(July 20, 2017 – Toronto, ON) One of Canada’s most well known actors has died. Harvey Akin, who was born in Toronto, passed away on Monday of this week, according to a statement released by his longtime friend and agent Larry Goldhar. In a long career, Atkin is usually remembered for his work on the hit U.S. dramas Law & Order and Cagney & Lacey. Atkin was 74 when he died of cancer.
Atkin grew up living with his mother and father in his grandparents’ home. They were Russian immigrants. Atkin once recalled that when he was no more than five-years-old, he would look forward to the end of each day when his grandfather would return home and regale everyone with stories in Yiddish. He lived to be 102-years-old, and Atkin claimed that throughout his career his grandfather had an impact on his thoughts and behavior. His father was also a huge influence. He opened Harvey’s eyes to the real world. No matter how successful he became, Harvey knew that the entertainment industry was a fickle place to earn a living and that resulted in a strong work ethic.
It all started when Atkin was still in school. He was the typical class clown and because he was always acting up he was urged to join his high school’s drama club. In his first year he won a best actor award at the local drama festival and this was all he needed to push him toward a life as an actor. He was accepted the following year at a summer camp for the performing arts.
Mixed in with his dramatic work – which included more than 75 feature films and made-for-television movies, not to mention appearances in hundreds of episodic television shows – is an amazing body of commercial work. By his own estimation he had voiced more than 3,000 radio and television commercials winning three Clio awards – the Oscars® of the advertising industry – for his performances. He also lent his voice to a number of animated TV shows, including Jacob Two-Two, The Ripping Friends and several Super Mario Bros. series.
But it was the role of desk sergeant Ronald Coleman in the long-running series Cagney and Lacey (1982–88), that was a highpoint in a highly successful career. Atkin commuted between his home in Toronto and Los Angeles almost every week for six years. In addition to working with Tyne Daly and Sharon Glass, the series also gave him an opportunity to work with his friend, the late Al Waxman. Atkin was proud of his work in the 1994 stage play A Shayna Maidel, which was written by Barbara Lebow and directed by Waxman. Atkin’s other notable series work was in the role of Judge Ridenour on the NBC crime drama Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.
Earlier this week we posted an article about 13 great Canadian summer movies. Leading that list was Ivan Reitman’s 1979 film, Meatballs. Atkin co-starred opposite Bill Murray as camp director Morty Melnick, a performance that earned him a Genie nomination. Over the years he had a number of roles in film including Beetlejuice, which costarred fellow Canadian Catherine O’Hara, and the Canadian hit movies Atlantic City and more recently, Barney’s Version.
Harvey Atkin is survived by his wife Celia, children Lisa and Danny, three sisters and five grandchildren.