Gregory Sierra, who starred on ‘Barney Miller,’ ‘Sanford and Son,’ dead at 83

Actor Gregory Sierra, who starred in 1970s shows “Barney Miller” and “Sanford and Son,” died Jan. 4 in Laguna Woods, California, according to Orange County records. He was 83.

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Sierra’s death after a battle with cancer also was confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter by family spokesperson Rick Voll.

Sierra played Julio Fuentes, the Puerto Rican neighbor of Fred Sanford on “Sanford and Son.” He also played the role of Sgt. Miguel “Chano” Amanguale on “Barney Miller,” starring as one of the original detectives in the diverse 12th Precinct in Greenwich Village with Hal Linden, Abe Vigoda, Ron Glass, Max Gail and Jack Soo. The show premiered in 1975.

“I think ‘Barney Miller’ is much more real than any other cop show,” Sierra said in an interview for the 1976 book “TV Talk 2: Exploring TV Territory.” “The people in the show have real problems. Kojak never worries. He knows he’s got it made. Everything is always under control on that show. You never see the frustrations of police work or the kind of joking that goes on among real policemen. Those are the kinds of things we show on ‘Barney Miller.’”

Sierra was born Jan. 25, 1937, in the Spanish Harlem section of New York City. He was raised by his aunt after his parents abandoned him when he was 6, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

“When I was a baby, we were a typical Puerto Rican family,” Sierra said. “Everybody lived together -- grandmother, grandfather, aunt, two uncles, mother, father … gradually everyone went their way.”

Sierra played many law enforcement roles through the 1990s, Variety reported. He appeared on “Miami Vice,” “Murder, She Wrote,” “Hill Street Blues” and “MacGyver.” Sierra also played Carlos “El Puerco” Valdez, a Malaguayan counter-revolutionist who kidnaps Jessica on “Soap.”

Sierra also had guest spots on television shows such as “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and “The X-Files.”

Before joining the cast of “Sanford and Son,” Sierra played a memorable role in “Archie Is Branded.” a 1973 episode of “All in the Family.” Sierra played the role of Paul Benjamin, a Jewish extremist who becomes friends with Archie Bunker after someone paints a swastika on the family’s front door. Benjamin offers the Bunkers protection but is killed in a car bomb, Variety reported.

According to the website, it is the only episode of “All in the Family” that does not have audience applause to close out the show.

Sierra also had several roles in films, Variety reported. In “The Towering Inferno,” he played Carlo the bartender, and appeared as a mutant called Verger in “Beneath the Planet of the Apes.” Sierra also had roles in “Papillon,” “Honey, I Blew Up the Kid” and “The Other Side of the Wind.”


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