Profile: Richard Romanus
Bachelor of Science in philosophy, 1964
Skiathos Island, Greece
Claim to Fame | Romanus has the kind of craggy face that you recognize immediately, a mug shot captured in a plethora of television episodes and Hollywood moments. He’s often cast as a (somewhat) lovable bad guy (“The Rockford Files,” “Mod Squad” and “Mission: Impossible”) or a weary police captain (“Hill Street Blues” and “Cagney & Lacey”) or even as an irascible Mexican, Italian-American, Mediterranean or otherwise ethnic goon. On the big screen, he co-starred with Goldie Hawn (as “The Emir”) in “Protocol” and with Bridget Fonda in “Point of No Return” (as Fahd Bakhtiar).
His Big Break | Studying with Lee Strasberg at the famed Actors Studio in New York City, his first major role was “Michael” in the 1973 Martin Scorsese film “Mean Streets.”
Seen Most Recently In… | “My last TV show was a semi-regular role on ‘The Sopranos,’ where I played a psychiatrist [Richard La Penna] married to the psychiatrist of the godfather. My last film was ‘Young Black Stallion’ for Disney, which was a prequel to ‘The Black Stallion,’ a hit movie based on the children’s books of the same name.”
On the Tube | Romanus (not to be confused with his younger brother, actor Robert Romanus) has appeared in a litany of primetime police procedurals and P.I. knockoffs: “NYPD Blue,” “Kojak,” “Charlie’s Angels,” “Starsky & Hutch,” “Hawaii Five-O,” “Matt Houston,” “Hunter.” “I have no personal favorites. Every role presented a different set of challenges and rewards. Scorsese’s film ‘Mean Streets’ is probably the most interesting and celebrated film in which I appear.” In “Streets,” Romanus plays a particularly nasty loan shark alongside two other newbie actors, Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel.
In the Beginning | His first movie was 1968’s memorable (and “super-cheap”) “The Ghastly Ones,” with Romanus playing the lead under his given name of Romanos. The plot: “Three married couples are forced to spend the night in a Victorian-era house where they start getting killed off by a psycho.”
On the Bookshelf | “There are two books currently out: Act III, my memoir about retiring from Hollywood and moving to a small island in Greece, and Chrysalis, a World War II novel.”
Personal Notes | Married to Anthea Sylbert, his co-writer and producer on two television productions, “Giving Up the Ghost” and “If You Believe.” The couple has lived on the island of Skiathos since 2001.
How He Got to Greece | “The answer to that is rather complicated, but is dealt with fully in Act III.” Suffice it to say Skiathos is a remote, tiny island (pop. 4,900) in the northwest Aegean Sea—famed only as the location shoot for the movie “Mamma Mia”—and that Romanus is likely the only resident among the 4,900 to follow Musketeer game results.