Louis Zorich, Familiar Actor on TV and Stage, Dies at 93

Mr. Zorich, seated left, played Paul Reiser’s cantankerous father on the NBC sitcom “Mad About You.” With Mr. Zorich and Mr. Reiser are, from left, Cynthia Harris, Helen Hunt and Ed Asner.

Louis Zorich, a busy actor who appeared on Broadway with stars like Laurence Olivier and Dustin Hoffman, on television in the comedy “Mad About You” and in numerous projects with his wife, the Oscar-winning actress Olympia Dukakis, died on Tuesday at his home in Manhattan. He was 93.

His son Peter confirmed his death.

In a career of some 60 years, Mr. Zorich played scores of roles, mostly of the character-actor variety. He was the father to Paul Reiser’s character on NBC’s “Mad About You” from 1993 to 1999 and the grandfather on “Brooklyn Bridge,” a well-regarded CBS series that ran for two seasons earlier in the 1990s.

But he also occasionally tackled the big roles. The year before “Brooklyn Bridge” made its debut in 1991, he played King Lear in a production at the Whole Theater in Montclair, N.J., of which he and Ms. Dukakis were founding members. In 2004 he portrayed the title character in an Off Broadway version of Aeschylus’ “Agamemnon” by the Aquila Theater Company, opposite Ms. Dukakis’s Clytemnestra.

Mr. Zorich continued to work into his 90s, so there is some irony in the fact that his final film appearance was in “No Pay, Nudity” (2016), a bittersweet comic drama by Lee Wilkof about the troubles older actors have finding work.

Louis Michael Zorich was born on Feb. 12, 1924, in Chicago. His parents — Christ, a stationary engineer, and the former Anna Gledj, a homemaker — were immigrants from Yugoslavia.

Mr. Zorich was drafted into the Army at 18 and served in an engineering firefighting platoon attached to Gen. George S. Patton’s command during World War II. After returning to Chicago from Europe he attended Roosevelt College under the G.I. Bill, receiving a bachelor’s degree in 1951. He earned a bachelor of fine arts from the Goodman School of Drama in 1958.

“I never had to do anything outside the theater since the day I left acting school,” he reminisced in a 1991 interview with the Newhouse News Service. “I never had to drive a cab like everybody does. I never had to wait on tables like people do, or work in temporary office work. It was just sheer luck.”

His first television credits were in 1958, including two Canadian anthology series, “Encounter” and “On Camera.” He made his Broadway debut in 1960 in a small role in “Becket,” with Olivier as Thomas Becket and Anthony Quinn as King Henry II.

Those early credits set the pattern for a career that would mix a lot of television and a lot of theater, with the occasional film thrown in. His movie roles included a constable in the 1971 film version of “Fiddler on the Roof.”

On television, he was seen on episodes of “Route 66,” “Naked City,” “Columbo,” “Law & Order” and the soap opera “Ryan’s Hope.” But he most loved to work in the theater.

“I don’t know why or how people cannot want to go to theater,” he once said. “I don’t understand that. It’s not like TV, it’s not like the movies.”

One theater audition he went to in 1961 proved particularly life-changing. It was for an Off Broadway play called “The Opening of a Window.”

“My dad was up for the part of the husband,” Peter Zorich said by email. “The wife was already cast — Olympia Dukakis. He read for the part but didn’t get it — can’t make that up. They moved in together.”

They married the next year.

Mr. Zorich received a Tony Award nomination for best featured actor in a play for his 1969 performance in “Hadrian VII.” In 1984 he played Uncle Ben in a “Death of a Salesman” revival that starred Mr. Hoffman as Willy Loman; he reprised the role in a well-regarded TV version on CBS the next year.

His other Broadway credits included the 2001 revival of “Follies” and, most recently, the 2003 revival of “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”

Though Mr. Zorich and Ms. Dukakis were in many high-profile stage productions, they frequently worked in smaller theaters, both in New York and beyond, individually and together. Sometimes their collaborations would turn into family affairs, as in 2001, when Mr. Zorich and his brother-in-law, Apollo Dukakis, jointly directed “The Cherry Orchard” for the Pacific Repertory Theater in Carmel, Calif. The cast included Ms. Dukakis and Christina Zorich, the couple’s daughter.

A particularly enduring collaboration was the Whole Theater Company in Montclair, where the couple lived for many years. They were part of a group that formed the company in 1970. It staged its first Montclair production, “Our Town,” in 1973, and brought numerous actors, known and unknown, to Montclair before closing in 1990. Mr. Zorich and Ms. Dukakis’s home became something of a gathering spot.

“It was like growing up in the circus,” Peter Zorich told The Montclair Times in 2015, when the troupe held a reunion. “There was someone living in the basement, in the garage, in the carriage house.”

In addition to Ms. Dukakis, his son Peter and his daughter, Christina, Mr. Zorich is survived by another son, Stefan; a sister, Helen Cochand; and four grandchildren.

In 1991 Mr. Zorich spoke of the one play he and Ms. Dukakis had done that he would not want to revisit: Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” They played George and Martha, the warring couple at the play’s center, in a 1979 production in Montclair and, he said, had gotten a little too into their characters.

After playing the show for a few weeks, he said, he marched into her dressing room and asked, “Why are you going after me like that?,” only to hear her explain that she was merely playing the role. After another week or two, she confronted him with the same sort of accusation.

“I’ll never forget that,” he said. “We almost got divorced.”

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