Actor Joe Spano, best known for his Emmy-nominated detective role on Hill Street Blues (1981), was born in San Francisco, the son of a doctor, and a Bishop Riordan High School and University of California-Berkeley graduate. His intention to be a pre-med major dissipated with the growing interest of acting. While in San Francisco worked with the improv group The Wing. While at college he made his debut as Paris in a production of “Romeo and Juliet” in 1967 and the very next year helped founded the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, appearing in its very first first production of “Woyzek.” He stayed with the company for 10 years and appeared in many of its plays including “Hamlet” and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” In the late 1970s he decided to give Hollywood a try and in between guest shots on TV and earned bit roles as hoodlums and other assorted urban troublemakers in the films American Graffiti (1973) and The Enforcer (1976). He also played a seductive vampire in the cult musical “Dracula: A Musical Nightmare” in a small LA theatre. After the success of his hit cop show in the 1980s, Spano appeared here, there and everywhere but to less notoriety. He’s had recurring roles in Murder One (1995) and NYPD Blue (1993), again as a detective. He has appeared regularly in mini-movies and other television shows as well. He made his Broadway bow in 1992 as Walter in a revival of “The Price” by Arthur Miller. In films Spano worked alongside Tom Hanks in Apollo 13 (1995) and Richard Gere and Edward Norton in Primal Fear (1996), among others.
More recently, Spano has worked the recurring role of FBI Special Agent Tobias Fornell in NCIS (2003)
He and his wife Joan, a therapist, adopted two daughters. His credits are often confused with Australian actor Joseph Spano. They are not related.
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