Richard Schiff

Richard Schiff

We watch too much TV, so we knew Richard from before most people became aware of him, which is when he played the warm and wise Toby Ziegler in The West Wing. He’s always been one of our favorite character actors, bringing an underspoken intensity and deep humanity to all his roles. He’s like the teacher who knows that you listen more closely when he’s whispering than yelling. (Click the titles to see Richard's many Jewish co-stars!)

Richard often plays Jewish characters, or at least ones with Jewish names. His recent roles include Ira Goldberg in The Locals, Walter Pincus in Kill the Messenger… and David Hertzberg in Murder in the First.

This last one is his new project, and as the title implies, it’s a crime show, about one murder case each season. It’s produced by Jewish TV genius Stephen Bochco, which is good because his earlier cop shows— Hill St. Blues and NYPD Blue (Ricard was in that)— were some of the best TV shows of all time, period.

Richard has been in a ton of crime shows already: Bones, NCIS (as big baddie Harper Dearing), the Criminal Minds spinoff Suspect Behavior, White Collar, In Plain Sight (he played a rabbi!), Monk, and Burn Notice (OK, that’s a spy show, but still).

You might also have seen Richard as King Leopold in Once Upon  a Time, Skip Galweather in  House of Lies, or Dr. Malachi Talmadge in the short-lived Past Life.

Or, if you watch TV at all, you might have seen him in medical shows like Chicago Hope, ERDoogie Howser, and Becker, as well as legal shows like L.A. Law (with Jewish actor Michael Tucker), Picket Fences (with Jewish actor Fyvush Finkel), and The Practice. He’s also been in a number of shows with a strong female leads, like The Mindy Project, Ally McBeal, and Murphy Brown.

His sci-fi and superhero-related projects include films like Man of Steel (with Ayelet Zurer)Martian Child, Deep Impact, VolcanoThe Lost World: Jurassic Park and Tank Girl… and TV shows like The Cape, the Terminator TV series, Relativity, and Roswell.

A lot of Richard’s movies can be described as heart-warming, like Last Chance Harvey, I Am Sam, and My Life. And several of his projects have been about real people, like union founder Jimmy Hoffa, controversial civil rights leader Malcom X… and Annie Parker, whose theory about breat cancer being genetic changed all cancer medicine forever.

Then, in Ray, about soul music pioneer Ray Charles, Richard plays Jewish producer Jerry Wexler, one of the most important figures in popular music history! Jerry guided the careers and music of many major acts, from "A" (Aretha Franklin) to "Z" (Led Zeppelin)... and also Bob Dylan.

His other movies are all over the place— the kid film Doctor Dolittle, the gross murder mystery Se7en, the pulse-racing Speed, the quirky Hudsucker Proxy, the inter-racial romance The Bodyguard… and whatever the heck you want to call the movie Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. This one’s a bout a cop who has to bring his mom (Jewish actress Estelle Getty) along on a case. Yeah…

Richard was born in Maryland, in a town called Bethesda— named after a part of Jerusalem that means “House of Kindness.” It took a long time for Richard to decide what he wanted to do in life. He took an equivalency test instead of graduating high school, then cut out of college before his finals. For a while, Richard lived in Colorado, working as a woodcutter! Then he decided to give theater a chance… but hated acting! He preferred directing.

But then Steven Spielberg saw him in something, and put him in the Jurassic Park sequel. This led to his West Wing role, and he was on his way.

Richard also likes stage acting, and has done that in both the US and England. One of his British plays was so popular he made a version of it for… radio! Now that’s old school!

Zoe Wannamaker
Liza Weil
Odeya Rush
Grant Heslov
Jared Gillman
Ike Barinholtz