Len Cariou

Leonard Joseph Cariou OC OM (born September 30, 1939) is a Canadian actor, best known for his portrayal of Sweeney Todd in the original cast of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, for which he won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical, and for playing the patriarch Henry Reagan, NYPD Police Commissioner (retired), in the multi-generational television series Blue Bloods on CBS.

Len Cariou

Cariou in September 2009
Leonard Joseph Cariou

(1939-09-30) September 30, 1939

Early years

Born in St. Boniface, today a city ward of Winnipeg, and later moving to East Kildonan, Manitoba, Cariou is the son of Molly Estelle (née Moore) and George Marius Cariou, a salesman.[1] His father was Breton and his mother was of Irish descent.[2] Cariou attended Miles Macdonell Collegiate for grades 10 and 11 where he directed and starred in the school plays, and he later attended St Paul's College.[3]


Cariou made his first appearance in Damn Yankees at Rainbow Stage in Winnipeg in 1959, and was a founding member of the Manitoba Theatre Centre.[4] He was offered a scholarship at the National Theatre School of Canada in Montreal but, married with a young child and financial responsibilities, he was forced to decline the honor. Instead, he learned his craft by spending two years at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival Stratford, Ontario, and returned in 1981 to lead the company as Prospero, Coriolanus, Brutus, and Petruchio.

Cariou also became a lead actor at the Tyrone Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis in the 1960s, where he played Orlando in As You Like It, Agamemnon in Tyrone Guthrie's compilation of The House of Atreus, Iago, Oberon, and the title roles in Henry V, “Oedipus the King,” and King Lear. He was also an associate director.


In 1968, Cariou made his Broadway debut in The House of Atreus. Two years later, Cariou landed his first starring role opposite Lauren Bacall in Applause, a musical adaptation of the film All About Eve. It earned him a Tony Award nomination as Best Actor in a Musical and won him the Theatre World Award. In 1973 he garnered his second Tony nod for A Little Night Music; he reprised the role of Fredrik for the 1977 film version opposite Elizabeth Taylor. Six years later he won both the Tony and a Drama Desk Award for his portrayal of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street in the Stephen Sondheim musical opposite Angela Lansbury. During these years, Cariou also appeared in a number of benefits, including A Christmas Carol for the Riverside Shakespeare Company in New York, playing Scrooge, with Helen Hayes, Raul Julia, and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, directed by W. Stuart McDowell at the Symphony Space in 1985.[5] His next projects included the Alan Jay LernerCharles Strouse musical Dance a Little Closer (1983), Arthur Miller's sole musical, Up from Paradise (1983), Teddy & Alice (1987), and Ziegfeld (1988). Cariou also appeared on Broadway in Night Watch, Cold Storage, The Speed of Darkness, Neil Simon's The Dinner Party (with Henry Winkler and John Ritter) and Proof (with Anne Heche and Neil Patrick Harris). He directed Don't Call Back on Broadway as well. His off-Broadway appearances include Master Class, Papa (Ernest Hemingway one man show) and Mountain (Justice William O. Douglas). He appeared as Cap'n Andy in the Broadway national tour of Show Boat opposite Cloris Leachman.

Regional theatre

Regionally, Cariou has starred in myriad productions at theatres throughout North America, including The Kennedy Centre, the Mark Taper Forum, Lincoln Centre, the Long Wharf Theatre and the Old Globe. He has played the title role of Macbeth for Toronto Arts Productions, and Richard Nixon in Frost/Nixon for Canadian Stage in Toronto. He has appeared multiple times throughout his career at the Manitoba Theatre Centre. Cariou appeared at The Geffen Theatre as Joe Keller in a notable production of All My Sons, a role he reprised in 2009 at the Gate Theatre in Dublin, where it was the longest running, highest grossing run of a play in that theatre's history. He also appeared at The Geffen in Neil Simon's Rose and Walsh and Heroes with George Segal.


From 1985 to 1992, Cariou was seen on multiple episodes of the popular television mystery series, Murder, She Wrote opposite his good friend and former Sweeney Todd co-star Angela Lansbury. Cariou portrayed the recurring character of Michael Hagarty. Hagarty was an Irish international man of mystery who worked as a secret agent for British MI-6. He would get Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury), the title character of the show, involved in mysteries involving international intrigue.

In 1993, Cariou was in the made-for-TV movie Miracle on Interstate 880. He played Buck Helm.

In 1995, Cariou became the first actor to portray Walt Disney in the Annette Funicello biography A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes: The Annette Funicello Story based on her book of the same name.

In 1997 Cariou appeared in the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Coda". He appeared to Captain Kathryn Janeway as an alien disguised as her deceased father, Admiral Janeway.

In 2010, Cariou appeared as Madoff-like Ponzi scheme man Louis Tobin in FX's drama Damages, the main antagonist in season three. Cariou has appeared in episodes of The West Wing, Law & Order, The Practice, and The Outer Limits. He had a continuing role in 2006–2007 as power broker Judd Fitzgerald in the Showtime series Brotherhood.

He currently appears as Henry Reagan, the former NYC police commissioner and patriarch of the current commissioner's family, on Blue Bloods.


Cariou's film credits include One Man, Flags of Our Fathers, About Schmidt, Thirteen Days, The Four Seasons, the Harold Prince-directed screen adaptation of A Little Night Music with Elizabeth Taylor, and Secret Window in which he starred alongside Johnny Depp, who would later go on to play Sweeney Todd in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, the Tim Burton-directed musical based on the Broadway show in which Cariou starred. He played the father in the 2007 film 1408, and the nominal lead role in The Onion Movie, based on the satirical newspaper. In 2018 he starred alongside Bruce Willis in Death Wish as Dr. Paul Kersey's father-in-law.

Cariou narrated Major League Baseball's World Series films from 1992 to 1997. He has recorded a number of books, including several by Michael Connelly, for audiotape release. He also narrated the 1989 Academy Award-winning documentary The Johnstown Flood. In 2009, Cariou portrayed Franklin D. Roosevelt in the HBO movie Into the Storm, earning an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie. He played an American naval officer in 2013’s den Orolige Mannen (the Troubled Man), adapted from one of Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander novels.

More recently, Cariou portrayed Cardinal Law in Spotlight, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture of 2015. He also starred in the short play Happy Birthday, Mr. Abernathy by Lloyd Suh for a public radio show and podcast, Playing On Air.[6][7]


In 2004, Cariou was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.[8]

On June 23, 2012, Cariou was honored by having his name added to the Miles Macdonell Collegiate Alumni of Distinction, for his contribution to theater and arts. His introduction to the theater started with a starring role in the school production of The Pirates of Penzance. He holds the Order of Manitoba and has been invested with honorary degrees from the University of Windsor and the University of Winnipeg.

On December 27, 2018 Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada, announced that Cariou would be one of 103 recipients becoming an Officer of the Order of Canada for his achievements as an actor of stage and screen, and for his commitment to Canadian cultural institutions.[9]



Year Title Role Notes
1977 One Man Jason Brady
A Little Night Music Fredrik Egerman
1978 Drying Up the Streets Larry
1981 The Four Seasons Nick Callan
1988 Lady in White Phil Terragrossa
1994 Getting In Dr. Lionel Higgs / Dr. Ezekiel Higgs
1995 Never Talk to Strangers Henry Taylor
1996 Executive Decision Secretary of Defense Charles White
2000 Thirteen Days Dean Acheson
2002 About Schmidt Ray Nichols
2004 Secret Window Sheriff Dave Newsome
2005 The Greatest Game Ever Played Stedman Comstock
Boynton Beach Club Jack
2006 Flags of Our Fathers Mr. Beech
2007 1408 Mike's Father
2008 The Onion Movie Norm Archer
2013 Prisoners Father Patrick Dunn
2015 Spotlight Cardinal Bernard Law
2018 Death Wish Ben
Bumblebee Hank


Year Title Role Notes
1963 Quest Unknown 1 episode
1964 Festival Ragnar 1 episode
1979 The Great Detective Tanner 1 episode
1981 Madame X John Abbott Television film
1985–1992 Murder, She Wrote Michael Hagarty / Monsignore O'Shaugnessy 7 episodes
1985 Surviving: A Family in Crisis David Brogan Television film
1989 The American Playwrights Theater: The One Acts Pat Sweeney 1 episode
1990 Gabriel's Fire Judge Norton Heller 1 episode
1992 The Ray Bradbury Theater Douglas 1 episode
Street Legal Christin Peveril 1 episode
1993 Class of '61 Dr. Leland Peyton Television film
The Sea Wolf Dr. Picard Television film
1993–2008 Law & Order Edgar Beezley / Mac Geller / Captain Allard Bunker 3 episodes
1994 Witness to the Execution Jake Tyler Television film
Love on The Run Noah Cross Television film
1995–2000 The Outer Limits Doc Wells / Father Anton Jonasceu 2 episodes
1996 Swift Justice Al Swift Main cast
13 episodes
The Summer of Ben Tyler Spencer Maitland Television film
1997 Star Trek: Voyager Admiral Edward Janeway 1 episode
F/X: The Series Charles Emery 1 episode
American Experience Narrator (voice) 1 episode
1998 Mentors Alexander Graham Bell 1 episode
1999 The Practice Defense Attorney Weiland 1 episode
In the Company of Spies The President Television film
2000 D.C. Senator William Abbott 1 episode
Nuremberg Francis Biddle Television film
The West Wing Pharmaceutical Executive 1 episode
2003 Ed Mr. Stuckey 1 episode
2004 Sex Traffic Magnus Herzoff Miniseries
2005 Numb3rs Alan Emrick 1 episode
2006–2007 Brotherhood Judd Fitzgerald Recurring role
10 episodes
2007 CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Frank McCarty 1 episode
2008 Army Wives Randall Meade 1 episode
2009 Into the Storm Franklin D. Roosevelt Television film
Dominick Dunne's Power, Privilege, and Justice Narrator 9 episodes
2010 Damages Louis Tobin 5 episodes
2010–present Blue Bloods Henry Reagan Main cast; 187 episodes
2013 Wallander Atkins 1 episode
2019 When They See Us Robert Morgenthau Miniseries


  1. "Len Cariou Biography (1939-)". Film Reference.com. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  2. "Frost/Nixon star reveals hot-blooded past". Toronto Star. October 4, 2008. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  3. Len Cariou Biography - Yahoo! Movies
  4. Lepage, Mark (December 7, 2010). "Winnipeg's Cariou takes pride in Manitoba Theatre Centre roots". Winnipeg Free Press. Retrieved 2016-11-23.
  5. "Celebrity Reading of 'A Christmas Carol'", The New York Times, November 23, 1985.
  6. PlayingOnAir (2014-12-08). "Len Cariou". Playing On Air. Archived from the original on 2016-08-08. Retrieved 2016-08-04.
  7. "Page not found – Playing On Air". Retrieved 2016-08-04.
  8. Rawson, Christopher (January 25, 2005). "Stage veterans receive praise at induction". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved January 2, 2018.
  9. "Governor General Announces 103 New Appointments to the Order of Canada | Markets Insider". markets.businessinsider.com. Retrieved 2019-05-22.
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