Gregory Sierra, who starred on Barney Miller as Sgt Miguel "Chano" Amenguale and on Sanford and Son as Julio Fuentes, died earlier this month. He was 83. Sierra died on Jan. 4 in Laguna Woods, California, after a battle with cancer, a family spokesman told The Hollywood Reporter Thursday.
Sierra was born in New York City and made his television debut in 1969 when he appeared on It Takes a Thief and Medical Center. In 1969 and 1970, he also appeared on The Flying Nun. His breakthrough role was Julio, the Puerto Rican neighbor of Fred Sanford (Redd Fox) on Sandford and Son. He was introduced in the second season and continued making appearances until 1975.
After leaving Sanford and Son, Sierra joined ABC's Barney Miller as one of the first detectives who worked at the 12th Precinct in Greenwich Village. His character was Puerto Rican detective Chano, who had a strong moral code. In one episode, "The Hero," his colleagues think he deserves a commendation after killing two robbery suspects, but Chano refused and cried after killing the men.
In a 1976 interview for the book TV Talk 2: Exploring TV Territory, Sierra praised Barney Miller for being more realistic than other police dramas on television at the time. "The people in the show have real problems. Kojak never worries," Sierra said. "He knows he's got it made. Everything is always under control on that show. You never see the frustrations of police work or the kind of joking that goes on among real policemen. Those are the kinds of things we show on Barney Miller."
Sierra was only on Barney Miller for one season. He was written out so he could star in A.E.S. Hudson Street, a sitcom set in an emergency room. The show only lasted six episodes before being canceled. Two weeks after Sierra began filming, his second wife, Susan, took her own life.
Sierra continued regularly acting until the early 2000s. His other credits include Murder, She Wrote, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, Nurses, The X-Files, MacGyver, Something Is Out There, Growing Pains, Cagney & Lacey, Miami Vice, Hill Street Blues, and Soap. He also had several supporting roles in films, including Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Papillon, The Towering Inferno, Honey I Blew Up The Kid, and Vampires. Sierra also had a part in Orson Welles' The Other Side of the Wind, which was finally released in 2018. Sierra's survivors include his wife, Helene.