Richard Dysart

Eike Schroter/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Richard Dysart was known on TV for always keeping his wits about him.

The star of stage and screen, who may be best known as firm partner Leland McKenzie on the hit series L.A. Law, died April 5 at his home in Santa Monica, Calif., after a long illness, He was 86.

His publicist confirmed the news to the media.

Dysart was on L.A. Law for the Stephen Bochco-created show's duration, from 1986 until 1994, winning an Emmy for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series in 1992.

While that was easily his most high-profile role, the Boston-born thesp racked up dozens of small- and big-screen credits over the course of his nearly five-decade career, including roles in films such as The Thing, The Falcon and the Snowman, Mask, Wall Street and Back to the Future Part III.

But the theater is where he got his start and that seemed to be where his heart remained—and not just because he co-founded the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. Dysart's Broadway credits included a Mike Nichols-directed production of The Little Foxes in 1967 and he won a Drama Desk Award for That Championship Season, originating the role of Coach in 1972.

A.C.T. paid tribute to him today on Facebook, saying in a statement:

"A.C.T. mourns the loss of one of our founding members, Richard Dysar. Hand-picked by William Ball in 1965 to be part of the original acting company at A.C.T. in Philadelphia, Richard moved to San Francisco in 1967 when the company relocated to The Geary Theater. Here, he performed a staggering number of iconic characters—Willy Loman, Gloucester, Captain Cat, Uncle Vanya, and the father in Six Characters in Search of an Author (the play that first brought him and Bill Ball together)—and directed A.C.T.'s first staging of the Edward Albee classic, The Zoo Story, all in one season! After moving to Los Angeles, he found even greater success on TV and is perhaps best known to audiences as Leland McKenzie in the classic series L.A. Law. Richard was a true actor's actor; we celebrate the life of this incredible talent."

Blair Underwood, who co-starred on L.A. Law back in the day, wrote, "I just found that my old friend Richard Dysart passed away today; age 86. A big heart and perfect gentleman. You will be missed! #LAlaw #the1990s."

"Debi Mazar offered a similar sentiment, tweeting, "R.I.P amazing actor whom I've had the privledge to work on LA Law!He was our 'dad' on the set.My condolences to his family."

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