In both his regular gig on NBC's Suddenly Susan and his costarring role in DreamWorks' Forces of Nature, David Strickland played sweet and off-centered but good-natured goofs. Which is why his death in a seedy Las Vegas motel was such a shock, to both the public and his friends in Hollywood. On March 22, the body of the 29-year-old actor was discovered hanging from a bedsheet tied to a ceiling beam in Vegas' Oasis Motel. Police ruled the death a suicide.
Ironically, Strickland's life seemed to be on an upswing: Susan was set to come back for its fourth season, and Forces had just opened at No. 1 at the box office. His social life appeared stable as well: He had recently begun dating former Beverly Hills 90210 star Tiffani-Amber Thiessen. Says a source close to the actor: ''He was smart and funny and had a good head on his shoulders. He seemed like he had a great perspective on things. But unfortunately he didn't.''
Indeed, there were clues to Strickland's unhappiness. On the day he died, the actor was due to appear in an L.A. court for a hearing about his Oct. 31 arrest for cocaine possession. Strickland reportedly was also depressed that his Forces role had been significantly trimmed. (DreamWorks has no comment.) And according to police, after checking in to the Oasis, the actor, a recovering alcoholic, purchased a six-pack of beer and drank it in his room. Why he was in Vegas is unclear, though there were reports that Strickland was in town with actor Andy Dick. (Dick was unreachable for comment.)
Production on Susan has been shut down through at least March 26; a spokesman for Warner Bros., the show's studio, says it's unclear when filming will resume. The season's final two episodes are being rescripted, though the producers are not yet sure how they'll deal with the actor's death. For now, neither do Strickland's costars. ''I am devastated by the loss of my best friend,'' said Susan star Brooke Shields in a statement. ''I pray to God David's pure heart is now at peace.''
With reporting by Tricia Johnson, Dan Snierson, and Karen Zekan