Ron Glass, the Emmy-nominated actor best known for his roles on Barney Miller and Firefly, has passed away at the age of 71, following respiratory failure.
Glass’ long-time friend and agent confirmed the star’s passing on Friday 25th November in a touching tribute stating that: “Ron was a private, gentle and caring man. He was an absolute delight to watch on screen. Words cannot describe my sorrow.”
Raised in Evansville, Glass graduated from the University of Evansville with a Bachelor of Arts degree in drama and literature before moving to Minneapolis to begin a career in national theatre. Following his success on stage, Glass relocated to Los Angeles in the 1970s, where he went on to have an illustrious career starring in a number of hugely successful film and television series. His credits include episodes of Sanford & Son, Murder She Wrote, The Twilight Zone, Star Trek: Voyager and a guest-starring role as Ross Geller’s divorce lawyer in Friends. Most recently, Glass guest-starred in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D as the man responsible for Agent Phil Coulson’s resurrection, Dr Streiten.
Glass rose to prominence in the 1970s, and is perhaps best known for his role in Barney Miller as Detective Ron Harris, one of the only generally normal characters populating a New York precinct full of oddballs on both sides of the law. The show ran from 1975 to 1982 and received two Emmys and two Golden Globes for best comedy series, and earned Glass an Emmy nomination in the best supporting actor category in 1982.
In 1983 Glass joined The New Odd Couple, a reboot of Neil Simon’s Broadway play, The Odd Couple, this time notable for the casting of black actors in the leading roles. The comedic sitcom followed the tenuous relationship between prissy neat-freak Felix Unger (Glass) and his decidedly untidy and fun-loving roommate Oscar Madison (Desmond Wilson).
Although Glass enjoyed an illustrious career he will perhaps be best remembered for his role in Joss Whedon’s short-lived series Firefly (2000) and its film revival Serenity (2005) in which he portrayed the spiritual and mysterious Shepherd Derrial Book. Book quickly became a fan favourite leading to the production of a graphic novel, The Shepherd’s Tale, in 2010 exploring the character’s shady origins that had only been hinted at throughout the series’ limited run. Since the series revival in 2005 Glass had been a frequent visitor at conventions across the United States and Europe including a UK signing in 2007. News of Glass’ passing spread quickly throughout the Browncoat community with many fans taking to social media to post tributes to the actor.
On Saturday a number of Glass’ Firefly family took to social media to share their memories and to pay tribute, with many quoting the Shepherd’s final lines. Nathan Fillion who portrayed Captain Malcolm Reynolds wrote, ‘Shepherd, don’t move.’ ‘Won’t go far.’ We love you, Ron Glass. Don’t go far.’
Jewel Staite uploaded a touching tribute to her Instagram on Saturday posting a photo of herself with Glass. ‘This is me acting like an idiot just so I could hear Ron Glass laugh,’ she wrote, before adding, ‘he was the kind of person that remembered the details, that asked about your family’s well-being. He hugged hard and often. He would laugh till he cried at a sick joke and top it off with a worse one. He loved a Grey Goose crantini and spilled one on my white jeans in the heat of telling a story, and then just said, ‘Girl, those were ugly pants anyway.’ I adored him. Everybody did. I love you, Ron. Can’t wait to see you again. ‘I don’t care what you believe. Just believe it.’
Adam Baldwin, whose brash gunslinger Jayne Cobb would often engage the Shepherd in philosophical debates, tweeted a clip of Glass’ most quoted Firefly moment in which he cautions the Captain that if he were to take advantage of his (accidental) bride then he would go the special hell; a level ‘reserved for child molesters and people who talk at the theatre.’ In addition to the video Baldwin wrote, ‘Happy rebirth, dear Ron Glass. Among the kindest and gentlest souls to have walked this earth with us.’
Sean Maher, whom Glass shared most of his scenes wrote, ;Ron Glass. What an honour it was to know you, to work beside you and to have called you my friend. You will be missed. I love you sir.’
Finally, in a sentiment shared by many fans, creator Joss Whedon posted a clip of Glass’ first appearance in Firefly, writing, ‘He got the grace, humour & enormous heart. He was, among so many other things, my Shepherd. Raise, appropriately, a glass. Rest, Ron.’ A long-time member of the board of directors, Glass’ legacy will be his constant support of the Los Angeles A.L. Wooten Jr. Heritage Centre, an organisation dedicated to helping inner-city children stay safe and receive a good education.
There is no doubt that Ron Glass’ infectious smile and good humour will be missed from the world of entertainment but what is even more certain is the hole his passing leaves in the hearts of his Browncoat family.
Check out Ron Glass in some of his best roles below: