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Joe Spano (1946)

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Joseph Peter "Joe" Spano is an American actor who came to prominence through his role as Lt. Henry Goldblume on Hill Street Blues and is now well known for his work in NCIS as FBI Special Agent Tobias Fornell.


 personal life
Spano was born in San Francisco, California, the son of Virginia Jean (née Carpenter) and Vincent Dante Spano, a physician.

He was a member of the San Francisco improv group The Wing, and in college debuted as Paris in a production of Romeo and Juliet in 1967. In 1968 and he helped found the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, appearing in its first production, and stayed with the company for 10 years. He moved to Hollywood in the late 1970s, landing guest shots on TV and bit roles in American Graffiti and The Enforcer .

In Hill Street Blues he played Henry Goldblume during the entire seven-year run of the series, first as a detective sergeant, later as a lieutenant. Goldblume was one of Hill Street Precinct Captain Frank Furillo's trusted junior officers, serving at times as a hostage negotiator and gangs relations officer. The character was sympathetic to crime victims, sometimes coming in conflict with his duties as a police officer. Spano was one of many actors appearing through each episode, which typically had several interwoven story lines.

After Hill Street Blues ended, Spano won recurring roles in television police shows Murder One and NYPD Blue , again as a detective, and has appeared regularly in 27 television movies and 20 television shows like The X-Files , Mercy Point and Amazing Grace. Spano won the Emmy award in 1988 for Best Guest Actor in a Drama Series for a role he played in an episode of Midnight Caller. He has appeared in 27 feature films, including working alongside Tom Hanks in Apollo 13 and Richard Gere and Edward Norton in Primal Fear. His credits are often confused with Australian actor Joseph Spano. They are not related.

He is a veteran stage actor on the east and west coasts. Spano made his Broadway debut in 1992 in the Roundabout Theater revival of Arthur Miller's The Price, with Eli Wallach, which was nominated for a Tony for Best Revival. West coast stage credits include Eduardo Pavlovsky's Potestad, and David Mamet's Speed-the-Plow and American Buffalo, for which he was awarded an LA Drama Critics Circle Award. At the Rubicon Theater in Ventura he has played General Burgoyne in Shaw's The Devil's Disciple, Greg in A. R. Gurney's Sylvia and Vladimir in Waiting for Godot. He is a member of the Antaeus Theater Company and a founding member of three other theater companies. He played a seductive vampire in the cult musical Dracula: A Musical NIghtmare in a small LA theatre. He also appeared in the TV movie The Brotherhood of Justice with Keanu Reeves and Kiefer Sutherland.

He has played a recurring character in NCIS since its first episode, "Yankee White", playing FBI Special Agent Tobias Fornell, the gruff, tough counterpart to NCIS' gruff, tough Leroy Jethro Gibbs. The on-screen rapport between the two actors has made Spano much more visible to viewers than his number of actual screen appearances would suggest. Spano is best known for straight dramatic roles but, in NCIS, has adapted to the comedic/drama style of the show. Spano's character, Fornell, holds rank in the FBI equivalent to that held by the NCIS main character, Gibbs. Thus Spano is given key lines and comic moments as a foil for Gibbs and, in some episodes, equal screentime with the main lead.

Two episodes have used the Fornells' personal life as the main crux of an NCIS episode: one where Fornell's daughter is imperiled and another where Fornell's career is imperiled. In each episode, it is the friendship between Gibbs and Fornell which is invoked in order to involve NCIS in the resolution of an FBI agent's crisis. Further indicating his status on the show, Spano's Fornell was written into the Gibbs backstory, by having Fornell marry Gibbs' second ex-wife, linking their private lives as well as their professional lives and further establishing their equivalence of status. Spano's character has also been involved in operations run by other agencies, including both Homeland Security and the CIA, as the liaison between those agencies and NCIS.

Notable episodes of NCIS, featuring Spano in a prime role, include the Episode 1, Series 1 "Yankee White", Episode 2 of Series 4 "Escaped", as well as episodes titled "Seadog", "Enigma", "Reveille", "The Boneyard", "Conspiracy Theory", "Twilight", "Kill Ari: Part 2", "Under Covers", "Frame up", "Smoked", "Brothers in Arms" and "Angel of Death", all of which are available for searching on the NCIS pages. Spano continued to appear in season 5 of NCIS, starting with "Identity Crisis" about an FBI operation gone wrong and "Internal Affairs" when NCIS is being investigated for murder. In season 6, he appears in the episodes "Nine Lives" and "Semper Fidelis".

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Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "Joe Spano", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.