For fans of NBC’s long-running procedural court drama Law & Order, the debate over the greatest era of the show still rages on to this day. For some, nothing will ever top the brooding, understated nature of the first four seasons (sometimes referred to as “The Ben Stone Years”). For others, the true heart of the show can be found during seasons 5-9, in which Sam Watterson’s Jack McCoy regularly tore down the most crooked and corrupt criminals that New York City had to offer.
Regardless of which Executive Assistant District Attorney you stood behind during their respective runs in the show, it is almost universally agreed upon that there was only one true District Attorney/actor combination who stood above them all: D.A. Adam Schiff, played by Steven Hill.
While he may have lacked the real-world political experience of a Fred Thompson, Hill’s portrayal of the perpetually grumpy and consistently apathetic Schiff was one of the show’s regular bright spots, stretching through both the Ben Stone Years and the McCoy Era before coming to a close in season 10. Sadly, today brings the news that Hill, a veteran actor of stage and screen, has passed away at 94 years old.
Hill passed away Tuesday morning at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. Though no cause of death has been revealed as of yet, his wife, Rachel, told Fox News that he suffered from several ailments.
A Seattle, Washington native who served four years in the United States Naval Reserve before getting his acting start on Broadway, Hill first broke into television on the classic anthology series Suspense in 1949. From there, he scored a regular role on the ’60s incarnation of Mission:Impossible, picking up big screen roles in films like the Academy Award-nominated The Goddess and the Barbra Streisand-led Yentl along the way until debuting as the iconic Schiff in 1990.
Law & Order producer Dick Wolf was one of the first to publicly praise Hill, calling him “one of the most intelligent people I have ever met” in a statement:
Steven was not only one of the truly great actors of his generation, he was one of the most intelligent people I have ever met. He is also the only actor I’ve known who consistently tried to cut his own lines. It was like a very pleasant back-and-forth kind of thing. I’d come up with these ideas, give suggestions on (Schiff’s) kind of thinking, and the writers used that as a kind of springboard.
R.I.P. Steven Hill: February 22, 1922 – August 23, 2016