Law & Order Star Dennis Farina Dead at 69

Dennis Farina DiesDennis Farina, a former police officer who rose to fame in TV’s Crime Story and the big-screen Midnight Run in the mid-’80s, then went on to create memorable roles on Law & Order, Luck and most recently New Girl, died Monday at age 69.

News of Farina’s passing was first published by the Associated Press; the cause of death was reportedly a blood clot in his lung.

Born in 1944 in Chicago, Farina worked for that city’s police force for 18 years before switching gears and becoming an actor, where he frequently played law-enforcement or mobster type roles.

He rose to fame as Lt. Mike Torello in Michael Mann’s period drama Crime Story, as well as through his role as Jack Crawford in the first Hannibal Lecter movie Manhunter, and mob boss Jimmy Serrano in Midnight Run.

More recently, Farina’s Det. Joe Fonatana was introduced in 2004 as a pseudo-replacement to Law & Order‘s Lennie Briscoe (played by the late Jerry Orbach); Farina’s character failed to catch on with viewers and he was written out after two seasons.

Farina’s last regular series role was on HBO’s ill-fated Luck, though he appeared in two Season 2 episodes of New Girl as Nick’s dad, and had just been announced as a Family Guy Season 12 voice.

 What are some of your favorite memories of Farina’s long and illustrious career? Share with your fellow readers in the comments.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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51 Comments
  1. Pat D. says:

    I really liked his turn on L&O, although I know I’m probably in the minority on that. He was a perfect counterpart to the eternally bland Jesse Martin.

    • I enjoyed it also-but he’ll always be Mike Torello to me-RIP Dennis.;(

    • papnana says:

      I agree with you Pat D., I know he was not well liked, but I really liked him & like you said “He was a perfect counterpart to the eternally bland Jesse Martin”, so bravo for your post which was well put.
      Angie

    • CactusRose says:

      I loved him in L&O! He was just an all around talented actor. He will be missed. RIP Dennis.

    • flutiefan says:

      i thoroughly enjoyed him, as well. and i happen to think Jesse L. Martin was terrific.
      no need to put one down to raise the other.

      • Jackie says:

        So true flutie fan. I’m not even sure why Jesse L. Martin’s talent had to even been brought up. I enjoyed both their performances on L&O. I loved Dennis in many of his other roles and was sad to read about his passing. He will truly be missed!

      • Pat D. says:

        Sorry, but one of the first things that come to mind when I think of “bland character” I think of Jesse Martin’s turn as Ed Green. Utterly forgettable in just about every way.

        Maybe that was just the way the character was written, but I felt he was far inferior to his predecessors (Ben Bratt, Noth [depending on how you see the Briscoe/Logan dynamic) and his successor (Jeremy Sisto). It wasnt that he was BAD, mind you, just that he did absolutely nothing to stand out.

    • gail says:

      I liked Dennis F in anything he was in, he always brought an authenticity and a slight twinkle in his eye while on screen.

    • kate says:

      I agree that his Detective Fontana was a good foil for Detective Greene. Plus, I think some of the reason Farina wasn’t as well received as he could have been was that Farina had a hell of a job to do: Jerry Orbach in his role in as Lennie Briscoe was a tough act to follow. RIP.

    • so agree he and Jesse kinda bounced off each other–great actor R.I.P. Dennis

    • The art of poise says:

      I remember fondly many of his roles, played masterfully.

      Your acting talents will be sadly missed by your fans, Dennis. May you rest in peace, My condolences are extended to Mr. Farina’s family during this difficult time.

  2. Any future New Girl guest stars should insist on a ‘no funeral’ contract.

  3. glen says:

    Great actor and I liked him on L&O. RIP

  4. Kenny says:

    Joe Fontana may not be as memorable as Briscoe, but he filled the shoes nicely while was there…RIP Dennis Farnia

  5. kakirita says:

    What a huge loss in the acting world! Dennis Farina was a very thoughtful & versatile actor. He and James Gandolfini are probably already playing cards& having a laugh ; “upstairs”.

  6. Joey says:

    Sad to hear about his passing. He had a great career. my thoughts and prayers go out to his family.

  7. rowan77 says:

    I am very sad to hear about his death. I always found him fun and engaging in every role he played – whether a good guy or the heavy. Another wonderful actor gone. My thoughts go out to his family and friends.

  8. StupidPeopleShutUp says:

    Ray Bones in “Get Shorty”–brilliant.

  9. Rest in peace, Dennis, you will be greatly missed. Prayers of strength for your family.oo.v

  10. Plum says:

    I loved him a JLo’s dad in Out of Sight. He had an amazing career.

  11. Gwen says:

    He was so good in “Bottle Shock” and other films but his “Law & Order” days are my favorite.

  12. Eric Studholme says:

    I had just researched Law & Order this morning. I didn’t have a reason to; besides a few episodes here and there, I had never even seen the show. It was done entirely on a whim, and because I was bored. I read a little bit about Farina’s character, and only hours later I find out he’s dead. How strange. What a loss though. I know him more as Nick’s dad on New Girl and from the short time I watched Luck, but he was a great actor. RIP.

  13. Lisa says:

    I liked Farina on Law and Order but I loved him in “That Old Feeling” with Bette Midler! The movie is a romantic comedy and Farina was hilarious and yet very credible in the part!

    • Rebecca says:

      I was about to post the same thing! That Old Feeling was great! Whenever I catch it on tv, I always seem to get sucked in :)

  14. Serena says:

    He was great with Whoopi Goldberg in “Eddie”!

  15. pylgrym says:

    Since everyone agrees he was great on L&O, the suits probably didn’t like him. As we all know, they are totally out of touch. Terrific, charming guy. Wish I could find a silver fox like him.

    • Pat D. says:

      Probably what happened was similar to the brilliant “Boston Legal”—the suits got concerned that the show’s demographic was getting too old, and that was the end of Farina for some “New Blood” in the form of Nina Cassidy.

  16. Alisa Neely says:

    Aww, that’s too bad…..i really liked him alot…..he will be greatly missed.

  17. Wendy says:

    Mr. Farina also hosted a short revival of Unsolved Mysteries. I remember him as a kid when he was on Crime Story in the ’80s. Never knew he was a real cop. Go figure! He seemed like a nice man. May he RIP.

  18. Mark says:

    I liked him a lot in the In Laws. Private convo time.

  19. Lauren says:

    I loved him in Big Trouble and That Old Feeling. RIP!

  20. Tom Gotor says:

    Wonderful actor. I especially enjoyed him as Ray Barbone in “Get Shorty.” He was hilarious as a comedic actor and riveting in dramatic roles. He will be sorely missed.

  21. R.I.P., Dennis Farina and thanks for sharing your talent with your fans…………………..

  22. TOrchwood68 says:

    Time for a “Crime Story” marathon. He will be missed

  23. Cindy says:

    Loved Snatch and That Old Feeling. What a tremendous talent. RIP.

  24. canadian ninja says:

    So many movies this guy has been fantastic in. Get Shorty is one of my favorite roles of his. And I loved him on Law & Order – he was authorized dammit.

  25. J says:

    Res in Peace Dennis Farina. You will be remembered and missed.

  26. Clayton Rodrigues says:

    really loved him in “that old feeling” with bette midler.. they were hillarious together! such a loss.. my prayers to the family and friends..

  27. william kabala says:

    Areal lost rip

  28. Theresa DalMaso says:

    Loved, loved ,loved Dennis Farina as Det Joe Fontana. What a class actor. I was surprised to hear he wasn’t well liked in the roll. I thought he was great and could’nt get enough of him in that roll. He was great in any roll he did! I will miss him.

  29. Britta Unfiltered says:

    Very sad. I loved him on Luck and Law and Order.

  30. AJ says:

    To his family and friends my condolences for your loss, take heart in the fact that Dennis was admired and liked by so many for his work and as a human being.

  31. Louise Russo says:

    Always loved his acting…..& of cause , his looks! I’m so sorry to hear of his passing! Rest in peace, Dennis..prayers coming your way

  32. Marco says:

    The original Jack Crawford… loved him in Manhunter. RIP.

  33. The art of poise says:

    I remember fondly many of his roles, played masterfully. Your acting talents will be sadly missed by your fans, Dennis. May you rest in peace.

    My condolences are extended to Mr. Farina’s family during this difficult time.

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