The Late Treat Williams Wasn't Shy About How Much He Loved His Final Project

It's always sad when a popular performer passes away, but Treat Williams' death was especially heartbreaking for his legion of fans. The actor was killed near his Vermont home on June 12, 2023; as he was riding his motorcycle, an oncoming driver abruptly turned in front of him with no chance for Williams to swerve away. It was an untimely end for a man whose career spanned five decades of film and TV. His roles ranged from George Berger in "Hair" (yes, he sang, danced, and opposed the Establishment) to Dr. Andy Brown in "Everwood" and Stanley Kowalski in a TV production of "A Streetcar Named Desire." He even had a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment as an Echo Base Trooper in "The Empire Strikes Back."

Williams' swan song, appropriately enough, was an appearance on Season 2 of "Feud: Capote vs. the Swans," scheduled to air on FX beginning January 31. The series is a fictionalized account of author Truman Capote's doomed friendship with some of New York's most élite socialites. Williams plays William Paley, the broadcasting pioneer who helped grow CBS into a television powerhouse. Paley's second wife, Barbara "Babe" Paley, was a "swan" who was particularly close to Capote; she's played here by Naomi Watts.

Williams' final role wasn't an above-the-credits lead, and it may not be the one fans remember most fondly. But that didn't matter to him, as the show's creator recently revealed.

Treat Williams loved working with the swans

Ahead of the premiere of "Feud: Capote vs. the Swans," the cast and executive producer Ryan Murphy met for a screening at New York's Museum of Modern Art. There were also three other honored guests: Treat Williams' wife, Pam, and their adult son and daughter, Gill and Ellie. Murphy led a round of applause in Williams' memory, and shared a poignant memory. Months earlier, at the series' wrap party, Williams told the producer (via People), "I loved every minute."

Pam Williams backs this up. In a separate interview with People, she said, "He was truly in his element working with the best of the best in every department on this project and couldn't have been happier." Pam also recalled how the "Feud" crew offered their support after her husband's tragic death. It's a loss still fresh in the family's hearts: "I think because of the suddenness of it, there was absolutely no preparation, so I'm still grappling with the fact that it happened and that he's really gone," Pam Williams told the outlet. "It just feels like such a hole in our family and the fabric of the world. The whole atmosphere feels different."

Gill added that it helps to be able to watch his father's performances: "That's something you're very lucky to have if your parent is an artist, especially when they're as prolific as him, because you get to, in many ways, still be with them through that."

Treat Williams' castmates still mourn his loss

Treat Williams may be best remembered for his many Hallmark movies, but he may have been proudest of "Feud: Capote vs. the Swans." His castmates feel lucky to have had worked with him on his final project. Russell Tovey, who plays banker John O'Shea on the series, told TV Insider, "[I]t's so horrific that he's not here. It's such an absolute tragedy. And what he does with the character is so beautiful." Naomi Watts, who plays Williams' TV wife Babe Paley, shared her thoughts with Entertainment Tonight. "It's truly heartbreaking, because he had such gratitude for this role at this point in his life. ...He couldn't believe it. Every day he was like, 'Oh my god, these words!'" She added, "It's really horrible that he won't get to see this and see us all celebrate his work."

Diane Lane and Chloë Sevigny, who play "swans" Slim Keith and C.Z. Guest, eulogized Williams on "Good Morning America"  just after the MoMA screening. "Such a loss," said Lane, visibly emotional. "He was such a joyous man, and his joy will linger with us forever."

The "Feud" team at FX and the 20th Television studio previously released a statement following Williams' death (per Variety): "All who were fortunate enough to work with Treat over his four decade career would agree that his incredible talent was matched only by his utter kindness. He was a friend and inspiration to many, and he will be deeply missed by his colleagues."