Ron Leibman, who won a Tony Award for his role as Roy Cohn in 1993’s Angels In America: Millennium Approaches, and co-starred with Sally Field in the 1979 Oscar-winner Norma Rae, has died from complications of pneumonia.
Leibman also won a Primetime Emmy as Lead Actor In A Drama Series for his role as Martin ‘Kaz’ Kazinsky, a convict turned lawyer, in the 1978-79 crime drama Kaz, a short-lived series he created and co-wrote.
Born in New York City, Leibman graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University. He became a member of the Compass Players in the late 1950s, then joined the famed Actors Studio.
His television debut came in 1956 when he appeared as Johnny in The Edge of the Night. But he spent most of the 1960s on Broadway, appearing in everything from Shakespeare plays to Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night.
His film career began in 1970 with Where’s Poppa? He continued working steadily, then broke big with 1979’s Norma Rae, where he played union organizer Reuben, the inspiration for Sally Field’s bold stance against her textile boss overlords.
Leibman galvanized the stage in his role as Roy Cohn in Angels In America. As Cohn, Leibman struggled to delicately balance the nuances of a well-known and ruthless lawyer with the sensibility of a man dying of AIDS in a politically charged climate. .
Throughout his varied career, he was constantly working in film, tv and the stage. One of his more memorable TV turns was his appearance as Dr. Leonard Green, Rachel Green’s overbearing father, on the sitcom Friends.
Leibman was married to actress Linda Lavin from 1969-1981, and then to Jessica Walter from 1983 until his death He co-starred with Walter in Tartuffe at the Los Angeles Theatre Center in 1986, and they appeared together in Neil Simon’s Rumors in 1988 on Broadway. They also joined forces in the film Dummy and for an episode in the TV series Law & Order.
In 2013, Leibman became a recurring voice actor on the TV series Archer, again joined by Walter as the voice of Malory Archer.
Beyond his acting, Leibman also gave back by teaching at The New School for Drama in New York City until his death.
Survivors include his wife, Jessica Walter, and stepdaughter Brooke Bowman, a drama programming and development executive at Fox Broadcasting.
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