Dennis Farina, Prolific Character Actor for More Than 30 Years
The former Chicago cop brought a gritty authenticity to every role, and thrived in both dramas and comedies. A familiar television presence since the 1980s, he was most recently seen on the Fox comedy New Girl.
Dennis Farina, who spent 18 years with the Chicago Police Department before devoting himself to acting in the 1980s, died July 22, 2013, in Scottsdale, Arizona. He was 69.
According to news reports, the cause was a blood clot in a lung.
Farina, who earned his first acting credits while still working as a Chicago detective, made numerous films and was a regular cast member or guest star on many television series.
His best known movies included Get Shorty, Midnight Run, Saving Private Ryan, Out of Sight and Snatch.
On television, he starred in such series as Crime Story, The In-Laws, Buddy Faro, Law & Order and Luck, and had recurring or guest roles in many others, including, Hardcastle and McCormick, Hunter, China Beach, Miami Vice and, most recently, New Girl, in which he played the father of Jake Johnson's character, Nick.
He also appeared in numerous made-for-TV movies, such as The Case of the Hillside Stranglers, People Like Us, Drug Wars: The Cocaine Cartel, A Stranger in the Mirror, The Corpse Had a Familiar Face, Bella Mafia and Empire Falls.
Farina was a favorite of writer-director Michael Mann, a fellow Chicagoan who met Farina when, as a police officer, he served as Mann's tour guide during the making of the feature film Thief. Mann was so taken by Farina that he cast him in the film, and in many other TV and movie projects, including Crime Story, Manhunter, Hunter, Miami Vice, Drug Wars: The Cocaine Cartel and Luck.
Born in Chicago to Sicilian-American parents on February 29, 1944, Farina graduated from St. Michael's Central High School. He then served three years in the U.S. Army and went on to join the police force and study criminal justice at Truman Junior College.
In a statement, Lori DeWaal, Farina's longtime publicist, said, "We are deeply saddened by the loss of a great actor and a wonderful man. Dennis Farina was always warmhearted and professional, with a great sense of humor and passion for his profession. He will be greatly missed by his family, friends and colleagues. We hope that he finds a new life where great roles are plentiful and the Cubs are always winning the pennant. We ask that the press refrain from contacting his family at this time so that they can mourn their loss together.”
Dick Wolf, creator of Law & Order, said, "I was stunned and saddened to hear about Dennis’ unexpected passing this morning. The Law & Order family extends sympathy and condolences to his family. He was a great guy.”