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Why Harry From B Positive Looks So Familiar

He may be a series regular, but the character of Harry isn't introduced on the CBS sitcom "B Positive" until early in Season 2. A resident at the retirement home Gina (Annaleigh Ashford) purchases, Harry is a grumpy older man struggling to keep his terminally ill wife, Meredith (Priscilla Lopez), alive and comfortable for as long as he can. Meredith however wants Harry to be able to move on, and after her death, he decides to hit the road with Drew (Thomas Middleditch).

Like many of the cast members portraying Valley Hills residents on "B Positive," including Jane Seymour and Jim Beaver, Harry is played by the kind of veteran character actor even amateur film fans have seen many times. This performer was a favorite of director Garry Marshall, appeared on a popular 1990s medical drama, and also worked for a decade on a controversial Tim Allen sitcom. Harry is played by none other than Hector Elizondo, the familiar face behind so many memorable roles.

Hector Elizondo started out as a New York stage actor

Hector Elizondo originally began doing stage acting in the 1960s, though his first screen credit was a very small appearance in 1963's "The Fat Black Pussycat." Asked by The AV Club about why he got into the profession, the actor said, "I was struck by the theater experience and the immediacy of it, and eventually one thing led to another." Born in New York to parents of Basque and Puerto Rican descent, he chose not to change his name, even if it meant some missed opportunities. Elizondo mused later, "Now it's fashionable to have an exotic name, but back then it wasn't" (via Television Academy Foundation). 

Over the next decade he picked up more bit parts in films, including "Valdez Is Coming" and "Pocket Money." Elizondo also guest-starred on a critically acclaimed 1972 "All In The Family" episode where his character Carlos, his pregnant wife Sarafina (Edith Diaz), and Archie Bunker (Carol O'Connor) are trapped on an elevator when Sarafina goes into labor. Two years later, Elizondo would be the one receiving praise for his part in a hit crime film.

Elizondo was lauded for The Taking of Pelham One Two Three

In 1974, Elizondo played a key role in the 1974 thriller "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three" as a hijacker, code-named "Mr. Grey," who takes a New York subway train hostage along with three other men, including leader "Mr. Blue" (Robert Shaw), in order to ransom the people on board to the New York City government for $1 million. "Grey" is the most volatile of the four criminals, a former mobster with little hesitation about using intimidation and extreme violence on the passengers.

Since the film's release, the actor has received acclaim for the part, with his performance cited as "unusually unpleasant" by critics compared to the kinder, much less villainous characters he's typically played (via The Digital Fix). In an interview, Elizondo acknowledged that he found it difficult to be so awful to the other actors on the set, "but it was character-based – those four guys were indelible" (via YouTube). He remains proud of the film and especially of working with legendary actors like Walter Matthau and Shaw (via The AV Club).

Elizondo worked constantly through the 1970s

Around the time that "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three" was released, Elizondo was offered the former role on the sitcom "Chico and the Man," but decided not to take it because Chico was such a stereotypical character. Elizondo elaborated on this to The Washington Post in 1999, saying, "I hate to be called a Latin actor. I don't see what my ancestry has to do with it. I think by putting me in that box, by categorizing me, you're taking away my options and my opportunity." From the beginning of his career onward, the actor vowed to never take roles that were demeaning or racist. 

Elizondo continued to make ends meet in the mid-1970s by making guest appearances on television, including "The Rockford Files" and "Columbo." He did briefly star as a working-class widower and father in the 1976 sitcom, "Popi," which was one of the first network shows to feature a Latino family, but it was canceled after only 11 episodes. 

Elizondo also filmed supporting parts in movies such as 1980's "American Gigolo" and "Diary of the Dead." He was happy to continue on as a self-declared "whatshisname" actor (via The AV Club), but would soon meet a filmmaker who knew just how to use his talent. 

He started working with frequent collaborator Garry Marshall in 1982

In 1978, Elizondo made a mild blunder that turned out to be one of the most fateful moves of his career (via Variety). He was at the home basketball court of director Garry Marshall to discuss a potential project when he accidentally smacked him in the face with the ball. When Elizondo rushed over to apologize, Marshall took a liking to the actor (via The Washington Post), and there, the pair came up with the storyline for Elizondo's character in Marshall's next movie, 1982's "Young Doctors in Love" (via The AV Club).

A parody of medical soap operas, "Young Doctors in Love" features Elizondo as Angelo, a mobster looking out for his invalid father in the hospital by disguising himself as a woman. However, Angelo falls in love with a male doctor in the process.

Elizondo would work with Marshall for the rest of his career until the director died in 2016. Elizondo commented to The AV Club, "I did 18 movies with Garry Marshall. That's something special. But Garry was easy to love. It's wonderful to be around people who love what they're doing, you know?"

Pretty Women gave Elizondo a comeback

It was ultimately a Garry Marshall project that helped revitalize Elizondo's career and is still one of his most famous roles to date. Elizondo has a small but crucial part in Marshall's 1990 romantic comedy "Pretty Woman" as Barney, the hotel manager who is firm but compassionate with sex worker Vivian (Julia Roberts), and helps her blend in with Edward's (Richard Gere) wealthy lifestyle. Refinery29 wrote of his nuanced performance, "And really, who can steel themselves against the dad-like charm of Hector Elizondo?"

"Pretty Woman" was a smash hit that famously made Julia Roberts a star, but it also made Elizondo a successful character actor once more, with his performance even nabbing a Golden Globe nomination. But the veteran performer had been in bombs before, and told The Washington Post he isolated himself after the film opened just in case it flopped. This meant he was very pleasantly surprised when Marshall called him with the good news. "I was discovered again," he said of the positive reception. 

He was a part of the CBS series Chicago Hope

In 1994, Elizondo was cast as Dr. Phillip Watters on the CBS medical drama "Chicago Hope." The hospital's chief of staff, Watters often clashes with surgeons Jeffrey Geiger (Mandy Patinkin) and Aaron Shutt (Adam Arkin) over how to treat patients without putting the institution at risk.

The show, which ran until 2000 for 6 seasons, largely aimed for medical accuracy, which Elizondo explained was not just a performance. "Chicago Hope" had doctors on set to provide consultation, and the cast also had to learn the ropes of actually being a professional in a hospital (via The AV Club). Elizondo explained, "What was difficult was the medical jargon. So we'd cheat sometimes. There would be little Post-Its we'd glance at. You had to do it, or else you wouldn't get through the day."

In fact, he won his only Emmy for "Bridge Over Troubled Watters," a 1998 episode where his character struggles with grief over his son's death. Elizondo told the Television Academy that as a father himself, he used his own feelings to motivate his performance: "If you're going to be an actor, you're going to have a secret bag of stuff. You have to know how to use that and go there."

The actor endeared himself to young girls everywhere in The Princess Diaries

At this point in time, Elizondo was now an elder statesman of sorts among character actors. His casting in Garry Marshall's "The Princess Diaries" and the sequel, therefore, endeared him to a whole new, younger audience of moviegoers. The movies adapted the Meg Cabot novels about an American teen, Mia Thermopolis (Anne Hathaway), who discovers from her grandmother Clarissa (Julie Andrews) that she is heir to the throne of the fictional country Genovia.

In the films, Elizondo plays Joe, the unflappable head of security for Clarissa who also serves as Mia's limo driver. Much like his previous role as Barney in "Pretty Woman," Joe becomes Mia's friend and guide through her transition into royalty. He's also in love with Clarissa, but the two only acknowledge their mutual passion for each other in the sequel.

Both films did extremely well at the box office (via The Numbers) despite less than positive reception from critics, and Elizondo revealed in 2016 that he and Marshall had talked about a third installment in the series before the director's death (via Variety Latino). Perhaps someday Elizondo will return to the role of Joe in "Princess Diaries 3."

Elizondo plays Callie's father on Grey's Anatomy

In 2007, Elizondo joined another hit medical drama, this time in a recurring part. He first appears on the third season of "Grey's Anatomy" as Carlos Torres, Callie's (Sara Ramirez) wealthy and controlling father. Carlos later reacts harshly to Callie coming out to him. He not only cuts her off financially and gets his family to stop speaking to her, but in Season 6, he brings a priest to Seattle Grace to "convert" Callie back to heterosexuality. However, after Callie's girlfriend Arizona (Jessica Capshaw) talks to both of them, the father and daughter reconcile. 

Elizondo noted that walking onto an already established show can be hard: "You're coming into a family unit from the outside — it's a little tricky. Luckily, most of the time when I walk onto a new set, I know a lot of the crew" (via Television Academy). He also enjoyed depicting his character's positive growth over the course of the series. Carlos even comes to Callie and Arizona's wedding and dances with his daughter at the reception.

The actor played therapist to Monk for 2 seasons

Between the 6th and 7th season of the series "Monk," actor Stanley Kamel unfortunately died of a heart attack (via The New York Times). Rather than recast Monk's therapist, Dr. Charles Kroger, the show writers chose to have Kroger die offscreen as well. Replacing him as the shrink for the obsessive-compulsive detective then is Dr. Neven Bell, played by Elizondo. Monk is skeptical of entering into therapy with another doctor, but Dr. Bell was also a friend and colleague of Dr. Kroger, and the two bond over their shared grief.

Bell's deference to Monk's habits, including starting sessions right on time, also helps Monk transition to a new doctor. The detective then remains Bell's patient until the end of the series. Like Kroger, Bell sometimes gets frustrated with Monk, but is also crucial to helping him cope with his problems and solve cases.

Elizondo only worked on "Monk" for 2 seasons, but enjoyed the role, praising Shaloub for his professionalism: "Not only is Tony a pro, he wants the show done as well as possible. He won't let anything slide" (via Television Academy Foundation).

For the past decade, Elizondo has been part of the Last Man Standing cast

Even when several cast members left the show (Variety), and it even changed networks from ABC to Fox (via Deadline), Elizondo appeared on the sitcom "Last Man Standing" from the show's premiere in 2011 until its conclusion a decade later. Elizondo plays Ed Alzate, Mike's (Tim Allen) good friend and business partner in the sporting goods franchise Outdoor Man. Ed technically runs the stores but usually defers to Mike's business sense and judgment. Later in the series, Ed retires from Outdoor Man and romances Mike's mother-in-law, Bonnie (Susan Sullivan), even marrying her in Season 8. 

Now 85 years old, Elizondo continues to perform in films and on television. He told The AV Club that his advice to younger actors now is based on something Walter Matthau told him in 1974, namely to look at acting as a series of professional gigs, not a career, and to be aware of the other cast and crew. "They're all part of the scene. You've got to be part of the mix. You've got to be conscious of that. You're just a working stiff and lucky to have a ****** job."