Louis Zorich, a busy actor who appeared on Broadway with stars such as Laurence Olivier and Dustin Hoffman, on television in “Mad About You” and in numerous projects with his wife, Oscar-winning actress Olympia Dukakis, died Tuesday at his home in Manhattan. He was 93.
In a career of about 60 years, 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 occasionally tackled 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, New Jersey, of which he and Dukakis were founding members. In 2004, he portrayed the title character in an off-Broadway version of Aeschylus’ “Agamemnon” by the Aquila Theater Co., opposite Dukakis’ Clytemnestra.
Louis Michael Zorich was born Feb. 12, 1924, in Chicago. His parents — Christ, a stationary engineer, and the former Anna Gledj, a homemaker — were immigrants from Yugoslavia.
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 GI 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. His movie roles included a constable in the 1971 film version of “Fiddler on the Roof.”