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‘Law & Order’ Cast and Alums Remember the Late Richard Belzer

Christopher Meloni, Mariska Hargitay, Ice-T, and S. Epatha Merkerson all offered tributes to the actor behind John Munch.

Actor Richard Belzer attends the New York premiere of Righteous Kill at the Ziegfeld Theater on September 10, 2008 in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)

Richard Belzer

Jim Spellman/WireImage

Richard Belzer, the retired comedian and actor famous for his enduring role as Det. John Munch on programs like “Law & Order: SVU” and “Homicide: Life on the Street,” died Sunday in his home at Beaulieu-sur-Mer, France. He was 78 years old.

Immediately after news of the beloved actor’s death broke, several friends and collaborators of Belzer offered tributes on social media. Current and veteran members of the “Law & Order” franchise shared words and pictures honoring Belzer, including Mariska Hargitay, Christopher Meloni, S. Epatha Merkerson, Diane Neal, Ice-T, “SVU” showrunner Warren Leight, and many other figures from the long-running procedural.

In a statement from Wolf Entertainment, the production company behind “Law & Order,” the franchise creator Dick Wolf called Belzer’s Munch “one of television’s most iconic characters,” and praised the actor for bringing “humor and joy into our lives.”

Other tributes to the actor came from friends and co-stars like his cousin Henry Winkler, Larraine Newman, George Wallace, and Natasha Lyonne.

Belzer first portrayed Munch, a cynical but kindhearted detective with a penchant for believing in conspiracy theories, in the 1993 premiere episode of David Simon’s “Homicide: Life on the Street.” After remaining a mainstay on the procedural for seven seasons and a spin-off movie, Munch made the switch from “Homicide” to “Law & Order: SVU” in 1999, and remained a regular on the spinoff until Season 15. In 2016, he made his final television appearance on a Season 17 episode of the series.

In between his first and last appearances, Belzer also portrayed Munch as a guest on “Law & Order,” “Arrested Development,” “The X-Files,” “The Beat,” “The Wire,” “30 Rock,” “Law & Order: Trial By Jury,” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” Overall, Belzer portrayed Munch on 22 seasons of television, making him one of TV’s longest-running live-action characters.

The actor was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1944, and worked as a reporter at his local paper before moving to New York in the ’70s to pursue a career as a comedian. He became a regular at stand-up spots like Pips, The Improv, and Catch a Rising Star, and made his film debut in 1974 with the film “The Groove Tube,” an independent movie from the Channel One comedy group. He served as a warm-up comic on the early seasons of “Saturday Night Live,” and made a few appearances on the sketch series. He also was a player on the ’70s “National Lampoon Radio Hour” and hosted his own radio program “Brink & Belzer.”

Outside of Munch, Belzer’s other TV roles include the 1990 series “The Flash,” “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman,” and guest roles on shows like “Moonlighting,” “Miami Vice,” “The Larry Sanders Show,” and “Mad About You.” On film, he played supporting roles in movies like “Fame,” “Scarface,” “The Bonfire of the Vanities,” “A Very Brady Sequel,” “Night Shift,” “North,” and Spike Lee’s “Get on the Bus.”

Belzer is survived by his third wife and fellow “Homicide: Life on the Street” cast member Harlee McBride, and two stepdaughters.

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