How ‘A-Team’ Star Dirk Benedict Survived Cancer Before Landing ‘Faceman’ Role

by Emily Morgan

When “The A-Team” made its debut in 1983, little did the cast know it would soon become an instant hit. However, the cast went through some growing pains before it landed on its permanent picks. As you’ll recall, one of the original actors of the classic TV show, Tim Dunigan, was replaced by a more well-known actor, Dirk Benedict. Benedict would take over his role as Templeton “Faceman” Peck. 

Dirk Benedict garnered a name for himself when he played on two series from the ’70s: a short-lived drama called “Chopper One” and the sci-fi show “Battlestar Galactica.” However, joining the “A-Team” would be a significant milestone for Benedict. Although Mr. T and George Peppard had the lead roles, it was still a huge turning point for his acting career. 

However, his life looked much different years earlier when doctors diagnosed Benedict with cancer in 1975. His weight had dropped from 200 to 135, and he decided to go in for a checkup. As a result, doctors found the disease. 

Once examined, doctors discovered a large tumor and noticed his skin was turning yellow. But, while most people would be terrified, Benedict was at peace. “You’d say this guy was in a bad way,” Benedict told The Alternative Press in 1983. “I was so at peace. I was living from moment to moment.”

When he first got the diagnosis, he told doctors he didn’t want to know if the tumor was malignant. “I refused a biopsy, and doctors won’t say you have a malignancy without a biopsy,” Benedict said. “But when you’re 20 and have a tumor the size I had if it’s not malignant, it soon will be.”

Dirk Benedict makes dramatic lifestyle change

Despite the diagnosis, Benedict continued to act. He took on the role of Starbuck in “Battlestar Galactica” and even had a stint on Broadway. He also decided to make one significant change in his life, which he later attributed to curing his cancer.

Growing up in rural Montana, Benedict was used to eating food like grouse, elk, and deer. Even when he left the Montana wilderness, he continued eating like this. 

When he started noticing his health decline in 1971, he cut meat out of his diet. When he received his cancer diagnosis, he had also cut out dairy products. Although the change seemed extreme, it ultimately paid off for him. 

“It was in 1975 that I really got strict, he once said of his diet change. “I only ate grains, certain beans, and Japanese condiments.” He added, “I changed myself from one kind of human being to another. I became a different person, I went back to the body I had when I was 12 years old.”

After nearly ten years of clean eating, in 1983, Benedict went to the doctor’s office and was told the tumor had disappeared. Benedict beat cancer, and the 77-year-old continues to work today.