Lance Kerwin Dies: ‘James At 15’, ‘Salem’s Lot’ Actor Was 62

Lance Kerwin, the former child actor who shot to fame in the late 1970s as the star of the sometimes controversial NBC teen drama series James at 15, died Tuesday of undetermined causes in San Clemente, CA. He was 62.

His death was announced by his daughter Savanah in a Facebook post today.

Kerwin, who was a busy child actor throughout the ’70s, also starred in the 1979 TV miniseries Salem’s Lot, based on the novel by Stephen King. He played the central character of Mark Petrie, the young horror film buff-turned-vampire hunter.

In the film’s most chilling and memorable scene, he is visited by a schoolmate who has become a vampire and floats eerily outside Mark’s bedroom window.

Lance Kerwin and Reggie Nalder in ‘Salem’s Lot’ (1979)Everett Collection

Kerwin’s TV career began in the early- to mid-1970s with appearances on such shows as Little House on the Prairie, Emergency! and Wonder Woman, but his breakthrough role came in 1977 with James at 15. The coming-of-age drama series was an attempt by creator-writer Dan Wakefield to present a more realistic depiction of teenagers than was common at the time.

The show made headlines in 1978 when, with the new title James at 16, Kerwin’s title character lost his virginity with a Swedish exchange student.

Two years later, Kerwin co-starred in the TV movie The Boy Who Drank Too Much, starring Scott Baio as a teenage alcoholic.

Kerwin continued acting throughout the mid-1990s, usually as a guest star on episodic TV. By the end of the decade he had retired from acting to become a youth minister. He later moved to Hawaii to work for the U-Turn for Christ ministry. A 2021 GoFundMe page indicated Kerwin had fallen on hard times after suffering various health issues.

Along with Savanah, he is survived by his children Fox, Terah, Kailani and Justus. Information on a planned after-life ceremony is expected in the coming weeks.

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