Farina at the premiere of the HBO series 'Luck' in January, 2012 (Photo: AP)
Dennis Farina played a lot of police officers - and the character actor, who has died at age 69, was well prepared for the role.
Before becoming an actor, Farina spent 18 years serving on Chicago's police force. From 2004 to 2006, he played Det. Joe Fontana on 'Law & Order'.
Farina was a Chicago native, and it was his police work that led him to the movies. He started out as a police consultant for director Michael Mann, a gig that led to his first film role, in Mann's 1981 action drama 'Thief'.
"I remember being intrigued by the whole thing," he told the Associated Press about his first acting role in a 2004 interview. "I liked it. And everybody was extremely nice to me. If the people were rude and didn't treat me right, things could have gone the other way."
He continued to moonlight as an actor in Chicago's theatre scene after that first role, and Mann eventually brought him to television as Detective Lt. Mike Torello on 'Crime Story' and as the mobster Albert Lombard in 'Miami Vice'.
In fact when he wasn't playing cops, Farina often got to play crooks: he was mob boss Jimmy Serrano in 'Midnight Run', a jeweller-gangster in 'Snatch', and Ray 'Bones' Barboni in 'Get Shorty', a rival criminal to John Travolta's Chili Palmer.
His 'Get Shorty' role gave him a chance to try out comedy, a talent he also showed off in productions like HBO's 'Empire Falls' and 'Bottle Shock' opposite Alan Rickman, and his final project 'Lucky Stiff', which he recently finished shooting.
For an idea of just how funny he could be, check out this scene from 'Big Trouble', in which he takes some cigar smokers in a restaurant to task over manners:
Farina was also a proud Italian-American. In this outtake interview from the documentary 'And They Came to Chicago: The Italian American Legacy', he talks about his father's experiences during the Depression:
Farina is survived by three sons, six grandchildren and his longtime partner Marianne Cahill.