Gregory Joseph Sierra (January 25, 1937 – January 4, 2021) was an American actor known for his roles as Detective Sergeant Chano Amengual on Barney Miller, Julio Fuentes, the Puerto Rican neighbor of Fred G. Sanford on Sanford and Son, and as Marruja in The Castaway Cowboy (1974).
|Born||January 25, 1937|
New York City, U.S.
|Died||January 4, 2021 (aged 83)|
Laguna Woods, California, U.S.
Gregory Joseph Sierra was born on January 25, 1937, in Manhattan. He was raised in Spanish Harlem by an aunt as his parents did not take charge of his care. After serving in the Air Force, Sierra went with a friend to an acting school audition in Manhattan. Mr. Sierra was only there to support his friend, but after performing some improvisation he was admitted instead of his friend.
He began his career on the stage, touring with the National Shakespeare Company, and in 1967 appeared as the Duke of Austria in King John at the New York Shakespeare Festival. He then moved to Los Angeles in the late 1960s to work in film and television.
Sierra's film credits include The Flying Nun (1969), Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970), Papillon (1973), The Towering Inferno (1974), The Prisoner of Zenda (1979) and The Trouble with Spies (1987).
In 1973, Sierra guest-starred in an unusually dramatic episode of All in the Family in the role of Paul Benjamin, who was a Jewish radical with the "Hebrew Defense Association" (based on the Jewish Defense League) fighting antisemitism in the neighborhood. In the plot, he volunteers in helping to chase away neo-Nazi thugs who spray-painted a swastika on the Bunkers' front door. He is later killed by a car bomb planted by the neo-Nazis.
From 1972 to 1975, he had the recurring role of Julio Fuentes, a Puerto Rican neighbor of the Sanfords, on Sanford and Son. After that he spent two years as part of the ensemble cast of Barney Miller, as Detective Sergeant Chano Amengual. He starred as Dr. Tony Menzies on the short-lived 1977 sitcom A.E.S. Hudson Street. In 1980 and 1981, for the fourth and unresolved final season of the soap opera parody Soap, he played Latin American revolutionary Carlos "El Puerco" Valdez, Jessica Tate's lover.
In 1984, he was hired for the main cast of Miami Vice where he played Lieutenant Lou Rodriguez, but he asked to be written out of the series after four episodes, not wanting to reside in Miami where the show was being filmed, according to the season 1 DVD commentary; he was subsequently replaced by Edward James Olmos and his character, Lieutenant Martin Castillo. He had regular roles on the TV shows Zorro and Son (1983) and Something is Out There (1988–1989).
In 1992, Sierra played drug dealer Felix Barbossa in the Bill Duke-directed film Deep Cover, which also starred Laurence Fishburne and Jeff Goldblum, and appeared in the comedy sequel Honey, I Blew Up the Kid. The following year he played an Iraqi patrol boat captain in the comedy Hot Shots! Part Deux. He also played a man named Villanazul in the low-budget 1998 movie The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit. He also appeared as Corbin Entek in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Second Skin".
His television credits also include Mod Squad, Kung Fu, Alias Smith and Jones, Mission: Impossible (3 episodes), Hawaii Five-O, Gunsmoke, The Greatest American Hero, Midnight Caller, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, The X-Files, Murder, She Wrote, Hart to Hart, and Hill Street Blues.
Sierra was of Puerto Rican descent. He lived in Laguna Woods, California with his wife, Helen Tabor. Sierra died on January 4, 2021, after a long battle with stomach and liver cancer, three weeks before his 84th birthday.