Gregory Sierra Dies: ‘Sanford And Son’ And ‘Barney Miller’ Star Was 83

·2 min read

Gregory Sierra, who was a key part of two major 1970s sitcoms as Julio Fuentes on Sanford and Son and Sgt. Miguel “Chano” Amenguale on Barney Miller, has died. He was 83.

Sierra died Jan. 4 in Laguna Woods, California, from cancer, according to a family spokesman. His death just became public today.

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Born in New York’s Spanish Harlem, Sierra worked with the National Shakespeare Company and in the New York Shakespeare Festival. He also appeared in off-Broadway plays and was a standby on Broadway for The Ninety Day Mistress in 1967.

Moving to Los Angeles, Sierra had guest appearances on such shows as It Takes a Thief, Medical Center, The High Chaparral, Mod Squad, The Flying Nun and Kung Fu.

In films he was also a supporting actor in Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970), Getting Straight (1970), Papillon (1973), The Towering Inferno (1974) and the Orson Welles project The Other Side of the Wind.

In 1972, he was cast as Julio, the sidekick to crotchety junkyard entrepreneur Fred Sanford, He was introduced in the second season episode, “The Puerto Ricans Are Coming.” The show, developed by All in the Family creators Bud Yorkin and Norman Lear, led to another memorable appearance in one of their vehicles, as Sierra played a radical Jewish vigilante in the episode “Archie is Branded” in 1973.

The versatile Sierra also was tapped later to portray Carlos “El Puerco” Valdez, a Malaguayan counter-revolutionist who kidnaps Jessica (Katherine Helmond) on ABC’s Soap.

After Sanford and Son, Sierra struck comedy gold again, appearing in 1975 as one of the original New York detectives in Barney Miller. Sierra played Chano on the show.

Sierra left Barney Miller at the end of the second season, moving over to another sitcom helmed by Barney Miller creator Danny Arnold. A.E.S. Hudson Street was set in a New York emergency room, but ended after just six episodes.

Sierra’s career continued as a recurring character on such shows as Hill Street Blues, Zorro and Son, Miami Vice and Murder, She Wrote, among many others.

Continuing his steady career, Sierra also appeared in the film The Trouble With Spies (1987), Honey, I Blew Up the Kid (1992), Hot Shots! Part Deux (1993), A Low Down Dirty Shame (1994), Vampires (1998) and Mafia! (1998).

He is survived by his wife, Helene. No memorial plans have been announced.

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