Richard Dysart, the Patriarchal Senior Partner at ‘LA Law,’ Dead at 86

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By Mike Barnes and Duane Byrge, The Hollywood Reporter

Updated 9:34 AM ET, Fri April 10, 2015

Richard Dysart, who died Sunday, April 5, played Leland McKenzie, one of the namesake partners of the McKenzie Brackman law firm, on "L.A. Law." Before the show, he had supporting roles in films such as "The Hospital," "The Day of the Locust" and "Being There," as well as many TV guest spots.

Richard Dysart, the Emmy-winning actor who portrayed the cranky senior partner Leland McKenzie in the slick, long-running NBC drama “L.A. Law,” has died. He was 86.

Dysart, who also played Coach in the original 1972 Broadway production of Jason Miller’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “That Championship Season,” died Sunday at home in Santa Monica after a long illness, his wife, artist Kathryn Jacobi, told The Hollywood Reporter.

The acclaimed “L.A. Law” — created by Steven Bochco (who eventually handed off the series to David E. Kelley) and Terry Louise Fisher — aired for eight seasons from 1986 to 1994. For playing the founder of the firm McKenzie, Brackman, Chaney and Kuzak, Dysart was nominated for the Emmy for outstanding supporting actor in a drama series for four straight years, finally winning the trophy in 1992.

“I always had him in mind for that role,” Bochco said in a 2002 interview with the Archive of American Television. “He’s so avuncular. So I reached out to him. You know, Dick is sort of an old hippie. So he went into his closet and tried to find a lawyer outfit, and he came to meet us wearing a suit and tie. He was perfect.”

“We got together, mapped out the character’s past to give us a basis from which to work, and it’s all gone smoothly since then,” Dysart said in a 1990 interview with The Seattle Times. “Sometimes I worry — it’s all been going too well — a role I love to play in a series that’s about as good as you can get. Something’s wrong!”

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