Joe Spano

Joseph Peter Spano (born July 7, 1946) is an American actor best known for his roles as Lt. Henry Goldblume on Hill Street Blues and as FBI Special Agent Tobias C. Fornell on NCIS.

Joe Spano
Joseph Peter Spano

(1946-07-07) July 7, 1946
Years active1967–present
Joan Zerrien (m. 1980)


Spano was a member of the San Francisco improv group The Wing, and in college debuted as Paris in a production of Romeo and Juliet in 1967. In 1968, he helped found the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, appearing in its first production, and stayed with the company for 10 years. He moved to Hollywood in the late 1970s, landing guest spots on TV and bit roles in American Graffiti (1973) and The Enforcer (1976).

In Hill Street Blues he played Henry Goldblume during the entire seven-year run of the series, first as a detective sergeant, later as a lieutenant. Goldblume was one of Hill Street Precinct Captain Frank Furillo's trusted junior officers, serving at times as a hostage negotiator and gangs relations officer. The character was sympathetic to crime victims, sometimes coming in conflict with his duties as a police officer. Spano was one of many actors appearing through each episode, which typically had several interwoven story lines.

After Hill Street Blues ended, Spano won recurring roles in television police shows Murder One (1995) and NYPD Blue (1993), again as a detective, and has appeared regularly in television movies and television shows like The X-Files (episodes "Tempus Fugit" and "Max"), Mercy Point and Amazing Grace. Spano won an Emmy award in 1988 for Best Guest Actor in a Drama Series for a role he played in an episode of Midnight Caller. He has appeared in several feature films, including working alongside Tom Hanks in Apollo 13 and Richard Gere and Edward Norton in Primal Fear. His credits are often confused with Australian actor Joseph Spano. They are not related.[1]

He is a veteran stage actor on the east and west coasts. Spano made his Broadway debut in 1992 in the Roundabout Theater revival of Arthur Miller's The Price, with Eli Wallach, which was nominated for a Tony for Best Revival. West coast stage credits include Eduardo Pavlovsky's Potestad, and David Mamet's Speed-the-Plow and American Buffalo, for which he was awarded an LA Drama Critics Circle Award. At the Rubicon Theater in Ventura he has played General Burgoyne in George Bernard Shaw's The Devil's Disciple, Greg in A. R. Gurney's Sylvia and Vladimir in Waiting for Godot. He is a member of the Antaeus Theater Company and a founding member of three other theater companies.[2] He played a seductive vampire in the cult musical Dracula: A Musical Nightmare in a small Los Angeles theatre.[1] He also appeared in the TV movie Brotherhood of Justice with Keanu Reeves and Kiefer Sutherland.


Spano has been a recurring character in NCIS since its premiere episode, "Yankee White", playing FBI Special Agent Tobias Fornell, the FBI counterpart to NCIS Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, portrayed by Mark Harmon. In Season 15, Fornell is no longer with the FBI, but is a private investigator. The on-screen rapport between the two actors has made Spano much more visible to viewers than his number of actual screen appearances would suggest. Spano is best known for straight dramatic roles but, in NCIS, has adapted to the comedic/drama style of the show. Spano's character holds rank in the FBI equivalent to that held by the NCIS main character, Gibbs. Thus Spano is given key lines and comic moments as a foil for Gibbs and, in some episodes, equal screen time with him. The two characters usually address each other by their first names.

Two episodes have used the Fornells' personal life as the main crux of an NCIS episode: one where Fornell's daughter is imperiled and another where Fornell's career is imperiled. In each episode, it is the friendship between Gibbs and Fornell which is invoked in order to involve NCIS in the resolution. Further indicating his status on the show, Spano's Fornell was written into the Gibbs backstory, by Fornell having been married to Gibbs' first ex-wife, linking their private lives as well as their professional lives and further establishing their equivalence of status.

Notable episodes of NCIS featuring Spano in a prime role include the pilot episode "Yankee White", Episode 2 of Season 4, "Escaped", as well as episodes titled "Seadog", "Enigma", "Reveille", "The Boneyard", "Conspiracy Theory", "Twilight", "Kill Ari: Part 2", "Under Covers", "Frame up", "Smoked", "Brothers in Arms" and "Angel of Death". Spano continued to appear in season 5 of NCIS, starring in "Identity Crisis" and "Internal Affairs". In season 6, he appears in the episodes "Nine Lives" and "Semper Fidelis". In season 7, he appears in the episodes "Jack-Knife" and "Moonlighting". He continues to appear in the following seasons, in the episodes "Short Fuse" and "Tell-All" (both season 8), "Devil's Triangle", and "Life Before His Eyes" (both season 9), "Extreme Prejudice", "Devil's Trifecta", "Damned If You Do" (all season 10), and "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot", "Past, Present, and Future", "Devil's Triad", "Crescent City (Part I)", and "Crescent City (Part II)" (all season 11), "Cabin Fever" (season 12), "Dead Letter" and "Family First" (season 13), "Privileged Information" (season 14), and "Burden of Proof", "Keep Your Friends Close" and "Keep Your Enemies Closer" [3] (all season 15), and "Third Wheel" and “Daughters” (both season 16).

Personal life

Spano was born in San Francisco, California, the son of Virginia Jean (née Carpenter) and Vincent Dante Spano, a physician.[4] He graduated from Archbishop Riordan High School in 1963, and he is an honorary member of the House of Russi. Spano and his wife Joan Zerrien, a therapist, were married in 1980. They have two adopted daughters.


Film and television

Other work

Awards and nominations

Ovation Awards


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