‘Family Affair’: ‘Mr. French’ Actor Sebastian Cabot Was Replaced on the Show for Nine Episodes Due to Illness

by Keeli Parkey

Just as the television show “Family Affair” was finding its footing during its first season, one actor had to unexpectedly leave the show for a time.

According to MeTV.com, that man was Sebastian Cabot, a British actor. He played Mr. Giles French on the show. What reportedly led Cabot to temporarily leave the show was an illness. His absence took place early on during the production of “Family Affair.”

The article reports that Cabot’s absence from the show began with episode 18 of the first season. So, how did the powers that be behind “Family Affair” respond to Cabot having to leave? They temporarily replaced the British actor Cabot with another British actor.

The actor who filled in for Cabot was John Williams. Williams was brought to “Family Affair” in order to play Niles, who was the brother of Mr. Giles French. Williams appeared on the show for nine episodes.

According to IMDb.com, the show explained Giles French’s absence from the show by saying that the Queen of England had called him back to his home country. Once Cabot recovered, he returned to work as Giles French and Niles French exited the show.

“Family Affair” ran on CBS from September 1966 until March 1971. The show focused on Bill Davis, a bachelor who was a wealthy engineer. The character’s life changes dramatically when his brother dies and he has to take on the responsibility of raising his brother’s children. Davis resides in New York City and was aided by his English butler, Mr. Giles French.

Bringing the children into the apartment and their lives poses many challenges for Davis and Niles. The children come from Terra Haute, Indiana, which is also the hometown of Bill Davis.

The children are Cissy, who is 15 years old, and twins named Jody and Buffy, who are 5 years old. Kathy Garver played Cissy on “Family Affair.” Jody was played by Johnny Whitaker. Buffy was played by Anissa Jones. Brian Keith played Bill Davis.

“Family Affair” had a run of five seasons and a total of 138 episodes.

Fans of the show might not know that “Family Affair” exists in a shared universe as the shows “My Three Sons” and “To Rome with Love.” “My Three Sons” debuted in 1960, while “To Rome with Love” came out in 1969. Also according to IMDB.com, this happened because all three of these television shows were made by a shared production company. In fact, the twins and Mr. French from “Family Affair” were in an episode of “To Rome with Love.” No character from “Family Affair” ever made an appearance on “My Three Sons,” though.

“Family Affair” also incorporated a real-life injury to one of its actors into a storyline. In one episode young Buffy breaks one of her legs. In the real world, Anissa Jones, who played Buffy had the same injury. That forced the show’s writing staff to incorporate the injury into the show.