Saturday, January 23, 2021

Godspeed Gregory Sierra

Gregory Sierra, who played Julio Fuentes on Sanford and Son and Det. Sgt. Chano Amenguale on Barney Miller, died on January 4 2021 at the age of 83. He had long been fighting cancer.

Gregory Sierra was born on January 25 1937 in New York City. He grew up in Spanish Harlem, raised by his aunt. He attended the Cathedral College of the Immaculate Conception, a minor seminary in Douglaston, Queens, New York. When Gregory Sierra went with a friend who was auditioning for an acting class, the teacher asked him to try improvisation. He went onto perform with the National Shakespeare Company and in the New York Shakespeare Festival. He also appeared off-Broadway.

Gregory Sierra made his television debut in a small guest appearance on the show It Takes a Thief. In the late Sixties he also made guest appearances on Medical Center, The High Chaparral, The Flying Nun, Mission: Impossible, and The Bill Cosby Show. He made his feature film debut in Beneath the Planet of the Apes in 1970.  That same year he appeared in Getting Straight (1970).

It was in 1972 that Gregory Sierra started playing Julio Fuentes, the Sanford's laid-back, jovial Puerto Rican neighbour on Sanford and Son. He appeared as Julio on Sanford and Son until 1975 when he began playing Det. Sgt. Chano Amenguale on Barney Miller. He appeared on Barney Miller during the show's first two seasons. He then played the lead on the short-lived sitcom A.E.S. Hudson Street. At the end of the decade and until 1981 he played Carlos 'El Puerco' Valdez on Soap. In the Seventies Gregory Sierra guest starred on Alias Smith and Jones, Mission: Impossible. Banyon, The Waltons, Ironside, Banaceck, All in the Family, Young Dr. Kildare, Kung Fu, The Streets of San Francisco, Hawaii Five-O, Columbo, Hawkins, Dusty's Trail, McCloud, Petrocelli, Gunsmoke, Hunter, The Richard Pryor Show, andd Police Story. He appeared in the movies Red Sky in the Morning (1971), Machismo: 40 Graves for 40 Guns (1971), Pocket Money (1972), The Culpepper Cattle Co. (1972), The Wrath of God (1972), The Thief Who Came to Dinner (1973), The Clones (1973), Papillon (1973), The Laughing Policeman (1973), The Castaway Cowboy (1974), The Towering Inferno (1974), Goodnight Jackie (1974), Mean Dog Blues (1978), and The Prisoner of Zenda (1979).

In the Eighties Gregory Sierra starred in the mini-series Something is Out There and the subsequent television show. He also had recurring roles on Hill Street Blues, Zorro and Son, and Miami Vice. He guest starred on the shows It's a Living; The Greatest American Hero; Lou Grant; McClain's Law; Cassie & Co.; Quincy, M.E.; Bring 'Em Back Alive; Gloria; Hart to Hart; Masquerade; Blue Thunder; The Paper Chase; Cover Up; Simon & Simon; Airwolf; Blacke's Magic; You Again?; Cagney & Lacey; Falcon Crest; Magnum, P.I.; Hunter; The Munsters Today; Growing Pains; MacGyver; Midnight Caller; City; and Donor. He appeared in the movies Let's Get Harry (1986) and The Trouble with Spies (1987).

In the Nineties Gregory Sierra guest starred on the TV shows P.S.I. Luv U; F.B.I.: The Untold Stories; The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air; The Ray Bradbury Theater; The Golden Palace, Thea; The X-Files; Nurses, 704 Hauser; Star Trek: Deep Space Nine; Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman; Murder, She Wrote; Walker, Texas Ranger; Kirk; First Time Out; Ellen; Common Law;  and Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction. He appeared in the movies Deep Cover (1992), Honey, I Blew Up the Kid (1992), Hot Shots! Part Deux (1993), A Low Down Dirty Shame (1994), The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit (1998), Vampires (1998), and Jane Austin's Mafia! (1998). He made his last appearance on screen in The Other Side of the Wind in 2018. The film had begun production in the Seventies, but not completed released for forty years.

Gregory Sierra was a extremely talented actor. He was excellent as Julio on Sanford and Son, the sweet natured Julio presenting a perfect contrast to the cantankerous Fred Sanford. He also gave consistently good performances as Det. Sgt. Chano Amenguale on Barney Miller. Chano tended to be emotionally invested in his job, often getting upset when things go wrong. Mr. Sierra gave great performances on other TV shows and in movies as well. On Soap he was the anti-Communist revolutionary El Puerco, who kidnaps Jessica. On All in the Family he played a Jewish radical who was the actual target of a swastika that had been painted on Archie Bunker's door. If Gregory Sierra appeared frequently on television throughout his career, it is because he was just so very talented.

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