Welsh-born actor Roger Rees has died aged 71. The actor, who is best known for his roles in ‘The West Wing’ and ‘Cheers’, passed away on Friday after suffering a brief illness, the Hollywood Reporter confirmed. Rees had been appearing in Broadway musical ‘The Visit ‘ but was forced to withdraw in late May due to illness.

Roger ReesActor Roger Rees has died aged 71.

Born in Aberystwyth, Wales, Rees was raised in South London and studied to be a painter at the Camberwell College of Arts and Slade School of Fine Art. His acting career began in the 1960s when, after taking a job painting scenery at the Wimbledon Theatre, he was asked to fill in for a missing actor.

“I suddenly was an actor. I played the lead,” Rees recalled in 2013 interview with Playbill. “I don’t remember being nervous. I learned to be nervous later.” Rees' first big break came when he played Malcolm in Trevor Nunn’s acclaimed 1976 stage and 1978 television production of Macbeth.

He then went on to take the lead in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s The Life And Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, an 8½ hour-long adaptation of Charles Dickens’ novel which was performed in two parts, for which he won both a Tony and an Olivier award.

In the 80s he became familiar to TV viewers for his role in the popular sitcom 'Cheers', as Robin Colcord the millionaire love interest for Kirstie Alley’s character Rebecca Howe. In 1993 he took the role of the Sheriff of Rottingham in Mel Brooks’ slapstick comedy, Robin Hood: Men in Tights.

From 2000 to 2005 Rees played the British ambassador Lord John Marbury in US political drama ‘The West Wing’. Rees is survived by his husband, the playwright Rick Elice, whom he collaborated with numbers times including on the comedic thriller Double Double and Peter and the Starcatcher.