by RON PAUL KLEIN
Hill Street Blues is arguable the grandfather of the realistic documentary-style police procedural series genre. A gritty inter-city police drama in an undisclosed major American urban center during the 1980s, located somewhere (presumably) in the Northeast region of the country. The city in question is never identified – the show was intended to depict a macrocosmic ‘generic’ inner city urban sprawl experiencing recent economic plight and decay – not to focus on a single particular metropolis. It did; however, experience a wide range of weather conditions – from sweltering heat in the summer months to a frigid snow-covered landscape in winter.
Allen Sepinwall, a television reviewer wrote in 2014 upon the release of its complete DVD collection: “… it is on the short list of the most influential TV shows ever made. Whether through shared actors, writers, directors, or through stylistic or thematic complexity, its DNA can be found in nearly every great drama produced in the 30-plus years since it débuted.”
The show applied the then-innovative documentary-style filming, with many scenes shot with a hand-held camera, especially when they are patrolling the streets cruising in their police cars. Also, the audience often overheard snippets of on-going conversations, away from the on-camera scenes, conducted in the periphery by unseen actors, providing a feel of a documentary account.
It was landmark television for its era, and without the ground broken during this series, it is doubtful if its worthy successors (primarily from premier cable channels) – mostly notably HBO’s The Wire (2002 – 2008) would ever have been possible.
During its illustrious seven-year run it was nominated for 96 Emmy Awards, winning 24 of them. But in a way it is a miracle that the series survived past its first season. Although being instantly universally critically acclaimed, and gaining massive award recognition, its mass appeal from the audience was not so quick. In its premiere season it was nominated for a total of 21 Emmy Awards, winning eight of them, both records at the time.
However, in the vital Nielson Rating they placed a lowly 87 out of the 96 shows ranked that season by the revered rating agency. From a Yahoo! News interview, according to James B. Sikking who played the trigger-happy Vietnam War vet and leader of the precinct’s SWAT Team, Lt. Howard Hunter: “We were the lowest ranking drama in the history of television ever to get a second season.” Much of the credit to the show’s destiny, and non-cancellation should by credited to Brandon Tartikoff, then-32 year old president of NBC’s Entertainment Division, for his deep faith in this project, and his conviction that its ratings would eventually rebound. It was originally picked-up for ten more episodes, but because of improved ratings the order was extended to an 18-episode second season. By the conclusion of the second season the show was no longer in jeopardy from premature cancellation.
This series often focused on the occasional conflicts encountered in trying to balance the officer’s work and private lives. It concentrated extensively on ethical dilemmas confronted – in the iffy gray areas between right and wrong. Its characters were often depicted as flawed, displaying various human frailties and foibles. It also exposed and laid bare the social issues tackled, on a daily basis, by the denizens of the Hill Street Precinct’s district. To borrow an oft-repeated phrase of the series’ first desk sergeant, Sgt. Phil Esterhaus (Michael Conrad), many of these issues were “in the extremist.”
It had a large and talented ensemble cast. For example, in its second year of production, Michael Conrad won his second consecutive Emmy supporting actor award, with all his fellow nominees being cast members, the first and only time that has happened. Hill Street Blues won the Emmy Award for best drama series in its first four years in existence. It was nominated its next two years for the best drama series, but never won. Its seventh and last year was the only time it was not nominated.
This pioneering program had a creative style that broke the long-established formulaic mold from previous police procedural drama series. Towards the end of the series run, some critics commented that that it had lost some of its innovative touch, setting too comfortably into the same formula it had created.
During its seventh season, the lead actor Daniel J. Travanti, who played the recovering alcoholic precinct captain Frank Furillo, gave notice that it would be his last. Plans to enter into an eight season were quickly dashed, knowing that the series could not viably continue without him.
The show’s co-creators, Steven Bochco and Michael Kozoll went to great lengths to keep the city’s identity unknown. They usually held their cards close to the vest in this regard; however, did slip, somewhat, on two occasions during its seven-year run between 1981 and 1987.
In the third episode of Season 1, ‘Politics as Usual’, Officer Andy Renko (Charles Haid) while being ribbed by his partner Officer Bobby Hill (Michael Warren), admonishes him by stating: “Just drop that ‘cowboy’ stuff. I was born in New Jersey, and never been west of Chicago in my life.”
In the second episode of Season 3, ‘Domestic Beef’, the local television station used the call letters WREQ TV channel 6. The letter ‘W’ is the designation used by the national regulatory agency, the Federal Communications Commission, for stations operating east of the Mississippi. In the other 144 episodes they were better at concealing the identity of the city which the Hill Street Station is located in. (In reality the show was filmed in Los Angeles both in the studio and on location; numerous exterior scenes in the opening credit segment were shot elsewhere, as well as the Maxwell Street Station in Chicago being the precinct house shot for the closing credits. The producers gave no indication that Chicago was intended to be the city depicted.)
Hill Street Blues, in addition to having had a large ensemble cast, with many cast members having their best and most notable roles of their entire careers, it has been used as a launching pad to help develop and advance an acting career. What follows is a list of thirty-two current Hollywood stars – either in television, film or both – that were featured on Hill Street Blues when they had minimal (or in some cases no) on-screen credits to their name. They have all gone on to greater fame – many subsequently being nominated for, and some winning multiple prestigious acting awards, including Emmys, Golden Globes and BAFTAs.
So now in (essentially) sequential order of appearance on the show, beginning with the recurring guest appearance list, the following ‘Who’s Who’ of actors are:
Jeffery Tambor was featured in 22 episodes as a defense attorney who was eventually promoted to a judge, Judge Alan Wachtel, of the circuit court. He was frequently, (along with Lt. Hunter) one of the characters, used as a device for comic relief, during the series’ complete seven-year run. In later seasons, while seating on the bench, he comes out of the closet as a cross-dresser.
Prior to this recurring guest appearances, Tambor most significant role was as a series regular of The Ropers, in 1979 – 1980, an American sitcom spinoff of Three’s Company. In 28 episodes during the two seasons Tambor played the character of Jeffery P. Brookes, an arrogant real estate agent, and next-door neighbor of the Ropers.
It was not until five years after the end of Hill Street Blues before he became another notable television character, this time as Hank Kingsley, the Ed McMahon-inspired self-absorbed side-kick to fictional late-night talk show host, Larry Sanders, played by Garry Shandling on The Larry Sanders Show, a show-within-a-show format.
Hank, although always playing second banana to neurotic Larry, he has his fingers stuck in many pies, freely lending his name to numerous product endorsements strictly for monetary gain, all which tend to be of defective quality, or otherwise questionable ethics. He is also the self-publisher of his own fan club’s newsletter and is famous for the all-too-frequently repeated catchphrase: ‘Hey now!’ which he tries to copyright in one episode. He appeared in all 89 episodes from 1992 to 1998. For his role as Hank, Tabor received four Emmy Award nominations, but never won.
In the 2000s Tambor portrayed twin brothers, mostly as bankrupted (financially and ethically) land developer, and patriarch of his dysfunctional family George Bluth, Sr., but sometimes as the languid freeloading Oscar in Arrested Development. The avant-garde sitcom aired for three seasons on Fox from November 2003 to February 2006. Although, always critically acclaimed, its audience numbers for its first 53 episodes were persistently low, so the show was cancelled. During that time Tambor was nominated twice for an Emmy Awards for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for his roles as the twin brothers.
In 2013, the show was reprised by the streaming video service, Netflix. All of the fourth season’s 15 episodes were released on 26 May 2013. Tambor has played in 66 of the series’ total of 68 episodes.
IGN, formerly named Imagine Games Network, in 2011 dubbed it the “funniest show of all time.”
Tambor is currently performing in the American comedy-drama series, Transparent which has just completed its first season (10 episodes). He plays Maura Pfefferman (né Morton L. Pfefferman); a retired political science professor who has recently revealed to his family that he is transgender. Tambor, for this role, won a 2015 Golden Globe.
With such an impressive résumé, it may be difficult to remember that Tambor in the early stages of his career appeared in an Avis rental car commercial parodying the ‘Go, O. J., go!’ commercial O. J. Simpson did for rival Hertz. Unlike the superman-like Simpson who flew through the airport, Tambor’s character is seen running, while huffing and puffing, straining through the airport.
David Caruso portrayed Shamrock leader Tommy Mann, the Irish street gang within the Hill Street Precinct’s patrol area, in eight episodes during the first three years of production, from 1981 until 1983. Prior to this role Caruso only appeared in two minor roles in film and never on television.
Caruso became primarily a television star by being featured as Detective Kelly in Bochco’s other police procedural drama, NYPD Blue. This show aired for 12 seasons from 1993 until 2005, but Caruso left the show after only 26 episodes, failing to get the raise he was looking for in salary re-negotiations. He quit after only the fourth episode of Season 2. In his first season he won the Golden Globe for Best Lead Actor – Drama and was nominated for an Emmy Award.
His longest-running television character was portraying Lieutenant Horatio Caine, the chief of the crime lab, in 232 episodes of CSI: Miami from September 2002 until April 2012.
Andy García appeared twice on Hill Street Blues, in 1981 and 1984, as two separate characters. His first appearance is in the pilot episode, ‘Hill Street Station’, in the series very first scene after the pre-opening credit segment. For a less than 30 second on-camera scene with no audible lines, using the alias Andy Arthur he is credited as the ‘Street Kid’ who is being booked at the station – but prior to this role García is credited with only two other television bit-parts, and was yet to be featured in films.
His second appearance of the series is in the twentieth episode of Season 4, ‘Hair Apparent’ in 1984, in which García portrays Ernesto, a member of Los Diablos, the Hispanic street gang within the Hill Street Precinct, in a beefier role.
García has since gone on to be nominated for an Academy Award for his supporting role as mobster Vincent Mancini, the illegitimate son of Sonny Corleone in the classic crime film, The Godfather Part III. In 2000, García was nominated for a Golden Globe and an Emmy for playing the lead role in HBO’s bio-pic, For Love or Country: The Arturo Sandoval Story, the Cuban world-class trumpet player who defected to the US. He was also nominated for another Emmy, for best made-for-TV movie having been co-producer.
Highlights for García’s filmography include: The Untouchables (1987), Stand and Deliver (1988), Black Rain (1989), Hero (1992), When A Man Loves A Woman (1994), Ocean Eleven (2001), Ocean Twelve (2004), and Ocean Thirteen (2007).
Dan Hedaya was the show’s first recurring guest stars, in Episodes 3 to 5 in Season 1 (1981). In this early three-episode arc, he portrayed Detective Ralph Macafee, a corrupt cop and bigamist, having a difficult time making ends meet supporting two families. He reprised this role in Episode 13, where he turns state witness against four notorious crime syndicate families, and other dirty cops, at various law enforcement agencies, in exchange for immunity from prosecution of his criminal offenses.
In an episode in Season 5, Hedaya plays a street bum, the ringleader of a group of homeless men who beat up Detective Mick Belker (Bruce Weitz) while he is on an undercover assignment, and handcuff him to a water pipe in a basement of an condemned abandoned building until Officers Bates (Betty Thomas) and Coffey (Ed Marinaro) find him while on patrol.
Before Hedaya appeared in Hill Street Blues, he only had two bit-parts in theatrical film releases to his credit.
Hedya, in his most notable role played boorish reprobate womanizer Nick Tortelli, Carla the sharp-tongued waitress’ often straying ex-husband who has the uncanny ability to cast his almost-hypnotic spell on Carla in the American long-running comedy classic, Cheers. He appeared from 1982 to 1992 – in all but its last year, and again in its short-lived 1997 spinoff, The Tortellis.
He has been often tight-casted into playing the sleazy characters, and with his striking similarity to the appearance of Richard Nixon, it should come as no surprise that he was selected for that role in the 1999 movie, Dick.
His other more memorable roles include playing Julian Marty, the brutally murdered Texas bar proprietor, who suspected that his wife was having an affair with one of his bartenders in the Coen Brothers’ 1984 neo-noir crime film début, Blood Simple; Anthony Castelo, an Italian Mafioso boss in the 1986 comedy film, Wise Guys; and in the 2006 season, Jack Monk, the estranged father to neurotic super-sleuth, Adrian Monk, in the television whodunit detective series, Monk.
He also played the devil, who was masquerading as Nick an unsavory character during a high-stakes poker game, who when he won always had three sixes in his hand, in the first revival series of The New Twilight Zone in 1985.
Other more notable film credits comprise: Clueless (1995), The Usual Suspects (1995), The Hurricane (1999), and Mulholland Drive (2001).
Mimi Rogers very first screen appearance was on Hill Street Blues, when she played in two 2-hour episodes as Sandra Pauley, the love interest of Officer Andy Renko, in Season # 1, receiving four end of story credits.
A couple years after her performances on the show, she was to become a regular cast member in two ill-fated American television series. In 1983 – 1984, Rogers played the lion tamer Ellen Slade in the action-comedy series, The Rousters, a group of contemporary bounty hunters who were descendants of Wyatt Earp, the celebrated sheriff of the ‘Gunfight of the OK Corral’ fame. This show was cancelled due to dismal ratings after only six of its 13 episodes were aired.
Next, in 1984, Rogers was to become a regular on Paper Dolls, a primetime soap opera exploring the New York high-fashion industry. She played the supermodel Blair Fenton-Harper, for one 14-episode season. Despite critical acclaim from some reviews, and a public appeal, from some entertainment reviewers, to give the show another chance it too was cancelled, this time after completing its first full season.
Rogers was to become a regular cast member of two 2000s American sitcoms. For one season she played Hillary on The Geena Davis Show in 2000 – 2001. In 2006 – 2007, she played Meryl on The Loop for 17 episodes spread over two seasons.
Rogers has also co-starred in Ron Howard’s 1986 comedy film, Gung Ho, a story of a Japanese automobile corporation takeover of an American car plant.
At least one gushing film critic, and professor of film, Robin Wood, was wowed by her portrayal of Sharon, a young woman who converted from the promiscuous lifestyle to a born-again Christian who believes that the rapture is imminent, in the 1991 religious drama, The Rapture. According to Wood, she: “… gave one of the greatest performances in the history of the Hollywood cinema.”
In addition, Rogers received extremely positive reviews for her lead role as Regina, a death row inmate in the 1994 prison drama, Reflections on a Crime.
Danny Glover is best known for playing LAPD homicide Sergeant Roger Murtaugh, opposite to Mel Gibson’s character (LAPD narcotics Sergeant Martin Riggs) in the buddy-cop action tetralogy series Lethal Weapon (1987), Lethal Weapon II (1989), Lethal Weapon III (1992) and Lethal Weapon IV (1998).
Glover has been nominated four times for an Emmy acting award, including for the title role in Mandela in 1987, for Joshua Deets in Lonesome Dove in 1989, for Phillip Marlowe in Fallen Angel in 1995, and for Will Walker in Freedom Song in 2000.
Glover has also appeared in Places in the Heart (1984), The Color Purple (1985), To Sleep With Anger (1990), The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), and 2012 (2009) among others.
But in 1982, he played the character, Jesse John Hudson in four consecutive episodes on Hill Street Blues, a felon who was recently released from seven years of incarceration, who is now politically savvy, sets up an intricate syndicate crime network while under the guise of being a community organizer
C. C. H. Pounder
On this list of then-future stars, C. C. H. Pounder has the distinction of having played three separate characters on Hill Street Blues. She appeared in one episode each in Season 2, 3 and 7.
During Season 2, in 1981 – 1982 she performed in the episode entitled, ‘The Second Oldest Profession’, in which she appeared in one scene as Jasmine, a street walker busted in a police sweep.
During Season 3, in 1982 – 1983, although not receiving a top end-of-story credit, she appeared in the episode, ‘Little Boil Blue’ in three scenes, as Wilna Tucker, the wife of an eventual hostage-taker. Her first scene is a non-violent domestic dispute. In the second scene she, has been summons to a local bar by demand of her husband in an on-going hostage-taking incident. In her final scene, after being exchanged with Officer Joe Coffey (Ed Marinaro) for the original eight hostages, the tense, climactic events unfold.
In her final appearance in Season 7, Pounder portrayed Mrs. Jones, a bereaved mother of a killed 10-year old boy from a drug overdose in the episode ‘Amazing Grace’. It was her first beginning of the story credit, despite receiving less screen time than the previous role she played on the series.
She is now better known for her television work, subsequently having been nominated for four Emmy Awards.
Hot on the heels of her last time featured on Hill Street Blues, Pounder played for 13 episodes Dawn Murphy, an ill-tempered women convicted of murdering her abusive husband, in Fox’s 1987 – 1988 sitcom, Women in Prison. The show was not renewed the following year.
It was not until 1994 that Pounder returned as a regular, this time in the medical drama, Birdland where she played Nurse Lucy in its seven-episode run. It also was not renewed for a second season.
Pounder finally hit paydirt when she earned her first Emmy Award nomination in 1994 for her guest appearance on the X-Files in the Season 2 episode, ‘Duane Berry’ for playing FBI Agent Lucy Kazdin.
She then portrayed Dr. Angela Hicks in the medical drama, ER for 24 episodes as a series regular from 1994 to 1997, which she was nominated for another Emmy in 1996 – 1997, this time in the best supporting actress category.
She was again a series regular, this time in the crime drama, The Shield from 2002 to 2008, where she played Captain Claudette Wyms, for 89 episodes, including a 15-minute mini-episode produced between Season 5 and Season 6. She was nominated for an Emmy for best supporting actress in this role for the 2004 – 2005 season.
During this time, Pounder provided the voice for Amanda Walker for nine episodes in the American animated television series, Justice League Unlimited between 2004 and 2006.
In 2009, Pounder was nominated once again for an Emmy Award this time for her guest appearance as Mrs. Curtin, who has been searching for her son who has been missing for ten years in the comedy-drama series, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency in the episode, ‘The Boy with an African Heart’.
From 2009 to 2014, she appeared in 22 episodes of the science fiction series, Warehouse 13 as Mrs. Irene Frederic, the director of the secretive Warehouse program which stockpiles supernatural artifacts.
Also in 2009, Pounder played the lead role, Adele Trainor, the mother of two sons in Fox’s short-lived sitcom, Brothers. It ran for one 13-episode season before it was cancelled by the network.
In 2013 – 2014, Pounder played Tyne Patterson, a district attorney in 14 episodes in Season 6 and 7 of Sons of Anarchy, a crime series that highlights the activities of an outlaw motorcycle gang, as well as lending her voice in five episodes as Marion Grange in the computer-animated program, Beware the Batman.
Pounder is currently a series regular on NCIS: New Orleans who plays Dr. Loretta Wade, the medical examiner. She had previously played the same role in NCIS for two episodes.
Although, Pounder’s credits are more extensive for television, she has appeared in a number of movies, usually in minor roles, over the last 30-plus years. A selective filmography includes: All That Jazz (1979), Prizzi’s Honor (1985), Bagdad Café (1987), Postcards from the Edge (1990), The Importance of Being Earnest (1992), RoboCop 3 (1993), Face/Off (1997), Things Behind the Sun (2001), Boycott (2001), Redemption: The Stan Tookie Williams Story (2004), Orphan (2009), and Avatar (2009).
Edward James Olmos
Edward James Olmos also made appearances as two different characters on Hill Street Blues. Olmos first appeared in two episodes as Joe Bustamonte, apartment building community organizer and law student in 1982 in Season 2. By the next time he appeared again in 1984 in Season 4, apparently he had graduated from law school, as he portrayed Judge Cruz in Parting is Such Sweep Sorrow.
Soon after his last guest appearance on Hill Street Blues, he was to become an award-winning actor for his role as taciturn, and reclusive at home, commander of the vice squad, Lieutenant Marin ‘Marty’ Castillo in the 1980s hip (at the time) crime drama, Miami Vice in 106 of the series 111 episodes. He was a regular cast member in 1984 until 1990. During this time, he won an Emmy for best supporting actor in a drama series in 1985, and was again nominated the following year. He also won a Golden Globe for best supporting actor in a drama series in 1986, and received another nomination in 1989 for this character.
Although, known primarily for his television roles, he is the first and only Hispanic-American to be nominated for an Academy Award in the lead actor category for his portrayal of real-life high school calculus teacher Jaime Escalante in the 1988 drama film, Stand and Deliver. He was also nominated for a Golden Globe for this role. The Mail on Sunday, a notable British newspaper heralded his central role as a “tour de force performance.”
In 1994, Olmos won another Golden Globe in the HBO’s historical drama, The Burning Season, for his portrayal of Wilson Pinheiro, president of a Brazilian state’s union representing rural workers and colleague of Chico Mendes, environmental activist slayed in 1988 by ranchers opposed to his attempts to protect the rainforest.
His television work, also, includes playing Associate Justice Roberto Mendoza in two episodes of The West Wing during the 1999 – 2000 season. Between 2002 and 2004, in 17 episodes he plays Jesse Gonzalez, a Korea War veteran and current barber with a grouchy temperament and five adult children in American Family. For most of the remaining decade he was a regular cast member of Battlestar Galactica from 2003 to 2009. Olmos played William Adama, also known as Husker, in 73 episodes.
In 2011 for Season 6, he joined the cast of Dexter, a television crime drama, to play Professor Geller, a professor of religious studies. Later this year, he is slated to be in the recurring role of Robert Gonzales, in the television drama, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which is about a unit assembled to investigate superhuman manifestations.
Olmos movie roles, in both made-for-TV and theatrical releases, include: Bladerunner (1982), Showtime’s television re-make of Reginald Rose’s 1957 jury film classic, 12 Angry Men (1997), Hollywood Confidential (1997), In the Time of the Butterflies (2001), and The Green Hornet (2011).
John Ratzenberger, is best known for his recurring role as 40-something US postman Cliff Clavin, who still lives with his mother, and the regular bar patron know-it-all in NBC’s long-running comedy classic, Cheers (1982 – 1993). But in Episode # 15, ‘Some Like it Hot-Wired’ in Season 2 of Hill Street Blues, Ratzenberger plays ‘phony cop # 1’. It aired a mere six months before he received his most identifiable role. As Clavin, Ratzenberger is featured in 273 episodes, pontificating with verbosity in the tavern about useless trivia with a sheer shallowness of his true understanding about what he is talking about. For this role he was nominated for two Emmy Awards.
Ratzenberger has made guest appearances as Cliff in two other American sitcoms, Wings and the Cheers’ spinoff, Frasier.
From 2004 until 2008, Ratzenberger had been the host of his own documentary series, Made in America for 97 episodes on the Travel Channel, where he toured the country and visited a variety of factories in diverse industries – from Harley Davidson motorcycles to the Louisville Slugger baseball bat, and the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame to the Jack Daniel’s whiskey distillery.
Ratzenberger has also been prolific as a voice actor having worked on Pixar’s first 14 films – all of the entire catalogue to date.
Ally Sheedy had appeared in three episodes of Hill Street Blues in 1983, before she made her feature film debut in 1983, opposite Sean Penn in Bad Boys. As one of the so-called ‘Brat Pack’ she went on the star in the Breakfast Club (1985), and St. Elmo’s Fire (1985).
Sheedy’s 1980s films – her most prolific decade – also includes: War Games (1983), Oxford Blues (1984), Short Circuit (1986), and Maid to Order (1987).
Sheedy; however, has gained her most critical acclaim in some of her movies in the 1990s, including: Fear (1990), Man’s Best Friend (1993), and High Art (1998).
Michael Lerner had received screen credits since 1970. So, he was not exactly a novice when he landed the role of Rollie Simone, a ruthless loan shark for three episodes on Hill Street Blues in 1983. He also played Meyer Rabinowitz, a Hasidic jewelry merchant who tries to defraud his brother, in Episode 7 of Season 6, ‘An Oy For an Oy’.
Lerner’s greatest success; however, was achieved later in his career. Lerner received an Academy Award nomination in the category of supporting actor for his role as Jack Lipnick in the Coen Brothers’, Barton Fink (1991).
He has also appeared in Radioland Murders (1994), A Serious Man (2009), Atlas Shrugged (2011), and X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014).
Learner, co-starred in the fleeting CBS legal drama during its 11 episodes in 1995, Courthouse as Judge Myron Winkleman, a neurotic Family Court judge.
Alfre Woodard played the role of Doris Robinson in a three-episode story arc in 1983 which was towards the beginning of her career. At that time, she had already appeared in the TV miniseries, The Sophisticated Gents in 1981, and was in a regular comedy-detective series playing Marcia Fulbright in 1982 – 1983 in 12 episodes of Tucker’s Witch; in addition, to having a few movie credits to her name.
Woodard has since amassed an impressive filmography, particularly in television series, having become one of the most accomplished actresses of her generation. A much abbreviated listing, includes: playing Rozalyn Dupree in Sara in 1985 for 13 episodes; playing Dr. Roxanne Turner in St. Elsewhere for 13 episodes in 1985 – 1986 & 1988; portraying Betty Applewhite in Desperate Housewives for 26 episodes in 2005 – 2006; performing as Mavis Heller in My Own Worst Enemy for nine episodes in 2008; playing Dr. Sophie Jordon in Three Rivers for 12 episodes in 2009 – 2010; portraying Lt. Tayan Rice in Memphis Beat’ for 20 episodes in 2010 – 2011; she has been a concurrent regular cast member since 2014 of both The Last Ship where she plays Amy Granderson and State of Affair where she portrays US President Constance Reyton.
She has also portrayed Winnie Mandela in HBO’s 1987 biographical drama, Mandela and the title role, Eunice Evers in Miss Evers’ Boys, another historical HBO film based on the Tuskegee experiments, the US Federal Government secret and unethical medical experiments conducted on impoverished African-Americans starting in the early 1930s and only stopping in the early 1970.
Woodard’s theatrical films include: Passion Fish (1992), The Piano Lesson (1995), How to Make an American Quilt (1995), Star Trek: First Contact (1996), Primal Fear (1996), Down in the Delta (1998), Love & Basketball (2000), K-PAX (2001), Radio (2003), American Violet (2008), A Family That Preys (2008), and 12 Years a Slave (2013), among others.
Woodard would go on in her career to be nominated a staggering 18 times for an Emmy Award, winning four times. Her first Emmy was for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for her performance in Hill Street Blues. Of the series’ total of 39 Emmy nominations for acting, and of its eight wins, Woodard’s is the only one from a guest appearance, and not from the large ensemble cast.
Soon after this win, she received her only Academy Award nomination for her portrayal of Geechee, a domestic helper in 1984 film, Cross Creek.
She has been nominated for three Golden Globes in 1993, 1998, and 2001 – winning in 1998 for Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film for her role as Eunice Evers in Miss Evers’ Boys.
Woodard has been nominated 22 times for a NAACP Image Award, winning eight awards; beginning in 1989 including the first three times she was nominated.
Also, the Black Reel Award has nominated her six times in multiple acting categories, including winning once in 2013 for Best Supporting Actress as Ouiser, the curmudgeon neighbor in Steel Magnolias, the all African-American made-for-television re-make of the 1989 film. Her performance was met with universal critical acclaim among the professional film critics’ fraternity.
And as if her trophy case is not full enough, she has been nominated seven times for a Screen Actors Guild Award (SAG), winning thrice. Woodard has also been nominated on numerous occasions to other prestigious film critics and miscellaneous acting awards.
She has also been nominated for a Grammy Award – America’s recording industry’s most prestigious honor.
Linda Hamilton portrayed Sandy Valpariso, Officer Joe Coffey’s (Ed Marinaro) girlfriend, who gets raped in a four-episode story arc on Hill Street Blues in 1984. Hamilton was to become a triple-nominee in a lead actress category for the Golden Globes beginning in the late 1980s. In 1987 – 1990, she played Catherine Chandler, a shrewd Assistant District Attorney in New York, the lead role for 46 episodes in the drama, Beauty and the Beast, for which she was nominated for two Golden Globe Awards and an Emmy. Hamilton was nominated a third time for a Golden Globe for her portrayal of a mother inflicted with AIDS who must make plans for the care of her only son, in the 1995 made-for-TV film, A Mother’s Prayer.
Prior to Hamilton’s Hill Street Blues performances she was a regular cast member of two ill-fated late night soap operas in The Secret of Midland Heights in 1980- 1981, and King’s Crossing in 1982, both depicting the secret love triangles and other scandalous behavior in their respective small town communities.
Post- Hill Street, Hamilton also starred in the Canadian television drama series, The Line for 11 episodes in 2008 – 2009 as Carol, a con woman who steals money from a biker and loan shark.
In 2010 – 2011, she was featured in 12 episodes as May Elizabeth Bartowski, the estranged mother of Chuck and Ellie in Chuck, an American comedy-drama series.
In 2014, she appeared in a recurring role for three episodes in the science fiction show, Defiance as Pilar McCawley.
Hamilton has also appeared in the theatrical films: Children of the Corn (1984), The Terminator (1984), and Dante’s Peak (1997).
Jane Kaczmarek has worked primarily in television during her career, and toward the beginning of it she portrayed Officer Clara Pilsky, an officer transferred from South Ferry Precinct in six-episode story arc of Hill Street Blues in Season 4.
Before her appearance on The Hill, Kaczmarek was featured in other 1980s TV staple with three guest appearances on medical drama, St. Elsewhere, and an episode each on Remington Steele, and Scarecrow and Mrs. King, all in 1983. Her most important acting job to date was portraying Connie Lehman for eight episodes on The Paper Chase in 1983 – 1984, which was based on the 1970 novel and 1973 film.
After Hill Street Blues, Kaczmarek was casted in the lead role of the 1985 drama-comedy, Hometown, a television adaptation of the 1983 box-office smash, The Big Chill. Its complete nine-episode season ran, but due to lackluster ratings it was not renewed for a second season.
In 1990 – 1991, Kaczmarek starred in the legal drama, Equal Justice as lawyer Linda Bauer, despite its impressive critical reviews, the series had low ratings throughout its run, so it was cancelled after the completion of its second season.
Kaczmarek is clearly best known for playing Lois, the overbearing and domineering mother of teenager Malcolm, in the 2000s sitcom series, Malcolm in the Middle. From 2000 to 2006 she appeared in all but one of the series 151 episodes. For this role, Kaczmarek was nominated for seven Emmy Awards, three Golden Globes, and two SAG Awards, as well as other prestigious awards.
After her seven-year stint on Malcolm in the Middle, she returned as a regular of a full-time series in co-creator Steven Bochco’s legal drama, Raising the Bar in 2008 – 2009, as Judge Trudy Kessler, a hanging judge aspiring to become the city’s next District Attorney. After two seasons which contained a total of 25 episodes, the show was also cancelled.
Kaczmarek has also appeared in the film, Uncommon Valor (1983) in a minor role at the beginning of her career, and the television movies, Without Warning (1994), Apollo 11 (1996), and Reviving Ophelia (2012).
Barry Corbin portrays, Monty Tasco, a racist census-taker who requires a police escort to conduct a census in a high-crime, previously under-enumerated immigrant neighborhood, in Season 4 episode, ‘The Count of Monty Tasco’ in 1984.
Although, this was hardly his first rodeo he is best remembered for his role of Maurice J. Minnifield in CBS’s quirky hit drama series, Northern Exposure from 1990 to 1995. His character Minnifield is a macho, retired astronaut and millionaire entrepreneur in the fictional town of Cicely, Alaska, where he seems to be the sanest from the eccentric town folks. He was nominated twice for this role at the Emmys.
Corbin now has over 100 screen credits to his names in TV series and films. Among these roles, Corbin is typically known for portraying the sheriff in Western dramas or other authoritarian or military types, but the Texan started his acting career by performing Shakespearean plays in the 1960s. Prior to his Hill Street Blues performance, Corbin portrayed Sheriff Fenton Washburn in a recurring role from 1979 to 1984 in another CBS hit series, the night time soap opera, Dallas. He also had minor roles in the 1980 movies, Urban Cowboy and Any Way You Can, the 1983 movie, War Games, and the 1983 mini-series, The Thorn Birds. He also played the stern father for 13 episodes in the 1983 – 1984 period drama, Boone set in 1950s rural Tennessee.
His post-Hill Street Blues filmography also include the 1989 mini-series, Lonesome Dove, as well as playing Brian ‘Whitey’ Durham, the high school basketball coach on the teenager drama, One Tree Hill from 2003 to 2008. He was also featured as Ellis, the retired sheriff, now wheelchair-bound as a result of being shot while on duty in the Academy Award-winning Coen Brother’s neo-noir Western, No Country For Old Men in 2007.
Corbin has proven his prowess in the saddle by winning numerous horse-cutting competitions, in which a cowboy on horseback separate a single cow from the herd for as long a period of time as possible.
Corbin is a Texas Film Hall of Fame inductee from the Class of 2012.
Michael Tucker plays naïve ‘fish out of water’ tourist and multiple robbery victim, Dave Fimpel who had his car hijacked after making the wrong turn on the Interstate, and asking for directions in a high-crime area in the city, along with real-life wife, Jill Eikenberry, who plays his stage wife.
His performance, along with Jane Eikenberry’s impressed producer Steven Bochco so much that he selected both of them for roles in his next television drama hit, LA Law (1986 – 1994).
For his role of Stuart Markowitz in LA Law, he was to receive Emmy nominations in 1987 and 1988, and Golden Globe nominations in 1987 and 1990.
LA Law has become one of the most influential legal dramas in television history on the behaviors and expectations of a jury. In an article in the 6 May 1990 edition of The New York Times, an unidentified New York attorney describing the impact that the show exerts on the jury, states: “Any lawyer who doesn’t watch LA Law the night before he’s going to trial is a fool.”
Tucker had previous been feature in Season 1 in episode 13, ‘Fecund Hand Rose’ as the mustachioed catburgler, Mr. Heidel, of which the cops at the stationhouse are riveted by his stories of past professional exploits, much to the chagrin, and against the legal advice of his selected counsel, Joyce Davenport (Veronica Hamel).
In the same two episodes, the first two of Season 5 of Hill Street Blues, Jill Eikenberry appears as Sarah Fimpel, the out-of-town multiple robbery victim. Her performance, along with Michael Tucker’s, and the chemistry between the two impressed producer Steven Bochco so much that he selected her as the co-lead actress role in his next television drama hit, LA Law (1986 – 1994), with Tucker earning a supporting role. In this series she played high-powered defense attorney Ann Kelsey, a role she would be nominated for four consecutive lead actress Emmys. She would be nominated for a fifth time in 1994 in supporting actress category Also, for this role she was nominated four consecutive years for a Golden Globe from 1988 to 1991, winning in 1989.
Tony Plana, the Cuban-American actor and director is best known for playing Betty Suarez’s father, Ignacio Suarez on ABC’s comedy-drama, Ugly Betty for all 85 episodes between September 2006 and April 2010. He has won a Satellite Awards for this role in its first year, and has been nominated for a SAG Award for being a member of the ensemble cast for this same season. He has also been nominated for three American Latino Media Arts Awards, or ALMO Awards, which pays homage to fair and accurate depictions of Latinos in film and TV, for other roles. The first time that he was nominated in 1996, they were still called the BRAVO Awards.
However, Plana portrayed Rolland Maxwell, a career criminal who gets caught fencing stolen goods from the home invasion and brutal fatal attack of an elderly couple in the premiere episode of Season 6.
Plana’s partial filmography includes: An Officer and a Gentlemen (1982); Salvador (1986); JFK (1991); Nixon (1995); Lone Star (1996); Primal Fear (1997); and America (2011). He also played the ailing father, Roberto Santiago in the drama series, Resurrection Blvd. from 2000 to 2003.
In one of his first television appearances, Tim Robbins portrays the stuttering rookie cop, Officer Lawrence ‘Larry’ Swann in the episode, ‘Rookie Nookie’ in Season 5 (1984) who is ridiculed by the other rookies for purportedly still being a virgin. At a party during an initiation ritual, which is attended by rookie cops only, in the backroom of the Kubiak Lodge, a tavern frequented by off-duty police, he is tied up and stripped naked, and forced to engage in sex with a prostitute while the others rookies watch to his enormous embarrassment. It is revealed to the uniformed police squad in the next episode during morning roll call that Swann had hanged himself earlier that morning.
Robbins went on to award-winning fame as an actor, director and screenwriter, being pivotally involved in the some of his generations more integral productions. His first major movie feature is in the 1986 film, Top Gun when he played Lt. Samuel ‘Merlin’ Wells.
An abbreviated filmography includes: Bull Durham (1988), Jacob’s Ladder (1990), Cadillac Man (1990), Jungle Fever (1991), Bob Roberts (1992), The Player (1992), The Hudsucker Proxy (1994), The Shawshank Redemption (1994) , High Fidelity (2000), Mystic River (2003), Code 46 (2003), The Secret Life of Words (2005), and Cinema Verite (2011).
He is the Academy Award nominated director and Golden Globe nominated screenwriter of the 1995 crime-drama film, Dead Man Walking. He was also director and screenwriter for Cradle Will Rock, which was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 1999 Cannes Film Festival.
Robbins, for his acting has been nominated twice for a BAFTA, but has never won. He has been nominated four times for a Golden Globe, winning twice. He has also won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Dave Boyle in the 2003 mystery drama, Mystic River and a Cannes Film Festival award for Best Actor Award in the 1992 satirical film, The Player, in which he plays the studio executive Griffin Mill.
Michael Biehn played Officer Randall Buttman, an obnoxious, cocksure rookie whose attitude rubbed many of the veteran cops the wrong way, during a three-episode story arc in 1984. Buttman was the ringleader of his insecure partner, fellow rookie, Officer Larry Swans (Tim Robbins) public shaming at the initiation party, resulting in his eventually hanging. Before this incident Officer Buttman had already been verbally reprimanded; first, by temporary partner Officer Joe Coffey (Ed Marinaro) while on patrol; and later by commanding officer Captain Frank Furillo (Daniel J. Travanti) of the Hill Street Precinct while in his office. In the next episode the hired prostitute for the party was found died in a dumpster. Buttman is put on report by his new temporary partner Officer Lucy Bates (Betty Thomas) for taking a 45-minute unauthorized break from his patrol duties. During this break, it is later revealed that, he murders the prostitute hired for the party. Rookie Officer Ronnie Garfield (Mykel T. Williamson) of Polk Avenue Precinct comes forward and implicates Buttman for his involvement with events from the party. Buttman is arrested on suspicion for the murder by the conclusion of this episode, but not charges yet because of lack of evidence. While being detained during the following episode, it is revealed that, according to his log entries, he took another unauthorized break the same day, this time for 80 minutes in the afternoon.
Biehn was nominated for a Saturn Award best lead actor for his portrayal of Corporal Dwayne Hicks in the 1986 science fiction film, Alien, but lost out to Jeff Goldblum in, The Fly. The Saturn Awards are presented each year honoring the best in science fiction, fantasy, or horror in film, television and home video.
Biehn has appeared in three short-lived television series. In 1998 – 2000, he starred in the television re-make Western series, The Magnificent Seven, which was based on the 1960 Western classic movie of the same name, which was based on Akira Kurosawa’s written and directed 1954 Japanese classic, Seven Samurai. Biehn portrayed the character Chris Larabee, which closely corresponds to Yul Brynner’s character of Chris Adams in the movie.
He also played in the adventure fiction series, Adventure, Inc. in 2002 – 2003 as Judson Cross.
In 2004, the crime drama, Hawaii was cancelled before the complete season could be aired. He played veteran Detective Sean Harrison from an elite crime unit of the Honolulu Police Department.
Biehn’s filmography includes: The Terminator (1984), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), Tombstone (1993), Asteroid (1997), and Grindhouse (2007).
Mykel T. Williamson
Michael T. ‘Mykelti’ Williamson, billed as Mykel T. Williamson portrayed soft-spoken rookie cop, Officer Ronnie Garfield (in Season 3), and had occasional recurring guest appearances throughout the series, particularly during Season 7, when he had become a seasoned veteran.
Williamson has made many guest appearances both on television and in film. He is best known; however, for his role as Benjamin Buford (Bubba) Blue in the 1994 comedy film, Forrest Gump.
He received critical acclaim for playing Negro League all-time great Josh Gibson in HBO’s 1996 bio-pic, Soul of the Game. The movie highlighted the lives and struggles of three of the greatest pioneering African-American baseball players; fleet-footed second baseman Jackie Robinson, the first black to play in MLB in 1947; Leroy ‘Satchel’ Paige, the first black pitcher and the oldest man to debut in MLB at 42 in 1948; and Gibson, a catcher with a lifetime professional batting average of over .350, and “almost 800” home runs in his 17 year career, who was never given his much-deserved opportunity to star in the majors. Baseball fans of the era often referred to him as the “black Babe Ruth”. Some people who saw both play referred to Ruth as the “white Josh Gibson”. All three men have been enshrined in Baseball Hall of Fame, Robinson in 1962, Paige in 1971 and Gibson in 1972, respectively.
In 1984, Forrest Whitaker in the episode, ‘Blues for Mr. Green’, plays Floyd Green, a juvenile offender, who committed a double murder at the age of 13 due to “boredom”, but had been recently released on his 18th birthday. This episode focuses on Green’s reintegration into the urban community, and his recidivist wayward ways. In the climax of the episode he is shot dead during an armed hostage-taking incident by another prisoner in the courthouse. While Green attempts to escape in the confusion, he is accidentally shot dead by the police in the chaotic crossfire. It is one of his first screen credits in his nascent career.
Soon after Whitaker went on to perform in bit parts in Martin Scorsese’s The Color of Money, as pool shark Amos, and in Oliver Stone’s Platoon as Big Harold, both in 1986. His most major role at that time followed playing opposite to Robin Williams in Barry Levinson’s 1987 war-comedy, Good Morning, Vietnam as Edward Garlick.
Whitaker’s first lead role is in the 1988 bio-pic Bird portraying the jazz legend Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker. For his performance, Whitaker won the best actor award at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for best actor in the drama category.
A selective filmography, also include credits as Jody in The Crying Game (1992), the title character, a crime syndicate’s hitman in Jim Jarmusch’s indie crime film, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999), the 2002 suspense thrillers, The Panic Room and Phone Booth.
Whitaker; however, achieved his greatest cinematic success, for portraying ruthless 1970s Ugandan dictator, General Idi Amin in the 2006 British historical drama, The Last King of Scotland. Whitaker received universal critical acclaim, and the best lead actor awards at the Oscars, Gold Globes, and BAFTAs, as well as a multitude of other prestigious awards.
In 2013, he played Cecil Gaines in Lee Daniel’s The Butler, a role which is loosely based on the life of Eugene Allen who was employed on the White House staff for 34 years, eventually rising to the position of chief butler – while serving eight presidents from Truman to Reagan.
In the 1985 season Frances McDormand plays mousy-appearing public defender Connie Chapman in six episodes, her part in the story arc lasting about a third of the season, before her character was fired for her cocaine addiction. Prior to this role her only other screen credit was for appearing in the 1984 Coen Brothers’ début film, the neo-noir crime thriller, Blood Simple as Abby Marty, the wife of a slain Texas bar owner. (Incidentally, in real life she was to be become the wife of the oldest brother, Joel, later that year.)
The pinnacle of McDormand’s acting achievements is her winning the Academy Award for the best lead actress in the Coen Brother’s 1996 neo-noir comedy crime classic, Fargo, for her portrayal of the seven-month pregnant police chief of a small Minnesota town, Marge Gunderson, who investigates a series of homicides plaguing the jurisdiction.
She has also been nominated for an Oscar three other times in the supporting actress category. First, for the 1988 historical drama movie, Mississippi Burning, which is loosely based on the June 1964 murders of three Northern civil rights workers in Mississippi, during the ‘Freedom Summer’ campaign which was attempting to register disenfranchised African-Americans to vote. McDormand played the character of the local sheriff’s wife and informant, Mrs. Pell.
She was nominated again for Almost Famous (2000) as the overbearing mother in the fictional, but semi-autobiographical account of a teenager writing for Rolling Stone magazine. And again for North Country (2005) as Glory Dodge, a rare female mine worker.
Her other screen credits include: Raising Arizona (1987), Primal Fear (1996), Wonder Boys (2000), The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001), and Burn After Reading (2008), among others.
For her movie and television work, she has been nominated for five Golden Globes, three BAFTA Awards, and an Emmy.
She has also received success in the live theater, débuting on Broadway in 1984, prior to her Hill Street Blues performances. In 1988, she was nominated for a Tony Award, American stages’ highest honor, for her portrayal of Stella Kowalski, a repressed and demure Southern belle in Tennessee Williams’ classic Pulitzer Prize winning play, A Streetcar Named Desire. In 2008, she returned to Broadway after a twenty-year absence in the revival of the 1950 play, The Country Girl. She won a Tony Award in 2011 for her depiction of Margi Walsh, a recently fired single mother in Good People.
For her role as the title character in HBO’s 2014 four-hour mini-series, Olive Kitteridge, McDormand was nominated for her fifth Golden Globe, and won the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Award for best lead actress in a mini-series or movie. She portrays Olive Kitteridge, a cynical and disciplinarian, yet well-meaning retired school teacher, who for 25 years has experienced a range of negative feelings towards her family members.
James Cromwell had many television guest appearances in some of the more popular dramas and sitcoms of the day, starting in 1974, with his second TV credit being that of Archie Bunker’s buddy and colleague down at the docks, Stretch Cunningham for three episodes of All in the Family, one of the groundbreaking American sitcoms of that era.
Cromwell continued to secure numerous guest star performances on episodic television through the mid-1980s before he appeared on Hill Street Blues as Lowenhandler, the handler of a bear used by the police department to promote good community relations, in the 1985 finale episode of Season 5, ‘Grin and Bear It’. Cromwell had also been a regular cast member in two one-season long series before his guesting on the cop series, so it is not as if, Hill Street Blues discovered him, or was influential in his later-career success.
Those above-mentioned series were Norman Lear’s first failed situation comedy, Hot l Baltimore (the ‘e’ being burned out on the neon sign and never repaired) as Bill Lewis in 13 episodes. The show’s content was controversial for its time, and it never caught on with the (non) viewing public. In 1976 – 1977, he played Glen for 13 episodes on The Nancy Walker Show.
About a year after Cromwell guest appearances as Lowenhandler he landed another regular gig, this time on the American sitcom, Easy Street as Quentin Standard which ran for 22 episodes in 1986 – 1987.
It was not until the new century that Cromwell returned to television to play in an extended role in a series. In 2001, he portrayed Senator Elliot Baines, former three-term US senator who loses re-election, so returns home to Seattle to re-establish his relationship with his three adult daughters, in the drama, Citizen Baines which was cancelled after the sixth of the nine episodes produced has aired.
In 2007, Cromwell played Phillip Bauer, father of Counter Terrorism Unit agent Jack Bauer in the serial drama, 24, for eight episodes. The following year, he appeared as Alistar Trumble, chief of operation for Project Janus in the drama, My Worst Enemy. It too was cancelled before all produced episodes had been aired – this time only four of nine.
In the third season of HBO’s historical Prohibition Era crime drama, Boardwalk Empire in 2012 – 2013, Cromwell portrayed robber baron industrialist Andrew W. Mellon.
In 2013 – 2014, he portrayed Thatcher Karsten in American drama series, Betrayal. It completed its 13-episode season before it was cancelled.
Later in 2014, he became a regular cast member in the police detective drama series, Murder in the First, as locally renowned defense attorney Warren Daniels. This new Stephen Bochco’s co-created series featured a single murder investigation during its first ten-episode season. It has been renewed for another ten-episode season.
Cromwell first gained award-recognition for his acting when he received the 1996 Academy Award nomination for supporting actor for his role as farmer Arthur Hoggett in the 1995 comedy-drama, Babe.
For his television work Cromwell has been nominated for four Emmys – winning once. He was first, nominated in 2000, as best supporting actor in a mini-series or movie for his portrayal of media mogul William Randolph Hearst in the historical drama film, RKO 281, which depicted the problematic production of Orson Welles’ 1941 film classic, Citizen Cane.
In 2001, he was nominated for his guest appearance role as Bishop Stewart, which he played during a four-episode story arc in the medical drama, ER.
And in 2003, he was nominated for third time for an Emmy for his guest appearance as George Sibley, a geology professor and serial husband in the black comedy-drama, Six Feet Under. He was also nominated for two more SAG Awards for being a member of the ensemble cast of Six Feet Under.
He has been nominated for three more SAG Awards during his career, in 1998 for LA Confidential, in 2000 for The Green Mile, and 2012 for The Artist.
It was not until 2013 that he was nominated for his fourth Emmy Award, this time winning in the supporting role for his portrayal of scientist Dr. Arthur Arden, who used to be Hans Grüper, a sadistic Nazi war criminal whose identity he is trying to keep secret on the horror drama, American Horror Story: Asylum.
Also in 2013, he won a Genie Award, Canada’s most prestigious awards in cinema for his lead portrayal of Craig Morrison, a farmer who fights government bureaucracy in the Canadian romantic drama, Still Mine.
Cromwell’s incomplete filmography includes credits in the following movies: The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996), Star Trek: First Contact (1996), Deep Impact (1998), Babe: Pig in the City (1998), The Sum of All Fears (2002), The Queen (2006), and W. (2008).
Richards portrayed Special Agent Durpe, a corrupt cop under internal investigation for being on the take in the episode in the 1985 season, ‘An Oy for an Oy’. Although he had some screen success before this. Richards had been a regular cast member of ABC’s weekly late-night comedy sketch show Fridays for 54 of their 58 episodes between April 1980 and April 1982, a knock-off show modeled after NBC’s SNL. The show’s large writing staff included future Seinfeld writers Larry David and Larry Charles.
Richard’s most famous role of his career is when he played the title role’s neighbor, Kramer, who was always conceiving hair-brained entrepreneurial get-rich-schemes, during the nine years it ran (1989 – 1998). He was frequently referred to by his surname; his first name was not revealed until the sixth season, in the episode, ‘The Switch’.
For this role, he received three Emmys for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series in 1993, 1994, and 1997 – the most of any of the show’s cast members.
When Chris Noth made his appearance as Officer Ron Lipsky, a rookie officer whose ill-advised attempt at reverse-psychology in a crisis intervention lands him in hot water when he implores a suicidal man on a window ledge to jump, and he does. In this last three-episode story arc of Season 6 Hill Street Blues in 1986, they explore the eventual disciplinary ramifications of his actions. At that time Noth had no television credits, and had only appeared in a few bit-parts in the movies.
Noth was to have a flourishing television career, since securing full-time employment in the early 1990s starting with American police procedural/legal drama, Law & Order from 1990 to 1995 as he played Detective Mike Logan in 111 episodes, first reprising this role in 1995 in a single episode, ‘Law & Disorder’ in Homicide: Life on the Street, and the again in 2005 – 2008, in Law & Order: Criminal Intent for 36 more episodes.
Between roles he played John James Preston, also known as Mr. Big, the on-again off-again boyfriend of series protagonist Carrie Bradshaw for 41 episodes on the comedy-drama, Sex and the City from 1998 to 2004. It was for this role that he was nominated for his first Golden Globe Award as best supporting actor in 1999.
In 2012, Noth portrayed American robber baron industrialist J. P. Morgan for five episodes in the historical fiction drama, Titanic: Blood and Steel.
His most notable movie roles are him reprising his television characters. First, Mike Logan in the made-for-TV movie, Exiled: A Law & Order Movie; and Mr. Big in Sex and the City (2008), and Sex and the City 2 (2010).
He currently plays Peter Forrick, a disgraced State’s attorney, who eventually has his name cleared of all charges in legal/political drama, The Good Wife for 75 episodes starting in 2009. He was nominated for his second Golden Globe in the supporting actor category in 2010.
In 1986, Larry Fishburne appeared on Hill Street Blues in episode 20 of Season 6, entitled ‘Look Homeward, Ninja’, as Maurice Haynes, a paroled felon and penny-ante pimp arrested by officers of The Hill.
Prior to this guest appearance, Fishburne had already begun to mount up some minor screen roles in feature films before his 25th birthday, which includes: Fast Break (1979), Apocalypse Now (1979), Death Wish 2 (1982), For Us the Living: The Medgar Evers Story (1983), Rumblefish (1983), The Cotton Club (1984), and The Color of Purple (1985). He also had a few minor guest appearances in some popular prime time episodic television series.
Fishburne’s first major acting awards success came in the live theater when won a Tony Award in his Broadway début in Two Trains Running for his portrayal of an ex-con with an explosive temper. This play was also nominated for the 1992 Tony Award for best play, as well as the prestigious 1992 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
The following year he won an Emmy Award for best guest male actor in the pilot episode, ‘The Box’, in Fox’s 1993 drama anthology series, TriBeCa, for his portrayal of Martin McHenry.
And in 1994, Fishburne was nominated for an Emmy Award for his lead role in the bio-pic, What’s Love Got to Do with It, for his portrayal of pioneering blues and soul musician Ike Turner.
Fishburne was, then, nominated for two consecutive years as the outstanding lead actor in a television movie or mini-series in HBO’s films. First, for his performance as Capt. Hannibal ‘Iowa’ Lee, Jr. in the 1995 film, The Tuskegee Airman, the first African-American combat pilots unit in World War II. In the 1997 film, Miss Evers’ Boys, he plays Caleb Humphries, based on the true account of the four-decade long unethical medical study on poor African-American sharecroppers funded by the US Government.
Fishburne’s post-Hill Street Blues filmography includes: School Daze (1988), Red Heat (1988), King of New York (1990), Boyz in the Hood (1991), Deep Cover (1992), Higher Learning (1995), The Matrix (1999), Once in the Life (which he also wrote) (2000), The Matrix Reloaded (2003), Mystic River (2003), The Matrix Revolutions (2003), Mission Impossible III (2006), 21 (2008), Contagion (2011), and Man of Steel (2013).
In addition, Fishburne has been active in the theater. For his stage performances he was honored with the NAACP Theater Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2005. Two years later, in 2007, he was awarded another NAACP Theater Award, this time for Best Male Lead in the play, Without Walls.
In 2008, Fishburne returned to Broadway for his one-man performance in Thurgood, his poignant depiction of Supreme Court Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall, who was the first African-American to serve in this capacity, from the total of 96 appointees in its history. Marshall was nominated to this post by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1967, and served a tenure of 24 years on the Court.
In February 2011, premier cable channel, HBO presented a filmed version of the play performed by Fishburne at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC.
From 2008 to 2011, Fishburne portrayed Dr. Raymond Langston, a medical pathologist for 61 episodes in CSI: Crime Scene Investigation in Season 9 and Season 10. He did not renew his contract for Season 11. As this character, he has had a guest appearance in both CSI: Miami and CSI: NY.
Fishburne is concurrently featured in two television series. Since 2013, he has played for 26 episodes the Agent-in-Charge Jack Crawford, chief of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit in the psychological crime thriller, Hannibal. In 2014, he had a recurring role in the American sitcom, Black-ish as Earl ‘Pops’ Johnson.
Cuba Gooding Jr.
Cuba Gooding Jr. had only one television credit, and no film credits to his name when he appeared in his first role of Hill Street Blues in 1987, as Ethan Dillon, a youth caught joyriding with two of his mates (uncredited). Later that season he was to play another character – this time without a name – receiving an end-of-story credit as ‘2nd gang member’.
He has since turned to primarily starring in theatrical movies, with the apex of his success winning the Academy Award for his supporting role of Rod Tidwell, a profession football player who is dissatisfied with his contract, in the 1996 sports comedy-drama, Jerry McGuire.
Gooding’s other film credits include: Boyz in the Hood (1991), A Few Good Men (1992), Outbreak (1995), Tuskegee Airmen (1995), As Good as It Gets (1997), What Dreams Will Come (1998), Men of Honor (2000), Radio (2003), Shadowboxer (2005), American Gangster (2007), Red Tails (2012), The Butler (2013), and Selma (2014).
Gooding is slated to play O. J. Simpson in the upcoming 10-episode crime anthology mini-series American Crime Story, which subtitle for the first season is, The People vs. O. J. Simpson. It plans to focus his 1994 double-murder trial, of his estranged wife and her friend, and is scheduled to be aired in late 2015.
Chazz Palminteri made his television début in 1986 when he co-starred in the episode, ‘The Bald Ambition’ as Sonny Cappelito, who was accused of warehouse heists, and received an end of story credit. Prior to this role he had only appeared in two films in minor bit-parts.
Palminteri was nominated for best supporting actor Academy Award for Woody Allen’s Prohibition era 1994 crime-comedy film, Bullets Over Broadway. Palminteri plays gangster Cheech, the boyfriend of the talentless lead actress hired by the young playwright in order to secure financing. He often comes up with excellent ideas for re-writes for the play.
A limited filmography of Palminteri includes: A Bronx Tale (1993), of which he was also the screenwriter; The Usual Suspects (1995); Hurlyburly (1998); and, Analyze This (1999).
Palminteri, a lifelong New York Yankee fan, played the voice of legendary Yankee slugger Babe Ruth in the 2014 animated sports drama, Henry & Me.
He is slated to portray organized crime boss Paul Castellano, victim of an unsanctioned hit by John Gotti in the upcoming Gotti bio-pic, Gotti: In the Shadow of My Father.
Keenen Ivory Wayans
Even the comedian Keenen Ivory Wayans took a stab at a serious dramatic role, when he played Raymond Jackson in Season 7, deep in the series’ run. Wayans’ role was that of a retired wide receiver who could not outrun the cops in a foot pursuit. He tried to evade them after he was being arrested for misdemeanor sexual solicitation of whom he thought was a prostitute, but was actually an undercover officer from the Hill Street precinct.
Wayans was to become the co-creator (with brother Damon) and host of Fox’s 1990 – 1994, In Living Color, the predominantly black sketch comedy series (with the most notable exception of token white man, Jim Carrey), focusing on black ghetto culture. This was controversial, at the time, because most television comedies centering on black families, like the Huxtable’s in The Cosby Show, were shown in upwardly mobile social and economic affluent situations. The show derived its name, at least partially; in responses to national broadcaster NBC’s ‘proud as a peacock’ proclamation at the beginning of many of their programs in the 1950s and 1960s that the following presentation is “in living color”. It was a state-of-the-art technology at the time, with black and white television still the prevailing norm in American households. It is also said to refer to the mainly African-American cast.
He had a 30-minute late night syndicated talk show, The Keenen Ivory Wayans Show from August 1997 until its cancellation in March 1998.
Wayans can often be found behind the camera having directed, produced, and written a number of Hollywood comedy films.
The 23-year old Don Cheadle only had a few credits – both on the small and large screens – under his belt before he landed a guest appearance on one of Hill Streets Blues final episodes, ‘Days of Swine and Roses’ as Darius Milton, a recently released serious crime offender suffering from mental illness.
As an actor he has been nominated for an Emmy four times, mostly for made-for-TV movies. His first time was in 1998, for his role as Sammy Davis, Jr. in HBO’s television movie, The Rat Pack. He did; however, win the Golden Globe for this role. He was also nominated for an Emmy for the made-for-TV movies, A Lesson Before Dying (1999), and Things Behind the Sun (2001), as well as another Emmy nomination for a guest appearance on an episode of ER in 2002.
He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of hotelier Paul Rusesablagina in the 2004 drama film, Hotel Rwanda set within the Rwandan genocide period which occurred in the previous decade.
Some of his other film credits include: Hamburger Hill (1987), Colors (1988), Devil in a Blue Dress (1995), Rosewood (1997), Boogie Nights (1997), Traffic (2000), Swordfish (2001), Ocean Eleven (2001), Ocean Twelve (2004), The Assassination of Richard Nixon (2004), Crash (2005), Reign Over Me (2007), Ocean Thirteen (2007), Iron Man 2 (2010), and Iron Man 3 (2013).
Since 2011, Cheadle has played the lead role in the television comedy-drama series, House of Lies as Marty Kaan, the unethical and deceitful owner of his own management consultancy firm. He won a Golden Globe in 2012, and was nominated again in 2013 and 2014 for this role.
Bryan Cranston, long before he was to become Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher-cum-meth-dealer in Breaking Bad (2008 – 2013), he was featured in a brief scene in the penultimate series episode of Hill Street Blues called ‘A Pound of Flesh’, and credited as the ‘counselor’.
Cranston gained major media attention in the early 2000s for his role as Hal, the immature, yet endearing father in Fox’s comedy series, Malcolm in the Middle which ran from January 2000 to May 2006. During the seven seasons, which contained 151 episodes, Cranston was nominated three times for an Emmy in the supporting actor in a comedy series – 2002, 2003 and 2006 – but never won.
Hot on the heels of that show’s demise, was his starring role in AMC’s groundbreaking crime drama/black comedy series, Breaking Bad. Cranston’s character Walter White, a mild-mannered, financially struggling chemistry teacher, who in the first season was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer, turns to a lurid life of crime, with the assistance of a former student of his, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), producing and distributing crystal methamphetamine, in order to provide for his family after his thought-to-be imminent death. By the second season his cancer is in remission, the health condition that remains throughout the series, but his involvement and status in the illicit drug trade soon intensified.
The show was so groundbreaking, with the cable network unsure as to how the audience would react, that the first season only contained a meager seven episodes. (The only other eventually-successful show with fewer episodes ordered in its début season is another groundbreaking series Seinfeld with only five episodes aired in its first season.)
The concept of Breaking Bad was almost immediately embraced by its audience. It went on to air for five seasons, the last split into two, for a total of 62 episodes. Its audience numbers had double for its last season from the previous year. By its final season it was the highest rated cable television show of all-time.
In his lead acting capacity in a drama series, Cranston would be nominated for six Emmys – winning four. He was also nominated for four Golden Globes, winning one in 2014. At the Screen Actor Guild (SAG) Awards, Cranston was nominated five consecutive times from 2010 to 2014, winning the last two times. He was also nominated for three more SAG Awards as part of the best drama ensemble, winning in 2014.
In total, Breaking Bad has been nominated for 262 industry awards – winning 108 of them.
During 1994 to 1997, the later part of Seinfeld’s nine-season run (1989 – 1998), Cranston played Dr. Tim Whatley in five episodes, a dentist who converted to Judaism, “just for the jokes.” In one episode Kramer calls him an “anti-dentite.”
Although, most of Cranston’s acting success has been in television, he has appeared in numerous films within his career, and has even won a Tony Award while trying his hand in the live theatre. In 2013, he appeared on Broadway in the lead role of the play, All the Way where he portrayed President Lyndon B. Johnson, and won live theatre’s most coveted award.
His abridged filmography includes: Saving Private Ryan (1998), Little Miss Sunshine (2006), The Lincoln Lawyer (2011), Contagion (2011), Red Tails (2012), Total Recall (2012), and Argo (2012).
Cranston is reported to be slated as director of a few episodes of the Better Call Saul, the upcoming spinoff to Breaking Bad – a prequel focusing on the life of Walter White’s shady lawyer, Saul Goodman, in the time frame beginning six years before the previously aired series. Through the magic of television; in addition, it is said to be planning in filming segments that fictionally happened during the original show, and events that will happen afterwards.
So there you have it… 32 actors whose careers have advanced (most of them significantly) since they appeared on Hill Street Blues throughout its groundbreaking seven-year run during the 1980s. In some cases their performances on the top cop show, was the pivotal event that became the catalyst for them being thrust more into the public limelight, and being offered bigger and better and more parts to add to their résumé, and trophies to display on their mantelpiece. In other cases this would have happened whether they had appeared on the show or not. But in any case, they all share in the unique fraternity of being Hill Street Blue alumni of guest stars whose performances further enriched the quality of the series.