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L.A. Law Actors You May Not Know Passed Away

"L.A. Law" was one of America's favorite TV shows of its time, captivating huge audiences with calamitous cases throughout its eight-season run from 1986 to 1994. Following a fictional law firm in Los Angeles, it earned water cooler status in thousands of real offices across the country.

Looking back, the show was a snapshot of the '80s, dramatizing the frictions of the cash-mad and ever-litigious Reagan era. Few hot topics of the time escaped the scrutiny of its scripts — from capital punishment debates and sexual harassment to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Fans will remember the show for its personal tumult too, with drama often extending from the boardroom to the bedroom.

The show won a staggering 15 Emmys, including four Outstanding Drama Series wins during a run of six consecutive nominations from 1987 to 1992. It still holds the joint record for most nominations in a single year, and its cast is crammed with trophy-clutching famous faces. Looming large in the public consciousness, the show was responsible for pervasive perceptions of law and lawyers. Picture a legal eagle, and chances are you're imagining someone like one of the sharp-shouldered, hard-nosed employees of its famous firm, McKenzie, Brackman, Chaney, and Kuzak, whether you realize it or not.

Something else you may not have realized is that since "LA Law" left our screens over 25 years ago, some of its beloved cast have passed away. Here are the famous faces who are no longer with us.

Richard Dysart died in 2015

Richard Dysart — best known for playing the straight-laced patriarch Leland McKenzie — died in 2015 at the age of 86. His cause of death was confirmed by his widow Kathryn Jacobi to be cancer — as reported by The Independent.

A familiar face in film and TV — though never a true A-lister — Dystart was praised by the New York Times for his ability to bring "executive demeanor, kindly rectitude, [and] patriarchal spine" to the plethora of steadfast authority figures he was well known to portray. Dysart was one of those "oh, that guy's been in everything!" actors. Throughout the 1970s he appeared in — to name a notable few — "The Hospital," "All In The Family," "The Terminal Man," "First You Cry," and "Being There." The 1980s saw him feature in "Wall Street," the third entry in the "Back to the Future" trilogy, and John Carpenter's cult classic "The Thing."

Though he wasn't a real-life lawyer, he did use his "L.A. Law" fame to bring positive change to the real legal landscape. As the LA Times reported, he was the face of public service messages in 23 states across the US, encouraging lawyers to do more pro bono work to help those who wouldn't ordinarily be able to afford good legal representation.

Larry Drake died in 2016

Larry Drake, who played the much-loved mailroom clerk Benny Stulwicz, died in 2016 at the age of 66. Drake died of a heart attack at a relatively young age after a lifelong struggle with obesity. He suffered what the Washington Post described as "unspecified health problems".

Remembered by his manager Steven Siebert as "a soulful gentleman with zero ego," the actor's loss was felt deeply by an industry who clearly treasured him (via CNN). Alongside his "L.A. Law" role, Drake was also noted for his performance in 1990's "Darkman" — a sci-fi thriller from "Evil Dead" director Sam Raimi — which won him a Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Drake was an award winner for "L.A. Law" too, picking up two consecutive Emmys for Outstanding Supporting Actor in 1988 and 1989. Though disability representation onscreen has changed a lot since the mid '80s, his portrayal of the learning-disabled Benny was regarded as groundbreaking for its time. He appeared as Benny for the last time in 2002's "L.A. Law: The Movie," a reunion film for the franchise.

John Spencer died in 2005

John Spencer, who played the denim-clad New Yorker Tommy Mullaney, died tragically of a heart attack in 2005. Coming just four days before his 59th birthday, his sudden death rocked the television world and garnered countless tributes from his fellow stars.

Spencer is perhaps better remembered for his six-year stint in the smash-hit political drama "The West Wing," in which he played Leo McGarry — chief of staff to Martin Sheen's President Jed Bartlet. "West Wing" creator Aaron Sorkin paid tribute to Spencer in the aftermath of his death, calling him "an uncommonly good man, an exceptional role model and a brilliant actor," as reported by the BBC.

He also notably appeared alongside Harrison Ford in 1990's "Presumed Innocent" — a breakthrough role preceded by several TV guest appearances, including one on "Law and Order." As The Guardian notes, he remained committed to theater throughout his career, after achieving his first major success with an Obie-Award-winning off-Broadway performance in 1981's "Still Life."

Joining "L.A Law" in 1990 for the second half of its eight-year run, Spencer's character Tommy Mullaney was a straight-talking antidote to the shoulder-padded city slickers at McKenzie, Brackman, Chaney and Kuzak. Shaking things up with Mullaney's streetwise input, he's remembered for revitalizing the hit show.