All You Need to Know About the “Hill Street Blues” Actors & Fun Facts About the Show

“Hill Street Blues” is a police procedural drama that aired for seven seasons on NBC in the 1980s. The show was very unconventional for its time and gave viewers a gritty look into what really goes on behind police stations’ scenes.
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It skyrocketed the careers of several individuals and picked up several awards during its time on the air. Let’s see what some of your favorite “Hill Street” characters are up to these days and take a peek at some shocking inside info to the show.

Mimi Kuzyk

Fans of the show probably miss keeping up with Mimi Kuzyk’s character, Detective Patsy Mayo, on “Hill Street Blues” in the 1980s. She appeared in over 25 episodes of the show as the beautiful and intelligent detective and girlfriend to Harry Garibaldi.

 

Chief Daniels tried to throw his hat in the ring a few times, much to no avail. The actress was born in Winnipeg, the daughter of two Ukrainian immigrants, and spent over a decade with a local dance group.

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Mimi Kuzyk has an extensive list of both film and television credits to her name. After her two-year stint on the show, she appeared in several major productions, including “The Love Boat” later that same year, along with “Quantum Leap” in 1991.

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Ten years later, she worked on the Canadian drama Lost and Delirious, for which she received several award nominations. In 2016, she acted in a couple of films, but her most recent project was as Siobhan Tilly in 2018’s “Star Trek: Short Treks.”

Betty Thomas

There were all kinds of strong female characters in the show, and Detective Lucy Bates was certainly no exception. Played by Betty Thomas, the character shined in her police work and was always out to prove herself in the field.

 

Thomas was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and went to school in Ohio, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. She first got her start when she started working with the improv troupe, “The Second City.”

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Many times, actors and actresses get on camera and have no idea how they ever lived before – that they’re meant to be performing and on screen. But Betty Thomas wasn’t one of them. In fact, as funny and great as she is as an actress, she decided she was better suited in the role of director.

 

She’s directed some TV episodes for hit shows like “Doogie Howser, M.D.,” and “The Late Shift,” for which she won a Directors Guild of America Award. She also recently listed her Hollywood Hills home for sale for over $7M.

Jeffrey Tambor

Judge Alan Wachtel was a presiding judge on the show, and, well, he was a bit eccentric, to say the least. When he first appeared, it was as a lawyer, and he seemed sketchy and off.

 

During one scene, he was shown cross-dressing as a woman and smoking a pipe as he conducted a case. Still, regardless of the questionable intentions, he rose up through the ranks in the legal system.

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After his stint on 20 episodes of “Hill Street Blues,” he appeared in a number of other major productions, both on film and television. One such appearance was on the hit show, “Arrested Development,” which got him nominated for his fifth Emmy award.

 

In 2014, Tambor starred in the Amazon original series, “Transparent,” a role that won him a Golden Globe, and Primetime Emmy Award. His success in the role made history by making him the first actor to win an Emmy for portraying a transgender character.

James B. Sikking

James B. Sikking played veteran shock trooper and commander of the police force’s emergency action team, Lt. Howard Hunter. With his military background and experience, Lt. Hunter does his job well and is always training in some type of armed or unarmed combat.

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His odd way of conversating often makes him a target of jokes by the members of other divisions, but it doesn’t seem to bother him – likely because he’s tough and always up for a fight.

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The actor played the role of Lt. Hunter from 1981-1987, and all the while, he played additional roles outside of his work on “Hill Street Blues.” In 1984, he appeared as Captain Styles on “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.”

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Then, a couple of years after filming wrapped on the show, he landed the part of Dr. David Howser on the hit show Doogie Howser, a role that he played for several years, from ’89-’93. He also appeared in many major films, including “The Pelican Brief,” starring Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington, in 1993.

Jon Cypher

Jon Cypher played Fletcher P. Daniels, Chief of Police, on “Hill Street Blues,” throughout the duration of the show’s life on air. Although he’s got a tough job to do, he’s known for blowing off attempts from his team at leading him in the right direction and acting in his own best interest against their advice, which usually leads to something going horribly wrong.

 

Jon made his own role, playing the best self-opinionated and pompous ass that he could muster up.

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Jon was with “Hill Street Blues” until it came to an end in 1987. That same year, he landed the role of Duncan in “Masters of the Universe.” Cypher has quite an extensive list of acting credits to his name.

 

From his first appearance, on “John Trapper, M.D.,” to his most recent role on “Great Performances,” in the episode titled “The Prince.” You can catch up with Jon Cypher and see everything he’s been up to both in the past and later on his website, joncypher.org.

Dennis Franz

Most of the actors and actresses on our list have only played but one role on the show. Dennis Franz, however, actually played two. During the third season of the show, he played the part of the crooked detective Sal Benedetto, who winds up killing himself after a botched bank robbery.

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That went on for a few episodes, but early on in season six, he became a regular member of the cast when he landed the part of Lt. Norman Buntz, who’s known for being immoral, violent, and completely obnoxious.

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The Illinois native started acting all the way back in 1965 when he played his first minor role in Mickey One. He went on to act in many crime and cop shows/dramas after his stint on “Hill Street Blues,” including “The A-Team, Hunter,” Deadly Messages,” and “Nasty Boy” part one and part two, in which he played the role of Lt. Stan Krieger.

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After his work on HSB, he was seen as the perfect actor to play the role of that tough-guy policeman, and it sort of became his thing. He retired from the industry in 1998.

Charles Haid

In perhaps his most well-known role, Charles Haid played the part of police officer Andy Renko on the show. His character was initially meant to die in the show’s premiere when he and his partner were shot after accidentally wandering into a difficult situation.

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But audience testing proved that people wanted him to stick around, so writers made some adjustments, and he wound up surviving the incident to carry on through Hill Street for quite some time.

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The California-born star has credits that span both in front of and behind the entertainment industry camera. He’s worked as producer and director on several productions over the years. He’s also done some voice work, acting as Lucky Jack, a one-legged rabbit in the 2004 animated Disney film, “Home on The Range.”

 

He earned a Directors Guild Award for his work behind the lens on an episode of “ER.” He’s now a regular director for the CBS series, “Criminal Minds,” in which he also played a serial killer named Randall Garner.

Taurean Blacque

Taurean Blacque, named for his astrological sign, Taurus, played Detective Neal Washington on the show. The New Jersey native was one of the first black men in the U.S to adopt a child and later became an advocate for adoptive services.

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He appeared on HSB in his role as the detective in over 140 episodes. The actor has an extensive list of experience that stretches from stage to screen, but have we seen him much since his role in the police drama?

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When the show ended in 1987, Taurean moved with his child to Atlanta, Georgia, where he focused his efforts mainly on theatrical work, though he did make a few appearances on television. In 1989, he played the role of Henry Marshall on the NBC show “Generations.”

 

That same year he appeared as Laidlaw in “DeepStar Six.” He’s worked on a few productions since, including 2011’s Battle, though he never really opted to get back into TV in a major way after his work on HSB.

Robert Clohessy

Before Robert Clohessy threw his hat into the acting ring, he threw himself into the…well, the actual ring, and even fought in the Golden Gloves tournament at Madison Square Garden in 1975. His first television role was Officer Patrick Flaherty on the seventh season of “Hill Street Blues.”

 

As the son of a police officer himself, he had a little extra life experience that made him particularly fit to play the part. Since the show, he’s gone on to be a part of some pretty big productions.

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During his early years as an actor, after he’d wrapped up filming on HSB, he had a few recurring roles on TV shows like “All My Children,” “Guiding Light,” and “Boy Meets World.” In 1988, he picked up a supporting role as Thomas Smaraldo on NBC’s “Tattingers.”

 

Later, he joined the cast of HBO’s gritty prison drama series, “Oz,” as Correctional Officer Sean Murphy. Aside from his work on TV, he’s appeared in many films, including “Across the Universe,” “The Crimson Mask,” and “The Place Beyond the Pines,” where he played opposite Ryan Gosling.

Ed Marinaro

Ed Marinaro took a different approach to life than many and wound up experiencing several positions and jobs in various industries over the years. When he was in school, he was a huge athlete. He played football at Cornell U, setting over 15 NCAA records during his time there.

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In 1971, he was runner-up for the Heisman Trophy, right behind Pat Sullivan. But after school, he decided his real passion was in acting, and he went to work as an actor in Hollywood. In 1981, he was cast into the role of Officer Joe Coffey on “Hill Street Blues.”

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Marinaro held his role as Joe Coffey for several years, until 1986, when his character was murdered by a suspect, which created a very heavy-hearted ending to that season and his time on the show.

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Ironically, the actor played the head football coach, Marty Daniels, on Spike TV’s comedy series, “Blue Mountain State,” for three seasons. That’s been his most recent role, and he’s just been concentrating on time with his family, including his wife, fitness-pro Tracy York, and their son, Eddie.

Daniel J. Travanti

Daniel J. Travanti won a Golden Globe Award for his work as police captain Frank Furillo, a role that he held throughout the entirety of the series. He also received two consecutive Primetime Emmy nominations.

 

He’d acted in several television and film productions before his time on the show, the first of which was as Marty Johnson on “Route 66” in 1964. And, after “Hill Street Blues” came to an end, he was determined to keep his acting career alive and well – and that’s just what he did.

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After playing the role of Furillo on HSB for so long, it must have been strange for him to play new roles, but he went for it. He appeared on several shows and movies, including “The Outer Limits” in 1995 and “Prison Break” throughout 2005-2006, as President Richard Mills.

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His most recent role has been on “NCIS Los Angeles,” on which he played a five-episode stint. He’s also appeared on stage in some productions, including 2007’s off-Broadway “The Last Word…”

Joe Spano

Lt. Henry Goldblume on Hill Street Blues is the role that actor Joe Spano is most well known for. That and, of course, playing the original voice of Chef Pasqually of the Chuck E. Cheese franchise when it was still trendy throughout the United States.

 

He played the dedicated, sensitive community affairs officer who wound up suffering just as much as those he helped on the majority of cases on the show.

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Spano’s career was already rolling by the time he was cast into his role on HSB. Since it’s wrapped, he’s appeared on many other shows and films, including a recurring part on the hit drama, “NCIS.”

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The actor is also a philanthropist and involved with work for a few different children’s charities, including helping children from China, get adopted by good families. He himself has adopted two children from China.

Veronica Hamel

Veronica Hamel had a pretty typical upbringing. She was born in Philly to a carpenter and her mother, a housewife, and worked as a secretary for an ironing board cover manufacturer after graduating from college.

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But after she was discovered by Eileen Ford, her life changed, and she began a career in modeling and entertainment. One such role was that of Joyce Davenport on Hill Street.

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Hamel was actually considered for the role of Kelly Garrett on the 1970’s show “Charlie’s Angels,” but she apparently turned it down. After her run as the high-powered attorney on the show.

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She appeared in a number of other television productions, including “Touched by an Angel,” “The Division,” “The Fugitive,” and “Third Watch,” just to name a few. In 2002, she also appeared in HSB creator Steven Bochco’s legal drama, “Philly.”

Jennifer Tilly

Jennifer Tilly certainly has her own signature when it comes to being an actress in Hollywood, and that would be her interesting voice, which has garnered her voice-acting roles like that of one of her most well-known roles as Tiffany Valentine in the “Child’s Play” film franchise.

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Her acting career began in 1983 when she played Laurie in “Oh Madeline.” Just a few years later, she was cast into Gina Srignoli on “Hill Street,” a role which she’d play between 1984-1985.

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Tilly’s made her mark on the acting world and continues to do so even through today. She has an extensive list of film and television credits spanning from ’83 through now when she’s currently filming for the (voice) role of Celia Mae in “Monsters at Work,” which is set to come out in 2021.

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She’s appeared in a number of other major productions, including “Modern Family,” “The Simpsons,” “Frasier,” “Drop Dead Diva,” and even as a guest judge on “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”

Barbara Bosson

Pennsylvania-born Barbara Bosson held her role as Fay Furillo on “Hill Street Blues” throughout the majority of its running length. Fay was detective Frank Furillo’s ex-wife and mother to their son, which means, like in many real cases, they deal with each other constantly.

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And, like in many other cases, the show depicted her as holding on to hope that they’d eventually get back together and become a family again, even if the detective didn’t feel the same way.

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Bosson’s career in entertainment began when she played an uncredited nurse in the 1968 film “Bullitt”. After Hill Street, she continued with acting for another decade or so.

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The last appearance she made on-screen was in 1997 when she played Pamela Chapin in “Total Security.” The year after, she decided to try her hand at pre-production by working as a writer on the 1998 TV movie, “Scattering Dad.”

Michael Warren

A born Hoosier, Michael Warren grew up in South Bend, Indiana, where he was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. He continued to play during his college years at UCLA before going into work as an actor after graduation.

 

His career began when he earned the role of park ranger P.J. Lewis on 1974’s “Sierra.” Then, he landed the part of Bobby Hill, Renko’s partner on Hill Street.

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Warren was committed to acting throughout several decades of his life, from the ‘70s until 2010, when he was seen in his last production, an independent film called “Anderson’s Cross.” He plays the father of the lead character.

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He’s appeared in many shows and films, playing a psychiatrist on the hit show, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” along with the role of Officer William Henderson in 2001 on an episode of “The District.”

Megan Gallagher – Then

Unlike many actors and actresses on our list, Megan Gallagher planned on having a career in entertainment from a young age. She moved to New York to study at the Julliard school after high school and soon found herself acting on stage in Broadway productions like “A Few Good Men,” for which she won an award for her outstanding achievement.

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On “Hill Street,” Gallagher played the role of Officer Tina Russo, who sometimes has a bit of trouble separating her undercover jobs from her reality on the force.

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She played on Hill Street throughout 1986 and appeared in a large number of TV and film productions. She’s been seen on “Law & Order,” “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” “The Outer Limits,” “The District,” “7th Heaven,” and “24,” just to name some of her many projects.

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One of her most recent productions has been in the role of Tricia Bell in the 2017 film, “Double Mommy” – a fitting title for her to be a part of, considering that she is the mother of twins herself.

Making Another Police Show

Show creators Steven Bochco of “L.A. Law” and “NYPD Blue,” and Michael Kozol, co-writer of “First Blood,” agreed to draw up the cop show despite the fact neither had any interest in working on another after their first.

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However, NBC promised to leave them “completely alone to do whatever” they wanted, so they agreed.

The Police Tapes

During the show’s creation, those working on it were looking around for inspiration, which they found in the form of a 1977 documentary called “The Police Tapes.”

 

The documentary showed the goings-on in an NYC police precinct during a particularly rocky time in the city’s past. The entire documentary has been uploaded to YouTube if you’re interested in seeing it for yourself.

A Dramatic Audition

Bruce Weitz went a bit above and beyond for his audition for (undercover) officer Mick Belker. He told reporters afterward that he went into his loud and pushy persona when he walked into the room – but that’s not all. “I jumped up on Grant Tinker’s desk and went after his nose.”

 

Afterward, the MTM co-founder, Tinker, said there was no way he couldn’t offer him the part.

The Wrong Part?

When Joe Spano originally landed his role as Lieutenant Henry Goldblume, he thought there had been some type of mistake. Why? Because when he auditioned, it was for the part of officer Henry Renko.

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He wasn’t thrilled when he didn’t get the role he was after, and he thought he’d been miscast. He fought it for a while but then ultimately got into his role as Renko.

Keep Her Around

On the show, Barbara Bosson played the part of Captain Frank Furillo’s ex-wife, Fay. Fay was initially set to appear in just the first episode. Her character’s initial goal was to add some more depth to Furillo.

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But after they saw her in action with the rest of the cast, they decided to make her a series regular. This wasn’t the only show she shined on, either. In 1995, she was nominated for an Emmy for her work on “Murder One.”

Music in Minutes

If you’re a fan of the show’s theme song, you may be a bit shocked to learn that it only took composer Mike Post two hours to put the entire thing together! The song features Larry Carlton on the guitar.

 

Post has written some major theme songs, including the tunes for “The A-Team,” “NYPD Blue,” “Magnum,” “P.I,” and “Law & Order,” just to name a few. He also wrote the music for every episode, which took him around four or five hours each.

The Pilot Wasn’t Well Received

When the pilot of the show originally aired, it wasn’t met with very positive feedback. People thought it seemed too chaotic, and like the main characters weren’t capable of handling all of the things thrown at them.

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Audiences just didn’t seem very satisfied, saying that “Hill Street” just didn’t feel like a real police station. Luckily, NBC decided to pick it up anyway.

Renko Was Supposed to Die in Episode One

When Charles Haid accepted the role of Renko on the show, he already had a couple of other projects lined up in his future. And, originally, Renko was supposed to die pretty much immediately.

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But, like a few other characters on the show, he tested too high with audiences, and executives decided to keep him around. It worked out well for Haid since one of the other projects he was counting on didn’t end up getting picked up by a network.

Season One Had Bad Ratings

Despite the fact the show turned into a major success in its first year on air, the first season’s ratings wouldn’t have exactly told the same story.

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It finished in 87th place of just 96 shows, making it the lowest-rated drama in television history to get a second season.

The Show’s Setting

No one has ever been able to figure out exactly which major city “Hill Street” is supposed to portray, but many speculate that it could be Chicago. Why?

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Potentially, pictures of the outside of the Maxwell Street police station in the city are displayed during the opening credits. Yeah, that’s a pretty good reason, though it’s fair to say the antics could happen at any major city’s police station.

Star-Studded

Throughout the show, dozens of future stars graced the screen in guest roles. Some famous faces that appeared early on in their careers on “Hill Street” include Cuba Gooding Jr., Danny Glover, Andy Garcia, Don Cheadle, James Cromwell, and Laurence Fishburne.

 

These actors have all turned into major award winners. Don Cheadle has been nominated for over a dozen.

Sammy Davis Jr. Almost Joined the Cast

Among all of the big names to appear on “Hill Street,” Sammy Davis. Jr, unfortunately, wasn’t among them – but not for lack of trying on his part.

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Apparently, he ran into the show’s creator after he’d been referenced in the show, and he got excited, telling Bochco that he loved the show. But he himself never actually wound up acting in it.

Censorship Battles

These days, censorship is a little more relaxed on TV than it used to be. Sure, some things are big no-nos, but something like the title Bochco picked for an episode, “Moon Over Uranus,” would definitely fly.

 

However, while the show was on the air, Standards and Practices tried to shut it down. Bochco eventually talked them into it, and it actually spanned three episodes, concluding with “Moon Over Uranus: The Final Legacy.”

Career Launcher

The show launched many careers in Hollywood, both in front of and behind the lens. David Milch and Dick Wolf wound up winning and being nominated for Emmy awards for their writing on “Hill Street.”

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David Milch’s script for an episode in season three, “Trial by Fury,” won him an Emmy, WGA, and Humanitas Prize.

The Dennis Franz Spinoff

In five episodes of “Hill Street Blues,” Dennis Franz appeared as dirty police officer Sal Benedetto. He then reappeared in the final two seasons of the show as Lt. Norman Buntz.

 

When production wrapped after season seven, he hit screens as Buntz again in his own spinoff, “Beverly Hills Buntz.” The show lasted just nine episodes before it was canceled.

Awards and Nominations

During its seven-season long run on the air, “Hill Street” won and was nominated for an extensive list of awards and accolades. It’s won more than a dozen Primetime Emmys and nominated for several more.

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Some of the wins include the award for Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series, and Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series.