By Todd Leopold
(CNN) — Dennis Farina, the dapper, mustachioed cop-turned-actor best known for his tough-as-nails work in such TV series as “Law & Order,” “Crime Story,” and “Miami Vice, has died. He was 69.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of a great actor and a wonderful man,” said his publicist, Lori De Waal, in a statement Monday. “Dennis Farina was always warm-hearted and professional, with a great sense of humor and passion for his profession. He will be greatly missed by his family, friends, and colleagues.”
Farina, who had a long career as a police officer in Chicago, got into acting through director Michael Mann, who used him as a consultant and cast him in his 1981 movie, “Thief.” That role led to others in such Mann-created shows as “Miami Vice” (in which Farina played a mobster) and “Crime Story” (in which he starred as Lt. Mike Torello).
Farina also had roles, generally as either cops or gangsters, in a number of movies, including “Midnight Run” (1987), “Get Shorty” (1995), “The Mod Squad” (1999) and “Snatch” (2000).
In 2004, he joined the cast of the long-running “Law & Order” after Jerry Orbach’s departure, playing Detective Joe Fontana, a role he reprised on the spinoff “Trial by Jury.” Fontana was known for flashy clothes and an expensive car, a distinct counterpoint to Orbach’s rumpled Lennie Briscoe.
Farina was on “Law & Order” for two years, partnered with Jesse L. Martin’s Ed Green. Martin’s character became a senior detective after Farina left the show.
In recent years, Farina was one of the stars of “Luck,” the ill-fated HBO series about horse racing, and had an occasional role on the Fox series “New Girl.”
Throughout his career, he was loyal to his hometown.
“My personality was formed by Chicago,” Farina told Cigar Aficionado in 1999. “It’s very American, very straightforward. If you can’t find it, or make it there, you won’t make it anywhere. It’s a very honest place.”
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