Joel Fabiani was born September 28, 1936 in Watsonville, California, as the youngest of three children. His father was part Italian, part Austrian, while his mother was part Irish, part Native American. He didn't get the acting bug until he went to college, after a stint in the Army. After majoring in English at Santa Rosa Junior College, Fabiani went to San Francisco to study at the Actors Workshop for two years. During that time (1960-62), he was married to Katharine Ross, who was also at the Workshop.
Fabiani left California for New York. He married actress Audree Rae, whom he met while doing "One Way Pendulum", and found his first success in theater. His Broadway debut was in "The Affair" in 1962. His television debut was on the CBS religious program "Look Up and Live" a year later. He mixed work in plays, television shows, and commercials throughout the 1960s. Among his early credits were roles in the pilot episode of "Ironside" and on the cult classic "Dark Shadows." Fabiani's face was never seen on "Dark Shadows", leading one fan of the program to quip that a Daytime Emmy should have been awarded "to the back of Joel Fabiani's head for the role of Paul Stoddard."
Monty Berman, a producer with England's ITC Productions, came to the U.S. in 1968 to cast an American actor in a series he and Dennis Spooner were planning. During the late 1960s ITC gave the world a number of series, most of which lasted only one season but developed and maintained a loyal following. Berman saw Fabiani's work in commercials and his stint on NBC's soap opera "The Doctors" and approached him for the role. Fabiani took off for England for his first lead role in "Department S."
"Department S" starred Fabiani as Stewart Sullivan, an FBI agent heading an elite branch of Interpol assigned to the cases no other police agency could solve (such as why a man in a spacesuit collapsed and died on a London street, how an airplane landed at Heathrow with no passengers and no crew, or how significant government officials turned into skeletons). Fabiani co-starred with Rosemary Nicols and noted actor Peter Wyngarde as the three members of the Department. The series boasted the groundbreaking move of the Department taking its orders from and answering to a black man (Sir Curtis Seretse, played by the late Dennis Alaba Peters), something unthinkable during the American racial strife of the late 60s. The series was very popular in the UK and Europe and eventually shown world-wide in syndication.
Afterwards Fabiani returned to the U.S. and became one of the busiest character actors around. He appeared in a number of Quinn Martin productions (two episodes each of "Barnaby Jones", "Cannon", and "The Streets of San Francisco"), as well as other TV movies and series. In 1977 he made his big screen debut with a small role as Barney in "Looking for Mr. Goodbar". Fabiani divided his time between plays ("The Rules of The Game", "Ashes". "I'm Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road"), guest spots on TV shows ("Starsky & Hutch". "S.W.A.T.", "The Cosby Show", "Murder, She Wrote"), TV movies ("One of My Wives Is Missing", "The President's Mistress", "Attica") and more feature films ("Reuben, Reuben", "Tune in Tomorrow", "Dark Echoes"). Two of his best-known roles were as publisher Alex Ward for half a season on "Dallas", and King Galen on "Dynasty" (the massacre at the King's son's wedding provided the season-ending cliffhanger in 1985).
In the 1990s Fabiani again expanded his work, this time as narrator of recorded books. He also became the announcer on a series of Barbara Walters specials. He returned to daytime soap operas, playing Jared in "The City". At a time most actors would have considered retirement Fabiani was working on two soap operas simultaneously at one point ("As the World Turns" and "All My Children", in which he played the role of Barry Shire for over 10 years) while appearing in the movie "Snake Eyes". As the new century began Fabiani branched out yet again, in a rare comedic role in an episode of Comedy Central's popular series "Strangers With Candy". He also appeared in "Third Watch", "Law & Order" and "Law & Order: Criminal Intent". After his wife Audree's death in 2009, he eventually remarried, and lives in New York with his wife.