Did you grow up watching the great police sitcom Barney Miller? This was a unique show that managed to blend humor, drama, and suspense into one show!
The show’s success was also due to its diverse cast and willingness to tackle many social issues of the day. Much credit has to be given to the show’s creators, Danny Arnold and Theodore J. Flicker.
But the real heroes of the show are the fantastic Barney Miller cast. Sadly, many of the main cast members are no longer with us.
Let’s learn about their fantastic careers and also catch up with the surviving members of the cast…
Barney Miller revolved around Captain Barney Miller who headed the 12th precinct of the New York Police Department. Of course, he couldn’t have managed so well without his trusty team members.
One of those team members was Detective Ron Harris played by Ron Glass. Ron Glass was from Evansville, Indiana. He eventually enrolled at the University of Evansville where he studied literature and drama. He managed to find work early on in his career, playing bit parts in television shows and the occasional television movie.
When he landed the role of Detective Ron Harris, he became a household name. He was among the generation of Black American actors who reached stardom during the 1970s. After the show ended, he continued to receive regular work in film and television for the rest of his career.
These roles included work in The New Odd Couple, Amen, Rhythm & Blues, Mr. Rhodes, Rugrats, and Firefly. He passed away in 2016 at the age of 71 due to a respiratory failure.
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Another one of the iconic characters on the show was Detective Phil Fish played by the already legendary Abe Vigoda. Abe Vigoda had spent much of his career as a prominent stage actor. He launched to stardom on the big screen when he was cast as Tessio in The Godfather.
The film was a huge hit and though Tessio was a supporting character, Abe Vigoda’s work in the film didn’t go unnoticed. He was immediately cast as Detective Phil Fish on Barney Miller.
Abe Vigoda loved the role of Detective Fish and often liked to tell the anecdote that helped him land the role. The story goes that Abe had just returned from a five-mile jog. Upon coming home, his agent asked him to contact Danny Arnold who was in the process of creating a new TV show called ‘Barney Miller.’
The actor immediately met with Danny Arnold who noticed how tired Abe Vigoda looked after his long jog. Danny Arnold looked at the actor and remarked, “You know, you look like you might have hemorrhoids!” to which Abe Vigoda responded, “What are you — a doctor or a producer?”
Danny Arnold loved this quick-witted response and Abe Vigoda was cast on the spot. The character of Detective Phil Fish was so popular that there was a spinoff show focused solely on Abe Vigoda’s character.
In the late 1980s, there were rumors that Abe Vigoda had passed away. He found these amusing and would make public appearances on talk shows just to prove he was still with us!
And he remained with us for many years after Barney Miller ended. He continued to work in television and film before passing away at the age of 94 in 2016.
Another trailblazing character on Barney Miller was Detective Sargent Yemana played by actor Jack Soo. Jack Soo’s parents were Japanese-Americans, who felt, as the oldest child, he should be born on Japan. He was born on a ship en route to Japan from the United States.
He grew up in Oakland, California as the son of a tailor and a dressmaker. He worked a variety of odd jobs as a young man. These included working on a farm as well as trading fruits.
He began his entertainment career as a standup comedian. During World War II, he and his family and thousands of other Japanese-Americans were placed in internment camps. While in the internment camps, he kept spirits up by entertaining others. He developed a reputation as a great comic performer – something not seen by Japanese-Americans at the time.
After being released from the internment camps, he pursued an acting career – landing roles in stage productions and the occasional minor role in television. When he was cast in Barney Miller, he was one of the few Asian-American actors to have a large role in a mainstream television show.
He is regarded, even today, as a trailblazer who paved the way for future generations of Asian-American actors. He sadly passed away in 1979 from esophageal cancer at the age of 61. His character was killed off in the show and a retrospective episode featured some of the show’s best bits that included him. The cast members raised their coffee cups as a farewell to him.
Barney Miller was also one of the first mainstream shows to depict a Puerto Rican character. The character was Detective Sargent Chano Amenguale and he was played by Gregory Sierra.
He had years of experience working in film and television. His television work consisted of bit parts in shows such as Gunsmoke, Alias Smith and Jones, and Mission Impossible. His film work consisted of roles in major films such as Beneath the Planet of the Apes, The Towering Inferno and Papillon.
In the 1970s, he became a household name as ‘Julio’ in Sanford & Son. After completing work on the popular sitcom, he was cast in Barney Miller. Just as Jack Soo was a trailblazer for Asian-American actors, Gregory Sierra paved the way for many Hispanic-American actors.
His career continued after the show ended with regular work in film and television. His television work included recurring roles in shows such as Hill Street Blues, Miami Vice, and Murder, She Wrote. His film work included Honey, I Blew Up the Kid, A Low Down Dirty Shame, and Mafia!
He was always remembered as an iconic Hispanic-American actor and was therefore always in demand by the industry. He was a versatile actor and his contributions to American entertainment were unparalleled.
He passed away in January of 2021 from stomach and liver cancer.
Barney Miller also had a great intellectual and soft-spoken detective named Arthur P. Dietrich, played by Steve Landesberg.The unique character seemed to have expert knowledge on any subject imaginable and was also known for his deadpan humor and quick-witted responses.
Steve Landesberg was mostly known for his role as Fred Meyerbach in the TV show Paul Sand in Friends and Lovers. The Bronx-native also made a name for himself as a standup comic. But it was his role on Barney Miller that made him famous.
He continued to receive regular work in television and occasional film work for the remainder of his career. He appeared on shows such as The Golden Girls, Law & Order, That 70s Show, and Everybody Hates Chris.
He passed away in 2010 from colon cancer at the age of 74.
A great contrast to Arthur P. Dietrich was Officer Carl Levitt. He was an arrogant and sharp-tongued police officer – played to perfection by Ron Carey.
Ron Carey had recurring roles on the TV shows The Corner Bar and The Montefuscos. He was also known as a favorite actor of Mel Brooks – appearing in Silent Movie, High Anxiety, and History of the World: Part 1.
He was a welcome face when he was cast as Officer Levitt on Barney Miller. He continued to work in film and television after the show ended. His television appearances included shows such as Benson, Have Faith, and Lucky Luke. He also acted in the films Johnny Dangerously and The Good Bad Guy.
He died from a stroke at age 71 in 2007.
To round it off, how can we forget about the irascible Inspector Frank Luger played by James Gregory? He was a noted film actor who appeared in major films such as The Manchurian Candidate and Beneath the Planet of the Apes – alongsidefuture Barney Miller cast member Gregory Sierra!
His role as Inspector Frank Luger on Barney Miller was a semiregular role. But diehard Barney Miller fans will definitely say that some of the best episodes are the ones with James Gregory! His final role was in an episode of the TV show Belvedere in 1986. He died of natural causes at the age of 90 in 2002.
From the main cast, we’ve still got Hal Linden who played Barney Miller, Max Gail who played “Wojo” and Barbara Barrie who played Liz.
Hal Linden continued to act in television and film following Barney Miller. He had a regular role in The Boys are Back and appeared in films such as Dumb Luck and Freezerburn. His most recent role was in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy released in 2019 – when he was 88 years old!
Max Gail has also not slowed down since Barney Miller ended. He’s made regular appearances on TV and has also acted in major feature films including Dangerous Perceptions, 42, and Jumping the Gun.
Barbara Barrie continued to act in television after leaving Barney Miller – most notably in the shows Tucker’s Witch and Reggie. She’s also appeared in the films Judy Berlin, Second Best, and Harvest. Her latest role was in the film Above All Things in 2018. You can also expect to see her in the upcoming film The Magnificent Meyersons.
Are you a fan of Barney Miller? Do you think that the cast will be remembered for their fantastic work on the groundbreaking show? Or is it up to fans to educate others on how the cast presented important messages through the show?
Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments.
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