Ron Glass, actor from television's 'Barney Miller' and 'Firefly,' dies at 71

Ron Glass, a prolific television actor best known for roles in the ’70s police sitcom “Barney Miller” and Joss Whedon’s “Firefly,” has died. He was 71. His death of respiratory failure was confirmed on Saturday by one of his representatives. 

Born on July 10, 1945, in Evansville, Ind., where he eventually attended the University of Evansville, Glass began to rise to prominence as a comic actor in the 1970s, appearing in the sitcoms “Sanford and Son,” “All in the Family” and “Good Times.”

He was later cast as the thoughtful, stylishly dressed Det. Ron Harris on the groundbreaking half-hour comedy series “Barney Miller,” which aired for eight seasons on ABC starting in 1974.

The series was a standout in its time by offering a diverse, often darkly funny look at life in the squad room of an NYPD precinct. With characters including a Polish American and an Asian American, it frequently touched on issues of racial and ethnic stereotypes. In 1982, Glass earned an Emmy nomination in the supporting actor category for his work as Harris. 

After the end of “Barney Miller,” Glass was a regular TV presence, appearing on a 1982 reboot of “The Odd Couple” as well as a memorable turn as a fast-talking devil in a 1985 episode of “The Twilight Zone.” He also appeared on episodes of “Murder, She Wrote,” “The Practice” and “Friends,” where he portrayed a divorce lawyer, along with recurring roles on “Amen” and “Mr. Rhodes.”

In 2002, Glass joined the cast of Joss Whedon’s sci-fi western “Firefly,” where he played the mysterious, spiritually inclined figure Shepherd Book. In 2005, he also appeared in “Serenity,” the series’ move to the big screen.

Remembrances of Glass flowed through Twitter on Saturday. “Ron Glass was one of the greatest actors to work with,” wrote his “Firefly” costar Alan Tudyk. “His laugh was beyond infectious and his generosity was ever present.”

“He got there with grace, humor & enormous heart,” wrote series creator Joss Whedon. “He was, among so many other things, my Shepherd. Raise, appropriately, a glass. Rest, Ron.”

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chris.barton@latimes.com

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