Mark Margolis, the traveling actor who portrayed the vengeful drug runner Hector Salamanca in “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul,” has passed away. He was 83 years old.
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Mark Margolis, a Versatile Actor: Bringing Life to a Variety of Characters
Mark Margolis, who was not fluent in Spanish, brought exceptional acting to life as a man of few words and the bell-ringing individual in “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul.” He breathed life into various characters, including Bolivian enforcer Alberto The Shadow in “Scarface” (1984), the stern-voiced landlord Mr. Schikadance in “Pet Detective” (1994), and the HIV-infected mob boss Antonio Nappa on HBO’s “Oz” (1998-2003).
In “Philadelphia” (1998), he portrayed an elderly math teacher for Darren Aronofsky, and then appeared in the producer’s next five films: as the man who continuously sells Mrs. Goldfarb (Ellen Burstyn) her TV in “Requiem for a Dream” (2000), a priest in “The Fountain” (2006), the landlord of Randy “The Ram” Robinson (Mickey Rourke) in “The Wrestler” (2008), a bail bondsman in “Black Swan” (2010), and a “Fallen Angel” in “Noah” (2014).
Unforgettable Characters in “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul”
Mark Margolis made his first appearance in the second episode of the second season of AMC’s “Breaking Bad” as Hector “Tio” Salamanca, a character who is left incapacitated and only able to communicate through facial expressions and a bell attached to his wheelchair.
In the spectacular finale of the fourth season of “Breaking Bad” in October 2011, Mark Margolis transformed from the Mexican crime boss Don Eladio (Steven Bauer) to a suicide mission participant, swapping roles with drug kingpin Gus Fring, earning him an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series in 2012.
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Returning with the prequel “Better Call Saul” for its second season in 2016, Margolis had another opportunity to portray Salamanca as a young man before his incapacitation.
Reflecting on his iconic portrayal, Margolis remarked, “As far as I knew, I was just coming onto ‘Breaking Bad’ for that one episode, but there’s no accounting for taste, and fans took a liking to me. Someone recently asked me, ‘How did you play such a terrifying character?’ And I said, ‘Have you talked with my friends?’ They’ll tell you I’ve been miserable from the start.”
Mark Margolis’ remarkable acting legacy continues to shine through his unforgettable performances, leaving an indelible mark on the world of television and film.
(Photo Credit : Bing)
Early Life and Passion for Acting
Mark Margolis was born on November 26, 1939, in a Jewish family in Philadelphia. His mom, Fanya, was really good at decorating and worked for a company that made wallpaper. She also loved to paint a lot. His dad, Isidor, had a job in a factory where he worked hard.
At the age of 14, he took his first acting class, and after spending a year at Temple University, he moved to New York and studied theater with Adler at the Actors Studio. In an interview with Inside the Actors Studio in 2020, Margolis said of Adler, “My first impression of her was, ‘If God is a woman, this is it.'”
Instead of classes, he worked as Adler’s private assistant for about three years, fetching cabs, returning items to her apartment in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and checking coats at a party she hosted.
In 2012, he told The Observer, “I had a real attachment to her.” “I was 19 and she was 60. She was very turn-on.”
Mark Margolis later studied with Adler’s rival, Lee Strasberg, for about a year, but he got frustrated with acting and struggled to make ends meet. He owned a small coffee shop on MacDougal Street in a place called Greenwich Village. “He used to let Richie Havens stay there all night, even though Richie didn’t have much money, because he really liked listening to Richie’s music.” he said in 2016. He also started places for plays and art and brought special domes to colleges that looked like ones designed by Gaudí.
He made her onscreen debut in the X-rated “The Opening of Misty Beethoven” (1976) as a bold airplane passenger, followed by small roles in “Going in Style” (1979), “Dressed to Kill” (1980), and “Arthur” (1981). Before her nefarious Alberto was gunned down by Al Pacino’s Tony Montana in “Scarface”.
He once said, “I’m just a traveling actor.” “To be honest, after Scarface, I had to work as a real estate development friend for a few months.”
Mark Margolis scored a recurring role as Control specialist Jimmie in the CBS crime drama “The Equalizer,” starring Edward Woodward, from 1985 to 1989.
The character’s name in Jim Carrey’s vehicle was based on a real-life landlord once owned by a director Tom Shadeck. For Mr. Shikadance, “they wanted a voice like The Exorcist,” she said. “I had never seen The Exorcist, but I thought it was the same.”
(Photo Credit : Bing)
Mark Margolis said that he drew inspiration from her late mother-in-law, Shirley, to play the role of Mute Salome.
Mark Margolis said, “Unfortunately, after suffering a stroke, she was in a nursing home in Florida for several years.” “We used to visit her, and she couldn’t speak. But when we came into the room, she would get excited, and the left side of her mouth would always make a movement where the lips came out, almost as if she was chewing tobacco. So I sort of stole that from her. I always say this role is a tribute to Shirley, who was actually a dance dancer in the 1930s.”
Mark Margolis said that Gilligan called him to say that he and Breaking Bad’s Hector were going to kill – but “it will be a lot of fun to do.”
His work also included The Cotton Club (1984), The Secret of My Success (1987), 1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992), I Shot Andy Warhol (1996), Absolute Power (1997), The Thomas Crown Affair. Also, on TV shows like Law & Order, Californication, Person of Interest, American Horror Story, and The Affair.
Among the surviving relatives of Margolis, apart from his son and wife, Heidi, are his wife, Jacqueline, whom he married in June 1962; grandsons Ben, Eden, and Henry; and his brother and his wife, Jerome and Ann. He lived in Tribeca for years.
In an interview with The Observer, Mark Margolis said that his fans he met on the street “I feel like I’m a rich man somehow, that everyone in movies is making the kind of money that Angelina Jolie is making,” he explained. “They do not realize that most of my life has been a struggle.”
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