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Cagney And Lacey Actors You May Not Know Passed Away

More than 30 years after its 1988 series finale, the cultural impact of "Cagney & Lacey" is still paying dividends. Starring Broadway veteran Tyne Daly ("Spider-Man: Homecoming") and Sharon Gless ("Queer as Folk"), the CBS feminist buddy-cop series broke new ground by placing two women — married mother Mary Beth Lacey (Daly) and freewheeling single woman Chris Cagney (Gless) — at the forefront of the police procedural. The show follows the two women as they navigate being female police detectives in the all-male, fictional 14th precinct of the NYPD. 

Evolving from cult favorite into Emmy-winning hit, "Cagney & Lacey" ran for seven seasons from 1982 to 1988. Though briefly canceled in 1983, it was resurrected via a fan letter-writing campaign in 1984 (via The Los Angeles Times) and went on to generate four TV movies in the '90s, as well as an attempted reboot. Daly's role as Lacey won four Emmys for outstanding lead actress in a drama and two for outstanding supporting actress in a drama. Gless earned two Emmys, plus a Golden Globe, for her work as Cagney.

"Cagney & Lacey" was inspired by the real-life first woman deputy chief of the LAPD, Peggy York, who died in October 2021. The show's glass ceiling-smashing influence on police dramas can't be understated. It arguably paved the way for the proliferation of the "tough female detective" television archetype, later embodied by characters like Temperance Brennan on "Bones," Olivia Benson on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and Sarah Lindon on "The Killing."

While the actresses who played the titular characters are still alive, many of their co-stars are no longer with us. Here are the recurring cast members of "Cagney & Lacey" that you may not know have passed away. 

Al Waxman played Cagney and Lacey's tough boss

Al Waxman co-starred as Cagney and Lacey's kind, if a bit brusque, supervisor Lt. Bert Samuels on all seven seasons of the CBS series. Though Bert is initially reluctant to welcome female detectives to the squad, he later evolves into a steadfast supporter and confidante for both members of his squad. As "Cagney & Lacey" progresses, Bert grapples with personal challenges of his own, including estrangement from his son and becoming sober. 

Born in Toronto to Polish Jewish parents, Waxman was a veteran actor with credits in over 1,000 stage, film, radio, and TV productions, per his 2001 obituary in Playbill. He achieved icon status as a Canadian actor by playing convenience store owner Larry King in the sitcom "King of Kensington" (via IMDb). He was praised for his singular dedication to theater roles, shedding 70 pounds to play Willy Loman in "Death of a Salesman" because, in his words, Loman "has enough baggage without [my] excess weight, according to his obituary in The Los Angeles Times. Notably, he was also the recipient of the 1997 Order of Canada (via The Canadian Communications Foundation).

Waxman was also known for his commitment to representing his Jewish heritage onstage. According to Waxman's son, Adam, in a 2015 interview with The Canadian Jewish News, the late actor "was so unabashedly proud to be Canadian and to be Jewish. He wasn't one of those actors who would change his name so it sounded less ethnic." The Los Angeles Times obituary for Waxman also noted that, in 2000, he directed a production of "The Diary of Anne Frank" at the Stratford Festival in Ontario.

Waxman, who struggled throughout his life with heart conditions, died suddenly during a bypass operation in 2001, reported The Los Angeles Times. He was 65.

John Karlen played supportive husband Harvey Lacey

Though Tyne Daly and Sharon Gless's co-stars were almost all men, they formed the backbone for the show rather than taking center stage. John Karlen helped flip the script for typical gender roles on TV by playing Lacey's supportive civilian husband, Harvey (affectionately known as "Harve"). Together, Harvey and Mary Beth Lacey have three children and weather the occasional storms of marriage and family life, including Harvey's job loss and the resulting period of depression.

In 1986, Karlen won an Emmy for outstanding supporting actor in a drama, his first win out of three nominations he received in his career. In a 1987 interview with The Chicago Tribune, he expressed his appreciation for the small but fulfilling role of Harve, which catapulted the then-struggling actor into fame and financial security: "The secret of Harvey Lacey is that he's liked. Harvey being shuffled into the background doesn't bother me. As long as I get my two or three scenes, I'm happy. And I always get them. You see, this is a great deal. It's excellent money, and I only work one or two days a week. You don't feel overworked."

According to his IMDb page, Karlen reprised his role in all four of the "Cagney & Lacey" television films. His other best-known performance is as conman Willie Loomis (among other roles) on the horror-fantasy soap opera "Dark Shadows." His IMDb also reveals he had guest appearances and recurring roles on TV shows like "The Streets of San Francisco," "Charlie's Angels," "Hill Street Blues," "Quincy, M.E.," and "Murder, She Wrote."

Karlen died of congestive heart failure at age 86 in 2020 (via The Hollywood Reporter). He is survived by his son, Adam. 

Sidney Clute played senior detective Paul La Guardia

Sidney Clute, who played Senior Detective Paul La Guardia and Bert's good friend-mentor, was the only cast member to die while the show was still running. The New York Times reported in 1985 that the actor died at age 69 from cancer during the fifth season of "Cagney & Lacey." His absence on the show is framed as the character's retirement from the force: After embarking on a May-December romance, Paul moves with his much younger girlfriend to New Jersey and is never heard from again. Clute's name was posthumously retained in the show's credits until the series' end in 1988. The New York Times described his character as "a gentle supporter of the female detectives in a precinct dominated by men." He was replaced by Dan Shor as Detective Jonah Newman.

Clute was a seasoned television actor long before his turn on "Cagney & Lacey," as his IMDb profile proves. The Brooklyn-born actor arrived in Hollywood in the late 1940s and appeared in uncredited roles on "The Best Years of Our Lives" and "The Adventures of Superman," before moving on to credited roles on popular TV shows including "Hogan's Heroes," "Dragnet," and "Bewitched." He was also in several films, including "The Russians are Coming, the Russians are Coming," "Red Ball Express," and "The Big Fix." 

Robert Hegyes played the eternally cool Manny Esposito

Robert Hegyes brought a breath of fresh air to Season 6 of "Cagney & Lacey" as the streetwise detective Manny Esposito. Manny's breezy attitude, perpetually casual attire, and his three ex-wives are often a bone of contention with his partner, austere family man Detective Al Corassa (Paul Mantee). Over time, the friction between Al and Manny evolves into a close father-son bond and partnership.

Before appearing on "Cagney & Lacey," Hegyes is best known for his breakout role as high schooler Juan Epstein on the 1970s sitcom "Welcome Back, Kotter." According to The New York Times' 2012 obituary for Hegyes, the afro-sporting actor said that he based his performance of Juan on Chico Marx, one of the Marx brothers. He also had guest spots on "Diagnosis Murder," "NewsRadio," "L.A. Heat," and "CHiPs" (via IMDb).

Though he played a student on TV, the actor's NYT obituary notes he Hegyes was a schoolteacher in real life and taught at Venice High School in California for many years. Like his character on "Cagney & Lacey," Hegyes was married three times. He died of a heart attack at age 60 in 2012 and is survived by his two children, two step-children, and three siblings (via The Hollywood Reporter).

Harvey Atkin played Sgt. Ronald Coleman

Harvey Atkin was part of the original supporting cast of "Cagney & Lacey" as Sgt. Ronald Coleman. Described by the official "Cagney & Lacey" website as "a gambler, a busybody, and a clown," Atkin appeared in 99 episodes of the show as the 14th precinct's desk sergeant. 

Born in Toronto, Canada, in 1942, Atkin was a character actor whose breakthrough role came in 1979, when he played camp director Morty Melnick opposite Bill Murray in the cult Canadian comedy "Meatballs" (via IMDb). He also appeared in Canadian sitcom "King of Kensington" alongside "Cagney & Lacey" co-star Al Waxman, had a recurring role as Judge Ridenour on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," and parlayed his distinctive voice into voicing the characters on a number of animated series like "Little Shop," "X-Men," and "Beetlejuice."

He died of cancer in 2017 at age 74, as reported Deadline. He was survived by his wife Celia, daughter Lisa, son Danny, three sisters, and five grandchildren. 

Dick O'Neill played Cagney's dad, Charlie

Dick O'Neill played Chris Cagney's father, Charlie Cagney, a former NYPD officer with a drinking problem. Charlie is essential to Chris's arc on "Cagney & Lacey." Not only is she inspired by her father to enter the police force, but she is forced to confront her own addiction to alcohol after Charlie's death.

O'Neill's 50-year acting career made him one of the most recognizable faces in television and film. According to his IMDb profile, he appeared on ”Home Improvement,” ”Family Matters," "Cybill," ”M*A*S*H,” "Cheers," "Dharma & Greg," "Trapper John, M.D.," "Falcon Crest," "Magnum, P.I.," "Father Dowling," and "Mad About You." In addition to his work in television, he appeared in feature films including "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three," "The Jerk," "Prizzi's Honor," and "The Buddy Holly Story." He also had extensive theater credits and met his wife of 34 years while playing Uncle Max during a performance of "The Sound of Music" at Long Island's Westbury Music Theater (via The Los Angeles Times).

The actor died at age 70 in 1998 from heart failure, according to The New York Times. He was survived by his wife, Jackie Shaw O'Neill, and his three daughters. 

Paul Mantee played Det. Al Corassa

According to his IMDb profile, Paul Mantee played two separate characters on "Cagney & Lacey" in Seasons 2 and 5 before joining the CBS series halfway through the fifth season as Detective Newman's partner, Al Corassa, beginning with Episode 7, "Mothers & Sons" (via IMDb). The addition of both his and Newman's characters were intended to replace that of Paul La Guardia. After Newman dies on the job from a gunshot wound, the strait-laced widower is partnered with Manny Esposito, to whom he eventually becomes a paternal figure. 

Although he had bit parts on TV shows as early as the late 1950s, Mantee got his big break in 1964 when he starred as a stranded astronaut in the action-adventure film "Robinson Crusoe on Mars." Born Paul Marianetti, he later changed his name to make it more palatable to directors reluctant to cast Italian actors, according to The Los Angeles Times. During an acting career that spanned 40 years, he acquired a reputation for playing the role of "the heavy" in action-adventure films and TV, including "The Fugitive," "Mission: Impossible," "Ironside," "The Streets of San Francisco," "Mannix," "Vega$," "Quincy M.E.," and "Hunter." Following his retirement from acting, he published two novels, "Bruno of Hollywood" and "In Search of the Perfect Ravioli" (via Goodreads).

The Los Angeles Times reported in 2013 that Mantee died at age 82 of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He was survived by his wife, Suzy Davis Mantee.