1970s TV Actor Ron Thompson Dead at 83

Along with his starring role as Nopke in 'Baretta,' the actor also appeared in 'The Streets of San Francisco,' 'Quincy, M.E.,' and more.

Veteran actor Ron Thompson, who appeared on numerous shows throughout the '70s and is best known for his role in Ralph Bakshi's iconic 1981 film American Pop, has died. Thompson passed away in Los Angeles on Saturday, April 13, his friend Professor Rel Dowdell of Hampton University confirmed to Deadline. A cause of death was not given, but filmmaker Joe Black told The Hollywood Reporter that he found Thompson in his Van Nuys apartment Saturday afternoon. He was 83.

"Mr. Ron Thompson was a very versatile and talented character actor in all genres as well as a true and diligent student of the comprehensive craft of acting and all of its nuances," Dowell said. "He was a very congenial man with a warm and giving spirit, and was well-respected by many luminaries in the film and television industries."

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, in January 1941, and later moving to Miami, Florida with his family, Thompson's talents as a performer began at an early age with him performing in kiddie shows. After seeing Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront, he was inspired to become an actor, relocating to New York when he was 19. Two years after making the move, Thompson starred opposite Robert Duvall on the live TV drama Armstrong Circle Theater in 1962. At the same time, Thompson pursued a music career, recording singles under the guidance of rockabilly performer Ersel Hickey. Later in the '60s, he portrayed a rock singer in Brown Eye, Evil Eye.

Following an appearance in the Pulitzer Prize-winning play No Place To Be Somebody in 1969, Thompson acted onstage in a 1972 revival of William Saroyan's The Time of Your Life in Los Angeles, starring opposite Henry Fonda, Richard Dreyfuss, and Gloria Grahame. Just a year later, he won an L.A. Critics Circle Award for his portrayal of Bickham in Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie?.

The decade also saw Thompson make a mark on the TV scene, the actor appearing as Kirk Bullard in a 1974 episode of Mannix and Jamie Fields in two episodes of Ironside, along with appearances on Amy Prentiss, The Streets of San Francisco, Bronk, The Rebels, Quincy M.E., and The White Buffalo, according to his IMDb profile. The '70s also saw Thompson take on one of his most iconic roles when he landed the role of Detective Nopke in a. He starred on the series across several episodes from 1975 through 1976.

Thompson was perhaps best known for his roles in American Pop. The actor starred in the film as the two lead characters, Tony Belinsky and his son, Pete. His other credits include American Me (1992), Deep Cover (1992), Cargo (2018), Natasha Hall (2021), and Suffrage (2023). Thompson was married to actress Diane Sommerfield, who died in 2001.