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The Long List Of Actors Who've Died At Age 27

The following article discusses topics that some readers may find disturbing or triggering, including suicide and addiction.

Sadly, the "27 Club" phenomenon is once again on the minds of many of us who follow the entertainment industry. Though this superstition (that it is somehow more common for artists to pass away at the age of 27) is largely associated with the popular music world and figures such as Amy Winehouse, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, and Kurt Cobain, it remains tragically relevant to the world of film and television.

A sobering number of young actors have left us far too soon, in many cases calling to mind just how pervasive hardship and mental illness can be — even among those who, from our viewpoint in the theater seats, may appear to be on top of the world. As we take a look back at these heartbreaking cases, our thoughts are with the families and friends of all involved.

Jonathan Brandis

From the age of six, Jonathan Brandis was one of the busiest young actors in Hollywood, with the Connecticut-born performer consistently finding work in high-profile projects such as "It," "Blossom," "L.A. Law," "The Flash," and "The Wonder Years." When he was cast as a series lead on "SeaQuest DSV" in 1994, he became so popular with young audiences that he received as many as 4,000 pieces of fan mail per week and eventually won a Young Artist Award. But on November 12, 2003, he died by suicide in his Los Angeles apartment, becoming one of many actors who sadly died soon after they got famous.

At the time of his passing, friends of Brandis began to speculate that the actor may have been suffering from depression due to his struggling career. Following a supporting role in an early Ang Lee film called "Ride with the Devil," he had to wait almost three years for another acting job to come through, in the 2002 World War II drama "Hart's War." According to these friends, Brandis was distraught when he learned his role had largely been cut from the film in post-production.

More recently, however, Brandis' father Gregory has firmly disputed this narrative. He told People in 2021 that his son's death "wasn't due to the entertainment industry," instead sharing that, in hindsight, he believes his son exhibited symptoms of bipolar disorder. "I look back now, and in his 20s, he showed signs of manic depression," Gregory said. "I hope that anyone suffering can go get help."

Harry Hains

Readers likely first became acquainted with the late genderfluid actor Harry Hains when he appeared in the fifth season of Ryan Murphy's "American Horror Story" (subtitled "Hotel"), playing a boy forced to attend a dinner party hosted by the world's most notorious serial killers. His memorable turn as Jeffrey Dahmer's (Seth Gabel) fictitious victim eventually earned him supporting roles in other network and streaming projects, including "Sneaky Pete" and Netflix's "The OA." 

Unfortunately, Hains is one of several former "American Horror Story" actors who have passed away. Hains died in Los Angeles on January 7, 2020. His death was announced by his mother, Jane Badler (herself an accomplished actor known for playing the central villain in NBC's "V") via her Instagram, where she implied that his death may have been due to substance abuse. "On Jan 7 my beautiful son died," her caption read. "He was 27 and had the world at his feet. But sadly he struggled with mental illness and addiction." Months later, the Los Angeles Medical Examiner determined the cause of death to be an accidental fentanyl overdose. Almost a year after his passing, a pop album titled "A Glitch in Paradise" that was written and performed by Hains (who went by the stage name ANTIBOY) was released to the public.

Cha In-ha

Born Lee Jae-ho, South Korean actor Cha In-ha passed away of unknown causes on December 3, 2019. In the two years leading up to his passing, Cha had quickly become a stalwart of the country's television industry, starring in three separate shows in 2019 alone.

Though the cause of death has officially remained "undisclosed," most reputable outlets that reported the news were quick to point out its similarity to a number of apparent recent death-by-suicides in South Korea. Cha's death was the third of its kind among South Korean celebrities in only two months, following those of K-pop stars Sulli and Goo Ha-ra. The proximity of these widely publicized passings was so troubling that local outlets questioned if they influenced one another in some way, citing the "Werther effect."

Death by suicide is one of the leading causes of death in South Korea, particularly among those in the public eye. In December 2023, the death of "Parasite" actor Lee Sun-kyun at 48 brought this disturbing trend back to the forefront of discussions concerning the country's ongoing mental health crisis. Of all the countries within the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), South Korea has maintained the highest rate of suicides as of 2021.

Yoo Joo-eun

Like Cha In-ha, Yoo Joo-eun was a South Korean actor who passed away at 27. Due to a note Yoo herself left behind, authorities decisively ruled the cause of death to be suicide. In her lengthy and incredibly difficult to read statement, Yoo discussed how much pressure she felt being an actor and working in the South Korean film and television industry, acknowledging that it had brought her both profound joy and tremendous pain.

News of Yoo's passing was shared on August 29, 2022 by her older brother on social media. "Joo-eun left this place and went to a comfortable place," he wrote in a now-deleted Instagram post (via NME). "If you have time, please greet Joo-eun on her way." She was best known for her debut role in the K-drama "Big Forest," which ran for 10 episodes in the fall-winter season of 2018 on the South Korean network tvN.

Benjamin Keough

Though he was mostly known for being the grandson of music legend Elvis Presley, Benjamin Keough didn't take much to the entertainment industry aside from a very brief career as an actor. It may have been difficult, then, to navigate a public life where he was often and erroneously contextualized as being in the shadow of not only his grandfather, but his mother Lisa Marie Presley and his sister Riley.

Keough died by suicide on July 12, 2020, with a toxicology report indicating that he had both alcohol and cocaine in his system at the time of his death. Keough's friend Brandon Howard told People following his death that Keough suffered from depression, which — according to Howard — stemmed at least in part from the pressures he felt to live up to his family legacy. "It's a tough thing when you have a lot of pressure with your family and living up to a name and an image. It's a lot of pressure," Howard said. Facing indefinite lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic apparently exacerbated these feelings for Keough as well.

Friends of Keough have alleged (anonymously and without clear proof) to some publications that he felt being raised in the Church of Scientology had a negative effect on his mental health. Less than three years after Keough's passing, Lisa Marie Presley died due to complications from a then-recent surgery.

Austin Majors

Many child actors struggle with growing out of a busy career in the entertainment industry. This appears to have been the case with Austin Majors, who ended his career as an actor in 2009 after featuring in a number of well-known projects (some of which earned him Young Artist Awards nominations, including "NYPD Blue" and "Treasure Planet"). He graduated from high school a few years later, gaining acceptance to the University of Southern California's prestigious School of Cinematic Arts where he majored in Film and Television Production.

By 2023, however, Majors was residing in a shelter for those without housing in LA County. Just days before his death, Majors had met with the executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness during the latter's visit to the shelter. In a photo taken for the Los Angeles Daily News, the two men can be seen smiling and laughing together while taking a walk around the facility's perimeter. While a resident of the shelter, Majors had continued to produce music under the stage name Pope!, seemingly making immense progress in both his personal and professional lives.

According to the Los Angeles Medical Examiner, Majors died on February 11, 2023, due to an accidental fentanyl overdose. A statement shared by the family at the time of his death mourned Majors' unexpected passing while celebrating him as an accomplished actor, artist, and academic.

Johnny Palermo

In the early hours of June 8, 2009, actor Johnny Palermo, his girlfriend, and her brother were involved in a terrible car accident in Los Angeles. News outlets reported that Palermo's girlfriend — who had been driving the vehicle at the time — lost control of the wheel, sending the car speeding into several stationary traffic objects. Both she and Palermo died on-scene, while her brother was rushed to a local hospital with severe injuries.

Palermo was one of the leads on the Nickelodeon series "Just for Kicks" and had a memorable recurring guest role opposite future "Abbott Elementary" star Tyler James Williams on the early 2000s series "Everybody Hates Chris" (a sitcom created by and loosely based on the life of comedian Chris Rock). Less than a month before his death, Palermo appeared on a Season 3 episode of CBS' "Rules of Engagement" and had already shot his scenes for the 2010 Vincent Pastore drama "Pizza with Bullets." "To see it end so tragically just breaks your heart," said Palermo's father to a Rochester newspaper in a since-deleted article (via MTV News). "I'm just in awe. He still had so much to do; a ball of fire with a life to live."

Chance Perdomo

An American-British actor who broke out through the Netflix young adult horror series "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina," Chance Perdomo lost his life in a motorcycle accident on March 30, 2024 at age 27. His work on "Sabrina" led to more high-profile appearances, including his final role — Andre Anderson, a series regular character on Prime Video's hit "The Boys" spin-off, "Gen V." 

Perdomo's family and friends were surely stunned and heartbroken to hear of his death, as were those who worked with him on "Gen V." Amazon MGM Studios/Sony Pictures Television and the show's producers shared separate statements on X (formerly Twitter), with the latter writing, "For those of us who knew him and worked with him, Chance was always charming and smiling, an enthusiastic force of nature, an incredibly talented performer, and more than anything else, just a very kind, lovely person. Even writing about him in the past tense doesn't make sense. We are so sorry for Chance's family, and we are grieving the loss of our friend and colleague."

At the time of his death, production had been underway on the highly anticipated second season of "Gen V." After losing Perdomo — a key figure in the series — a week out from the first Season 2 table read, writers and producers made the decision to delay further production indefinitely in order to give everyone involved adequate time to grieve appropriately before figuring out how to carry the series forward.

Thuy Trang

Some "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" fans may still be reeling from the unexpected death of former Green Ranger actor Jason David Frank, who died by suicide during the production of his upcoming film "Legend of the White Dragon." However, it wasn't the first time a sudden tragedy had struck the community and the franchise as a whole.

On September 3, 2001, actor Thuy Trang — famous for playing Trini Kwan, the series' first full-tenure Yellow Ranger — was killed in a car accident en route to a wedding in Los Angeles. Her death had a profound impact on her castmates, especially Austin St. John, who played original Red Ranger Jason Lee Scott. In a 2018 interview, he described his relationship with Trang as being familial, and allegedly told the print outlet Tweed Daily News that it was difficult to watch another actor play her character in the 2017 "Power Rangers" film. (If true, it likely didn't help St. John or anyone else still raw over Trang's passing that the film's Twitter account shared Trini's character poster with the thoughtless caption "Driver's Ed not required").

"Power Rangers Time Force" Season 1, Episode 36 aired on October 20, 2001 with a dedication to Trang. A similar tribute to both Trang and Frank was included in the 2023 reunion special "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once and Always," in which one action sequence used archival audio of Trang to give Trini one last heroic moment in the "Power Rangers" canon.

Harrison Wagner

Fans of the classic soap opera "General Hospital" are surely aware of stars Jack and Kristina Wagner, who met and fell in love on the set before marrying in 1993 (the couple later split in 2001, finalizing their divorce in 2006). What they may not know is that one of their sons, Harrison Wagner, took an interest in the entertainment industry before passing away in the summer of 2022. He played a supporting role in the 2000 film "Protection," which starred future "Shōgun" actor Hiro Kanagawa, and can be seen in one episode of the Emmy-nominated Netflix miniseries "Beef."

Early in the morning of June 8, the young Wagner was found dead in a North Hollywood parking lot. Several months later, an autopsy carried out by the Los Angeles Medical Examiner confirmed that the cause of death was an accidental overdose of fentanyl and alprazolam (commonly sold under the brand name Xanax). Wagner's parents collaborated with the recovery community organization New Life House to start a scholarship fund in his name, which is used to support young men who need the services of the Miracle House Foundation. 

In a statement announcing the scholarship's founding, Harrison's parents wrote of their son (via "Today"), "We are heartbroken that he ultimately lost his battle with addiction and we hope that Harrison's memory will live on through this scholarship and will help other young men get help for their addiction that would not otherwise be able to afford it." 

Rico Yan

After landing a coveted leading role in a popular primetime sitcom — the ABS-CBN series "Whattamen" — Filipino actor Rico Yan seemed ready to take on the world. Even in spite of his split with his longtime girlfriend and fellow actor Claudine Barretto, Yan's career prospects were as promising as they had ever been. But with little warning on March 29, 2002, Yan was found dead in a hotel room after enjoying a night out with friends, just five days after he and Barretto went their separate ways.

Both fans of Yan and those who personally knew him were shocked by his passing, so much so that potentially harmful rumors quickly began to circulate that he had died from an overdose (specifically of the psychedelic MDMA). An official investigation was carried out by local authorities, which ultimately determined the cause of death to be cardiac arrest caused by acute pancreatitis. Doctors offered that this could have been caused by any number of factors, including simply eating a large amount of food before immediately going to sleep. Friends staying with Yan in the hotel noted he had been groaning in his sleep the night before his death, but thought nothing of it at the time.

Barretto marked the 22nd anniversary of Yan's passing on March 29, 2024 with a tribute on social media. In an Instagram reel, she described her former boyfriend as her "one great love," including the hashtag #AlwaysAndForever.

Anton Yelchin

The tragic death of "Star Trek" actor Anton Yelchin is likely deeply ingrained in the minds of fans of the classic sci-fi franchise. Yelchin starred in J.J. Abrams' three "Trek" reboot films from 2009 to 2016, playing a version of Walter Koenig's character, Russian navigator Pavel Chekov. The nature and circumstances of his death are particularly troubling to recall, as he was killed in a freak accident a month before the release of "Star Trek Beyond."

After midnight on June 19, 2016, friends of Yelchin visited his home out of concern for his safety (the actor had been scheduled to attend a rehearsal for another project that day, but failed to arrive or make contact with production staff). When his friends arrived at his house, they found Yelchin's body pinned to his front gate by his Jeep Grand Cherokee, which was later determined to have rolled backward down his driveway while Yelchin was attempting to open the gate. He died almost instantly.

Some attributed the unthinkable accident to the vehicle's reportedly confusing gear-shift mechanism, which was alleged to neither operate nor use the same display as a regular shift column. It was apparently common for drivers of this particular model to be unsure if their car was truly in park, which led Fiat Chrysler to recall over a million cars in April 2016. Yelchin's parents filed a wrongful death suit against the company and settled out of court in 2018.

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