who is unrelated to him) had to add his middle initial. The point was jokingly made in a tweet by director Judd Apatow in 2014: “General Hospital in the house. The great John Reilly. He is an awesome actor and the reason the other John has a C.” LOL… good one.

While Reilly was so successful he was forcing other actors to add initials to their names, the soap star also had a happy private life. He married Liz Reilly in 1981, according to Us Weekly, and together they had three daughters. Their daughter Caitlin Reilly (the same one who posted the news of her father’s passing on Instagram), is a comedian and actor, according to Insider. In fact, Caitlin has become a major TikTok phenomenon, thanks to her hilarious impressions of cringe-worthy characters.

Her videos attract millions of views, and it’s no wonder, with hits like the video “WASP Mom tries to vote” or the video “How adults write ‘teenagers’ on HBO.” It’s amazing stuff and very clear that acting chops and comedic talent run in the Reilly family.

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