Richard Schiff

Active - 1989 - 2019  |   Born - May 27, 1955 in Bethesda, Maryland, United States  |   Genres - Drama, Comedy, Comedy Drama

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Biography by Rebecca Flint Marx

Character actor Richard Schiff has done prolific work on both the large and small screens, and has appeared in films ranging from Seven (1995) to Living Out Loud (1998). Appearing as a cross between Wallace Shawn and Kevin Spacey, Schiff, a native of the East Coast, began his career as a stage director in New York. After founding and serving as the artistic director of the Manhattan Repertory Theatre and directing a number of on- and off-Broadway productions, he realized that he wanted to act.

As such, Schiff began performing on both the stage and in independent films, then moved to Los Angeles so as to better pursue an acting career. He continued to work in the theatre, joining Tim Robbins' Actors Gang, and gradually broke into film. Appearances in such films as Spike Lee's Malcolm X (1992), the Coen Brothers' The Hudsucker Proxy (1994), and Steven Spielberg's The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) helped to put Schiff on the map as a character actor and led to substantial roles in Living Out Loud, which cast him as Danny De Vito's brother, and Dr. Dolittle (1998), in which he played one of Eddie Murphy's fellow men of medicine.

Schiff also continued to do a great deal of work on television, appearing in shows ranging from Ally McBeal to E.R. In 2000, he joined the cast of the acclaimed NBC series The West Wing, playing the Chief Press Advisor to the President (Martin Sheen). That same year, he received a Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Emmy nomination for his portrayal. In the years to come, Schiff would remain active on screen, appearing on TV series like Past Life, The Cape, and House of Lies.

Movie Highlights

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Factsheet

  • Grew up in New York City.
  • Parents divorced when he was 12.
  • Entered City College of New York in 1973, but dropped out, not picking up his studies again until 1977.
  • Studied to be a theater director, deciding later to give acting a try.
  • Founded the Manhattan Repertory Theater in 1982 and served as its first artistic director.
  • Drove a cab to help pay the rent and raise money to stage plays. 
  • Directed several off-Broadway plays, including Antigone with Angela Bassett in 1983.
  • Joined Tim Robbins' Actors Gang (a theater group) after moving to L.A. in the 1980s.
  • Wears his wedding ring on a chain around his neck.