One of the odd things about being a TV critic for almost 24 years is that it gives me an opportunity for personal connections — however brief — with big celebrities.
When news breaks that a TV icon has passed away, I recall their roles — and my time with them. Here are a few who passed this year who I’ll miss.
Dennis Farina • When Farina joined the cast of "Law & Order," he did NOT want to talk about what it was like try to replace Jerry Orbach. But who would?
David Frost • The great interviewer had a self-deprecating sense of humor. He loved telling the story of his ill-fated interview with a talking bird.
Annette Funicello • Talking about the biographical, 1995 TV movie "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes," the former "Micky Mouse Club" star was charming, courageous and open about her battle with MS.
James Gandolfini • The star of "The Sopranos" clearly did not like doing interviews. But he always made the best of the situation. And when a scheduling conflict prevented him from accepting a Television Critics Association Award in person, he sent all TCA members a handwritten thank-you note.
Gary David Goldberg • A smart, funny man who brought us "Family Ties," "Brooklyn Bridge" and "Spin City," Goldberg in person was as sharp as the characters he created.
Julie Harris • Chatting with the Oscar-nominated, Emmy-winning actress about her role on "Knots Landing" — and discovering how much she loved her character — is one of my favorite memories.
Elmore Leonard • After multiple failed attempts to translate the author’s works into successful TV series, Leonard could not have been more pleased with "Justified."
Cory Monteith • It’s difficult to reconcile the man who had the world by the tail with the addict who brought about his own death. I remember Monteith’s enthusiasm and openness before "Glee" debuted. I remember him being somewhat overwhelmed by the attention when it became a hit. But he remained a good interview and a good guy.
Jean Stapleton • I never talked to her during her run on "All In the Family" — hey, I’m not that old! — but I did interview her much later for a TV movie. (Can’t remember which one.) I was instantly struck by the fact that she truly was a great actress because Edith Bunker seemed so real and Stapleton was very different from that character.
Jonathan Winters • I remember being somewhat in awe of this comedy legend, and he was as hilarious as you’d expect. Nonstop funny.
Lee Thompson Young • When news broke that he had taken his own life, I could only think of the nice young man who chatted amiably with me on the set of "Rizzoli & Isles."
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