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Ron Silver Dies at 62

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Ron Silver, an actor as well known for his off-stage activism as his on-stage work, has died of esophageal cancer. While I didn’t particularly follow Silver’s political work (he was active in liberal causes but endorsed George W. Bush for re-election in 2004), as an actor on TV (and film and theater), he was distinguished for bringing a similar kind of passion to his characters. At least in the TV roles with which I’m most familiar—The West Wing, Skin—Silver was best at playing shouters, type-A individuals: in a word, and I mean this in no disparaging way, he was great at playing jerks. Maybe his consummate jerk portrayal on TV was his embodiment of over-the-hill chauvinist tennis player Bobby Riggs in the 2001 ABC movie When Billie Beat Bobby, opposite Holly Hunter; Silver captured not just Riggs’ intensity, but his desperate, mouthy, showboating hustler’s spirit. Silver was also praised for his performances in the movie Reversal of Fortune (as Alan Dershowitz) and Speed-the-Plow onstage. He was 62.