News Column

Dennis Farina: Five essential characters of the cop-turned-actor

July 23, 2013

YellowBrix

July 23--When Dennis Farina left police work for acting, the big and small screens gained a smooth character actor who could play a rogue or a hero with equal finesse.

The former Chicago cop, who died Monday at age 69, was cast as a law enforcement officers many times in his career, but he appeared in everything from sitcoms to "Saving Private Ryan."

Here are five unforgettable roles that the moustachioed actor with the twinkling eyes played to perfection.

1. Lt. Mike Torello, "Crime Story" (1986-88): Farina had a breakthrough role in this gritty, stylish NBC series set in the early 1960s. It was executive produced by Michael Mann, who also cast Farina in "Miami Vice" and the film "Manhunter."

2. Jimmy Serrano, "Midnight Run" (1988): The one-time Windy City lawman was a Chicago mob boss in this quirky action-packed comedy starring Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin.

3. Ray (Bones) Barboni, "Get Shorty" (1995): Farina had the swagger of a character lifted from an Elmore Leonard novel, so it's fitting that he was a mobster in this juicy adaptation of a Leonard crime/movie biz adventure. He also played Jennifer Lopez's dad in 1998's "Out of Sight," the Leonard-based romp filmed partly in Detroit.

4. Det. Joe Fontana, "Law & Order" (2004-06): As a New York crime fighter, Farina upheld the tradition of weary cynicism forged by previous cast member Jerry Orbach.

5. Walt, "New Girl" (2011-present): Farina was introduced to a whole new generation of adorkable viewers when he guested on the Fox comedy as Nick's unreliable, but always entertaining, father.

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