If you were around in the 1980s, chances are you remember the show Hill Street Blues. The drama gave viewers an inside look into the lives of cops in a gritty urban neighborhood. Although it didn’t have much of an audience at first, Hill Street Blues lasted a total of seven years, from 1981 to 1987, thanks to their loyal fans.
The series became a huge success and was nominated for 98 Emmy Awards – which was a record at the time. The critically acclaimed show’s impact wasn’t understood. Only now, looking back years later, you can truly appreciate how Hill Street Blues changed the world of television forever. So, here is what the cast is up to now.
Daniel J. Travanti – Then
Daniel J. Travanti depicted the main character, Detective Frank Furillo, the captain of Hill Street Station. Travanti had a humble start; he was born to Italian immigrant parents in Wisconsin. Travanti was the perfect actor for the role.
The actor started his career back in 1964, taking on small characters at first. Art imitated life for Travanti since he had issues with drinking, just like his character, Detective Furillo. The actor ended up with two Emmy Awards and five nominations for his performance on Hill Street Blues.
Daniel J. Travanti – Now
After his time on Hill Street Blues, Daniel J. Travanti certainly built up his acting resume. He starred in the television movie Adam which scored the actor his sixth Emmy nomination. He was also featured in two off-Broadway plays: Oren Safdie’s The Last Word and Eugene O’Neil’s A Touch of the Poet.
He also made guest appearances on television, most notably when he played an Alzheimer’s-afflicted serial killer on Criminal Minds. The actor returned to the small screen in more recent years, playing Callen’s father on NCIS: Los Angeles.
Michael Warren – Then
When he starred in 146 episodes of Hill Street Blues playing Officer Bobby Hill, Michael Warren made a name for himself. The actor played basketball at UCLA before making his way into showbiz.
The African American actor was teamed up with “Cowboy” Renko, a very stereotypical redneck officer; the tension between these characters sparked many plots on the show. In 1982, Michael Warren won an Emmy nomination for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for his role. Although he didn’t take home the trophy, just getting nominated is a huge achievement for any actor.
Michael Warren – Now
Michael Warren has moved on to bigger and better things since Hill Street Blues ended. He played a bunch of small roles. You may remember him starring as Khadijia’s father in Living Single or appearing on an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
The talented man has other achievements than acting. He was inducted into the UCLA Athletic Hall of Fame and the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame for his successful career playing college basketball. Here’s a fun fact you may not know: His son Cash Warren is married to stunning actress Jessica Alba.
Jeffrey Tambor – Then
The eccentric judge Alan Wachtel was played by Jeffery Tambor. In one famous scene on Hill Street Blues, he can be seen smoking a pipe and cross-dressing as a woman while he is conducting a case.
When he first showed up on the show, he was depicted as a sketchy, immoral lawyer but was appointed to the bench due to politics. Tambor played small parts before snagging the role of Judge Wachtel in Kojak, Starsky & Hutch, and Taxi, but he truly became a household name after his twenty appearances on Hill Street Blues.
Jeffrey Tambor – Now
Since the end of his run on Hill Street Blues, the actor has become a Hollywood powerhouse. Jeffrey Tambor went on to star on Arrested Development which landed him his fifth Emmy nomination.
He also made appearances in several blockbuster hits, including The Hangover and Monsters vs. Aliens; he also had a few cameos on Entourage. Aside from acting, Tambor wrote an autobiography titled Are You Anybody? A Memoir. The actor recently came under fire for allegations of inappropriate behavior. As a result, he got kicked off the show Transparent.
Joe Spano – Then
When Joe Spano joined the cast of Hill Street Blues, he was already an established actor. He made his debut in 1969 as Paris in Romeo and Juliet. You can say he knew what he was doing when he landed the role.
He had already helped found the Berkley Repertory Theater and was featured in their productions for ten years. Then, he moved to Los Angeles when he made guest appearances in American Graffiti and The Enforcer. He eventually landed a role on Hill Street Blues, where he played Officer Henry Goldblume, a hostage negotiator and street gang expert who always shows empathy toward crime victims.
Joe Spano – Now
Even after Hill Street Blues ended, Joe Spano didn’t stray far from the small screen. He was later seen in other police drama shows, including NYPD Blue and Murder One. If you didn’t catch him on there, he made other on-screen appearances.
He guest-starred on the television shows The X Files and Amazing Grace. He won an Emmy Award for Best Guest Actor thanks to his recurring role on NCIS, keeping his name in the spotlight even 30 years after we watched him on Hill Street Blues. Interestingly, he is a very active stage actor.
Megan Gallagher – Then
Megan Gallagher portrayed the sassy blonde stunner on Hill Street Blues, but Officer Tina Russo wasn’t her first role. The child actress, who has been working since the age of five, had a mother who also dabbled in showbiz in her youth.
Megan was dedicated to her craft and certainly proved it. She even skipped her high school senior prom to rehearse for a local theater production. The promising star studied at the prestigious Julliard school under the esteemed John Houseman. Very impressive.
Megan Gallagher – Now
Megan didn’t fade into obscurity after Hill Street Blues. She made her way onto the stage, appearing in the Broadway production of Angels in America. The starlet didn’t leave the small screen, though with recurring roles on L.A. Law and China Beach.
Megan went on to play Catherine Black on the series Millenium. As a matter of fact, creator Chris Carter wrote the character specifically for Gallagher since he was a big fan of her work. You may also recognize her from the courtroom drama Suits.
James B. Sikking – Then
Los Angeles-born actor James B. Sikking portrayed the memorable Lieutenant Howard Hunter on Hill Street Blues, a rough and tumble officer who always seemed to be looking for a fight.
Lieutenant Hunter was the leader of the EAT (Emergency Action Team) Squad, which is basically what you would call a SWAT team today. Before joining the cast of Hill Street Blues, James B. Sikking had already been in movies as early as 1955. Before landing his big role, he appeared on shows like Bonanza and Perry Mason.
James B. Sikking – Now
After his time on Hill Street Blues, James B. Sikking continued his career as a TV star. He starred as Dr. Davis Howser, the father of the main character on Doogie Howser, M.D. But he appeared on television in more ways than one.
He is also the man behind the voice of the main character in the animated series Invasion America. If that wasn’t enough, he also starred as Captain Stan Jonas on the drama Brooklyn South. Fun fact: Brooklyn South and Doogie Howser, M.D., were both created by Hill Street Blues creator Steven Bochco.
Jon Cypher – Then
John Cypher played the most frustrating character on Hill Street Blues: the self-righteous and arrogant Chief of Police, Fletcher P. Daniels. Chief Daniels was famous for always ignoring the wise and important words of Detective Furillo. Inevitably, it always led to disaster.
But his role on Hill Street Blues wasn’t his first time in front of the camera. He played many other roles, such as Prince Charming in Cinderella, alongside Julie Andrews. Jon earned a master’s degree in marriage and family counseling before his Hollywood career took off.
Jon Cypher – Now
After Hill Street Blues, Jon Cypher went on to star in mega television hits: Dynasty and Knot’s Landing. These days, he has retired from showbiz and prefers a quiet life outside of the spotlight with his second wife, Carol.
During a dress rehearsal for a production of Oliver, he suffered a nasty fall, so the veteran actor walks with a cane. In recent years, a reporter asked him about the motivation behind his 47-year career; Cypher expressed that his work ethic stemmed from poverty.
Dennis Franz – Then
During his time on Hill Street Blues, Dennis Franz had the honor of playing two different characters. The first character he played was the corrupt detective Sal Benedetto of Midtown Vice.
However, after Detective Benedetto committed suicide, Dennis wasn’t seen on Hill Street Blues for the next three seasons. But fans adored him so much that the actor was rewritten into the show playing a new character, Lt. Norman “Guido” Bunts, an officer who likes doing things the easy way. The international affairs department often investigated the character.
Dennis Franz – Now
It seems as though Dennis Franz was destined to play a cop. Throughout almost his entire acting career, he has been cast as a police officer. His portrayal of Officer Andy Swimowicz on NYPD Blue earned him four Emmy awards. According to the actor, that was his 28th time playing a cop.
Despite all his Hollywood success, Franz decided to walk away from showbiz. He stays out of the spotlight and hasn’t acted since 2005. However, he surprised his fans when he made a rare public appearance at the 2016 Emmy Awards.
Charles Haid – Then
Initially, Charles Haid was only supposed to appear on one episode of Hill Street Blues. But he clearly left a good impression on executives as they insisted he joins the cast and be written into the show as a regular character.
He played Officer Andy Renko, a stereotypical redneck guy who enjoys country music and clashes with his African American partner, Officer Bobby Hill. When annoyed, Renko exclaimed, “Lordy Bobby Hill.” But under that tough exterior, Renko was just a kind and sensitive man who would randomly show off his surprising vulnerability.
Charles Haid – Now
A big joke about actors is that they often say, “what I really want to do is direct,” but for Charles Haid, it actually happened. These days Charles Haid is a well-respected Hollywood director and has a pretty impressive resume.
He directed a bunch of episodes of hit shows, including Nip/Tuck, Sons of Anarchy, and Breaking Bad. He also won a Director’s Guild Award after directing just one episode of ER. Until it was recently canceled, Haid was working in Criminal Minds. In addition to directing, he had a recurring role on the crime series as serial killer Randall Garner.
Jennifer Tilly – Then
One of the most memorable minor characters on Hill Street Blues was played by Jennifer Tilly. The exotic bombshell, of Chinese and European descent, was born in California. She was known for her sultry, distinctive voice.
The actress portrayed Gina Srignoli, the widow of a mobster who had a romance with Detective Goldblum. Before she died, Gina left her wealth to Detective Goldblume in her will, making him an instant millionaire. She wasn’t a major character on the show, but she was certainly an unforgettable one.
Jennifer Tilly – Now
After Hill Street Blues, Jennifer Tilly went on to have a pretty successful career in Hollywood. The talented starlet was even nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Bullets Over Broadway.
Thanks to her trademark voice, she could voice plenty of characters, most notably Binnie Swanson in Family Guy. She also lent her voice to movies such as Monsters Inc. and Stuart Little. What may surprise you about the actress is that she is an accomplished professional poker player! She won the third World Poker Tour Ladies Invitational Tournament. Her live tournament winnings add up to over $900,000!
Barbara Bosson – Then
Barbara Bosson rose to fame on Hill Street Blues thanks to her role as Fay Furillo, Detective Frank Furillo’s ex-wife. As the mother of his child, the two were in constant contact throughout the series, and you could tell she was still infatuated by him.
Her character was extremely dependent on her ex-husband and always hoped they would work it out and get back together. Fay would start off conversations with the detective by saying, “Hey, buster!” But in real life, Barbara Bosson is happily married to Steven Bocho, the creator of Hill Street Blues.
Barbara Bosson – Now
Barbara Bosson’s career didn’t end when Hill Street Blues did. The actress continued to work in the industry and made a guest appearance on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It also didn’t hurt her career to be married to Hollywood insider Steven Bochco.
She starred in several shows created by her husband: Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, Murder One, and Cop Rock. She earned herself an Emmy Award nomination for her performance as Prosecutor Miriam Grasso. Barbara had two children with Bochco, Jesse, and Melissa, but the pair split up in 1997 after 27 years of marriage.
Mimi Kuzyk – Then
Mimi Kuzyk appeared in more than 25 episodes of Hill Street Blues, portraying the beautiful Detective Patricia Mayo. Her character is Harry Garibaldi’s girlfriend on the show, who was also pursued (unsuccessfully) by Chief Daniels.
Mimi was born to Ukrainian immigrant parents in Winnipeg, Canada. Before she was a well-known actress, she was an accomplished dancer – spending 12 years dancing at the Rusalka Ukrainian dance group of Winnipeg and attending the prestigious Royal Winnipeg Ballet School to study jazz dance.
Mimi Kuzyk – Now
After her successful stint on Hill Street Blues, Mimi Kuzyk continued to act. However, that would be her last recurring role. She made plenty of guest appearances on popular television shows: L.A. Law, The Love Boat, Remington Steel, Doogie Howser, M.D., and Murder, She Wrote.
Thanks to her work in the Canadian TV show Lost and Delirious, the actress earned a Genie Award nomination. As for her personal life, Mimi married a Greek immigrant carpenter back in 1996, and she has one daughter with him.
Betty Thomas – Then
Betty Thomson snagged the role of Detective Lucille Bates on Hill Street Blues. She played a rather defensive character as she never wanted to be seen as a weak woman. She was determined to prove that she was just as tough as the men over there.
Detective Bates had worked her way up from a rookie officer to Lieutenant by the end of the show. Betty got herself seven Emmy Award nominations and won the statue for Best Supporting actress during her time on Hill Street Blues.
Betty Thomas – Now
After her time on Hill Street Blues, Betty Thomas transitioned from working in front of the camera to spending more time behind the scenes. She directed the premiere episodes of Doogie Howser, M.D., and Hooperman.
She also directed HBO’s Dream On, which earned her an Emmy Award for Best Director. But Betty Thomas’s biggest success as a director was the box office hit The Brady Bunch Movie. To this day, it is still one of the highest-grossing films directed by a woman. She followed that up with Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel.
Taurean Blacque – Then
Taurean Blacque (real name: Herbert Middleton Jr.) is a talented actor and was classically trained at the New Federal Theater in New York City. He certainly has the acting chops to show for it. He appeared on hit shows like Stanford and Son, What’s Happening?!!, Good Times and Taxi before landing the role on Hill Street Blues in 1981.
By 1982, he was already nominated for the Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series. He portrayed undercover cop Detective Neal Washington until the end of the show’s run in 1987.
Taurean Blacque – Now
Taurean Blacque’s career didn’t exactly take off after Hill Street Blues. Don’t get me wrong, he has always worked consistently in the industry, but the actor never became a household name.
He did, however, make some notable appearances; he was featured in the movie Oliver & Company and in a stage revival of Ceremonies in Dark Old Men. Taurean moved to Atlanta so that the born-again Christian could raise his adopted children in a more family-friendly environment. He expressed how his faith gives him the motivation to help children without parents.
Robert Clohessy – Then
Before playing the role of Officer Patrick Flaherty on Hill Street Blues, Robert Clohessy had an interesting life. The New York-born actor was the son of a police officer and was a prolific street fighter before channeling his energy into something more constructive. He fought in the 1975 Golden Gloves boxing match in Madison Square Garden.
Officer Flaherty’s character was written into the show after another one was killed off, making him a late addition to the show. He came in as Sergeant Lucille Bates’ new partner after her old partner Joe passed away.
Robert Clohessy – Now
After Hill Steet Blues wrapped, Robert Clohessy continued playing law enforcement agents. He was cast in Ohara as Lieutenant George Shaver. However, his most memorable role was when he played Correctional Officer Sean Murphy on the hit HBO prison drama Oz.
The actor won a Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Ensemble Cast in Boardwalk Empire in recent years. He had a small cameo in The Avengers back in 2012. Other than that, he made small appearances in the long-running soap opera All My Children.
Ed Marinaro – Then
Before getting into showbiz and joining the cast of Hill Street Blues, Ed Marinaro had success as an athlete. He attended Cornell University, where he played college football and was even the runner-up to the Heisman Trophy in 1971.
He ended up winning the Maxwell Award and UPI College Football Player of the Year. He went on to play professional football for six seasons and was on three teams: the New York Jets, the Minnesota Vikings, and the Seattle Seahawks. He even played in the Superbowl in 1974 and 1975 before becoming an actor.
Ed Marinaro – Now
Ed Marinaro continued to act after Hill Street Blues ended. However, he is probably more famous for his football career than his acting success. In 1991, he was even inducted into the Football Hall of Fame thanks to his athletic achievements.
Ed went on to star as Joey Buttafuoco, the main character in the TV movie Amy Fisher: My Story. He also had guest-starring roles on popular television shows: Dynasty, Monk, and Falcon Crest. In 2001, he tied the knot with fitness expert Tracy York. The couple has one son together named Eddie.
Veronica Hamel – Then
Veronica Hamel played Detective Frank Furillo’s love interest, Joyce Davenport. During her time on the show, the talented actress was nominated for five Emmy Awards. But acting isn’t her only Hollywood skill.
Before joining the cast, Veronica Hamel was actually working as a model. In 1971, she was featured in a cigarette commercial – the last cigarette commercial to ever be aired on national television. That’s quite the claim to fame if you ask me.
Veronica Hamel – Now
Since her time on Hill Street Blues, the beautiful brunette has been lying relatively low. However, in 2002, she resurfaced after guest starring on the legal drama Philly, which was created by Steven Bochco, Hill Street Blues creator.
But you probably recognize Veronica Hamel from her appearance on the ABC hit series Lost, where she played Margo Shepard, the mother of the main character, Jack. She also had a recurring role on NBC’s Third Watch, but other than that, the actress prefers to stay out of the spotlight these days.
They Didn’t Want to Do Another Cop Show
Initially, Steven Bochco and Michael Kozell didn’t want to do another cop show, but they ended up creating Hill Street Blues anyways. But they just had one little condition.
NBC specifically hired MTM Enterprises to create a cop show. Steven Bochco (who went on to create L.A. Law and NYPD Blue) and Michael Kozoll (co-writer of First Blood) said they would do it. According to Bochco, they told the network to leave them “completely alone to do whatever we want,” and NBC agreed. The pair wrote the pilot script in just ten days.
Where was Hill Street Blues Filmed?
Believe it or not, the show was influenced by a documentary. The show’s creators wanted inspiration, so they watched The Police Tapes, a 1977 documentary that documented a South Bronx police precinct during a particularly hostile time in New York City.
Fred Silverman, the president of NBC at the time, wanted a cop show after being inspired by For Apache, the Bronx (1981), starring Paul Newman as a veteran cop in the South Bronx police district. It’s clear that these inspirations made for a successful show. The show set in an anonymous northern city but was filmed in Chicago.
Bruce Weitz Had No Competition
When you watch a good show, you can’t imagine anyone else playing your favorite characters. Some of these actors are so convincing; you assume they walked into the audition and nailed it. However, sometimes your audition needs to be more than just good; it has to be memorable.
Bruce Weitz snagged the role of undercover cop Mick Belker by playing the part. “I went to the audition dressed as how I thought the character should dress – and loud and pushy,” the actor recalled. “When I got into the room, I jumped up on [MTM co-founder] Grant Tinker’s desk and went after his nose. I heard he said afterward, ‘There’s no way I can’t offer him the job.’”
Joe Spano Wanted to Play Renko
Joe Spano thought he was miscast since he auditioned to play Andrew Renko but ended up getting the part of Lieutenant Henry Goldblume. Spano told Playboy in 1983, “I was always disappointed that I didn’t end up playing Renko.”
Spano also didn’t like that his character needed to wear bow ties. He claimed that was Michael Kozoll’s idea. “I fought it all the way,” he explained. “I thought it was a stereotypical thing to do. But it actually turned out to be right. You don’t play into the bow tie – you fight against it.”
The Pilot Wasn’t Very Promising
According to a network memo, the test audience mentioned many problems with Hill Street Blues but specified that “the main characters were perceived as being not capable and having flawed personalities… Audiences found the ending unsatisfying.”
“There are too many loose ends,” it added. “’Hill Street’ did not come off as a real police station … There was too much chaos in the station house, again reflecting that the police were incapable of maintaining control even on their home ground.” NBC took these notes and picked the show up anyway.