Joseph Ruskin, Prolific Character Actor, Dies at 89

By Robert Simonson
02 Jan 2014

Joseph Ruskin, the vaguely sinister-looking actor who acted in a host of films and television series, died Dec. 31 of natural causes in Santa Monica, CA. He was 89.



Owing to his lean looks and craggy face, Mr. Ruskin played his share of mobsters and criminals. He was Louis "Lepke" Buchalter on "The Untouchables" TV series, a henchman on "Peter Gunn" and various villains on "Mission: Impossible." In the famous "To Serve Man" episode of "The Twilight Zone," he gave voice to one of the Kanamits, the alien visitors whose designs on Earth are not as benevolent as they first seem. His film credits included "The Magnificent Seven," "Prizzi's Honor," "Indecent Proposal" and "Smokin' Aces."

He had a special relationship with the "Star Trek" franchise. He had roles in four different "Star Trek" series: the original "Star Trek," "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine," "Star Trek: Voyager" and "Star Trek: Enterprise."

Born Joseph Schlafman on April 14, 1924, he studied acting at Carnegie Mellon University. He began his acting career on the stage, performing at the Pittsburgh Playhouse and the Rochester Arena Stage following a stint in the U.S. Navy. Later in his career, he returned to the theatre. His final theatre performance came this year as a member of the Antaeus Theatre Company of Los Angeles.

His first of many television appearances was on the original "The Honeymooners" series, in 1955.

Active in the unions to which he belonged, he served on the Screen Actors Guild board from 1976 through 1999, including eight years as 1st national vice president. He was the first Western Regional Vice President of Actors Equity Association and served a decade on AFTRA's national board.