Richard Dysart, Emmy-Winning ‘L.A. Law’ Actor, Dies at 86

Richard Dysart Dead
Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage

Richard Dysart, a stage and screen actor known best for his performance as Leland McKenzie in the NBC legal drama “L.A. Law,” died Sunday in his home in Santa Monica. He was 86.

Dysart was born in Boston and raised in Maine. In the 1950s, he got his start in radio and worked at New York’s off-Broadway Circle in the Square Theatre.

He was a founding member of the American Conservatory Theater in the 60s, and played roles on Broadway throughout his career in “All in Good Time,” “The Little Foxes” and “A Place Without Doors.” His performance in “That Championship Season” for his role of the Coach which he created won him a Drama Desk Award in 1972.

In “L.A. Law” Dysart played patriarchal law firm partner LeLand McKenzie. The series aired for eight seasons from 1986-1994. Dysart’s performance earned him a primetime Emmy in 1992.

Dysart’s film appearances include Hal Ashby’s “Being There,” Clint Eastwood’s “Pale Rider” and John Carpenter’s “The Thing.”

Dysart is survived by his wife, Kathryn Jacobi, his stepson Arie, daughter-in-law Jeannine Jacobi, mother-in-law Lenore, brother and sister-in-law Nadine and John Jacobi and grandchildren Abby and Levi.

Donations may be made to the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum.

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  1. Kevin says:

    I’m a 54-year old sci-fi and horror movie addict, and have been since the age of seven. Mr Dysart turned in one of the the most memorable moments in one of my favorite-and arguably one of the best- sci-fi/horror
    flicks ever made, John Carpenter’s remake of “The Thing”. The scene where his doctor character had both
    his forearms chomped off by a guy’s alien-mutated, mega-jawed torso while trying to defibrilate him. His
    horrendously agonized screams were so convincingly visceral when he came up with those stumps
    spurting blood everywhere. The entire production crew must have gone “Whoa!” just before applauding
    that take.
    Thank you so much, sir, for being so tremendously talented and such a classy gentleman.

  2. so sad to lose wonderful Richard RIP dear man.

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