Friends star who played Rachel Green’s father dies

Award-winning actor Ron Leibman, a star of stage and screen perhaps best known for playing the father of Rachel Green in Friends, has died aged 82.

The actor received an Emmy in 1979 for his role in the drama Kaz, and a Tony in 1993 for his portrayal of Roy Cohn in the play Angels In America: Millennium Approaches, in a career in entertainment that spanned six decades.

Ron Leibman and Jennifer Aniston as Rachel Green and her father, Dr Leonard Green, in Friends
Image:Leibman was best known for playing the irritable Dr Leonard Green, Rachel’s father, in Friends

He also appeared in films such as Where’s Poppa? (1970), Slaughterhouse-Five (1972) and Norma Rae (1979), and more recently in series including The Sopranos, Murder, She Wrote and Law & Order.

The Abrams Artists Agency confirmed the news of his death on social media, paying tribute to “an incredibly talented actor with a distinguished career in film, TV and theatre”.

Actress Sally Field and Ron Leibman in Norma Rae
Image:Starring alongside Sally Field in Norma Rae in 1979

Born in New York in 1937, Leibman began his TV career in 1956 as Johnny in The Edge Of The Night and went on to appear on Broadway during the 1960s, the agency said.

But his role as Friends‘ Dr Leonard Green, Jennifer Aniston‘s terrifying on-screen father who tormented Rachel’s on-off boyfriend Ross Geller, is how he will be best remembered.

In an interview with the AV Club in 2011, Leibman revealed he had never watched the show before he was contacted about the part, and almost turned it down.

“It sounded stupid to me, so I turned it down,” he said. “And my daughter, then, who was of that age, said, ‘No, you have to do it, you have to do it! I love that show, and I want to meet those kids.’

“She had to meet those kids. I said, ‘All right. I’ll do it. I’ll do it once, but that’s all I’m doing.’

“So I did, and had a very nice time, and they asked me back, and my daughter did get to meet those kids, so I was a big hero in the house.”

Ron Leibman pictured at home in LA in 1979
Image:Leibman pictured at home in Los Angeles in 1979

He also acknowledged that despite his extensive CV, it was the role he would always be known for.

“It’s amazing, the power of the tube. I’ve done all this body of work, and they say, ‘Oh yes, Rachel’s father’. I go, ‘Give me a break’.

Ron Leibman and Jessica Walter attend the Arthur Miller - One Night 100 Years benefit at Lyceum Theatre on January 25, 2016 in New York City
Image:The star was married to actress Jessica Walter

Leibman is survived by his wife, actress Jessica Walter, who he was married to for more than 35 years.

Sally Field, his Norma Rae co-star, was among those paying tribute on social media.

“So many of the best memories of my career, have Ron Leibman in them,” she said. “Thank you, Ron. For my being my champion. Rest, my friend.”

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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