The Magnum PI Character You Likely Forgot The Legendary Orson Welles Played

It is easy to forget that Orson Welles was once a cast member on "Magnum P.I." Welles was one of film's great auteurs. At the apex of his career, he completely disregarded accepted filmmaking conventions and made movies that told some of the most epic stories of the era in Hollywood. It's not for nothing that hisĀ "Citizen Kane" is regarded as one of the best movies of all time.

In his final years, though, Welles struggled to finish projects. His last film, the docudrama "F for Fake," was released in 1973 (via IMDb). For the next 12 years he started and stopped several film and television projects, none of which were completed by the time of his death in 1985 (via Vulture).

But Welles continued to work. When it came to appearances in movies and TV shows, he was positively prolific, from his cameo as a studio mogul in "The Muppet Movie" to his time as a spokesperson for Paul Masson wine (posted on YouTube). In fact, Welles worked as an actor so much in his final years, and in such an eclectic array of projects, it's little wonder that his stint on "Magnum P.I." is so often overlooked.

Orson Welles played Robin Masters in Magnum PI

Think back to the original premise of "Magnum, P.I." Thomas Magnum (Tom Selleck, of course) is living on a sprawling, grand estate in Hawaii called Robin's Nest. He is there at the invitation of the estate's owner, the enigmatic novelist Robin Masters. Masters is never actually seen in any episode of "Magnum, P.I.," and his voice was heard only a handful of times over phone or intercom. That voice was, of course, provided by Orson Welles (via IMDb).

Welles did a lot of voice work in his final years. One posthumously released project that used his authoritative baritone to the fullest was "Transformers: The Movie," in which he voiced the villainous Unicron. He also narrated documentaries, and even provided narration for two songs by power metal act Manowar (via Open Culture). And then, of course, there are the infamous "frozen peas" commercials.

Welles' voice only appeared in five episodes of "Magnum, P.I." After Welles' death, the character "appeared" one last time via the voice of Red Crandall. Ultimately, writers decided that the character of Robin Masters had to be written out, which also pulled a tent pole out from under the whole premise of "Magnum, P.I." In the Season 7 episode "Paper War," Magnum accused Higgins (John Hillerman) of actually hiring Welles to play Masters. It was an odd kind of homage, but it was also fitting for an artist who by that time was very much larger than life.