BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com
Of all the prestigious roles actor Ron Leibman has played on stage, screen and television, he is perhaps best known for a handful of episodes of Friends, guesting as Jennifer Aniston’s TV dad.
Having never seen the show in 1996, Leibman at first said no thanks to the part.
“My daughter said, ‘What are you crazy?’,” recalls Leibman, who eventually said yes and still collects residuals for those appearances. “I still get checks. [Maybe] I should give them to her.”
Leibman, 73, who won a 1993 Best Actor Tony playing AIDS-stricken homophobic lawyer Roy Cohn in the original Broadway cast of Angels in America, is currently promoting his 1974 film The Super Cops, a cult classic recently released on DVD-on-demand ($20, Warner Archive).
The Super Cops, co-starring David Selby, is a true story about two New York City rookie officers known as Batman and Robin who defy their supervisors and take on some of the most dangerous thugs — and corrupt police co-workers — in Manhattan.
“It’s a police story that’s really very funny,” says Leibman, Linda Lavin’s one-time husband who has been wed to actress Jessica Walter since 1983. “That was the challenge of it. It was based on two actual guys. That’s what’s fun about it. It could have been a rather dark film. it came in the writing.”
The Super Cops was written by Lorenzo Semple Jr. (TV’s Batman, Papillon) and directed by legendary Life magazine photographer Gordon Parks (Shaft, The Learning Tree).
“I was always fascinated when we broke from a scene and waiting for the lights to be set up, we’d talk about the days he was a photographer during the Depression. That interested me more than the movie,” says Leibman, who won a 1979 Lead Actor Emmy for the CBS lawyer show Kaz and co-starred with Sally Field in her Oscar-winning film, Norma Rae (1979).