Judd Hirsch Biography

Actor (1935–)
Judd Hirsch is an American actor known for starring on such TV shows as 'Taxi,' 'Dear John' and 'Numb3rs.'


Judd Hirsch was born in 1935 in the Bronx, New York. After earning his undergraduate degree in physics, he turned to acting and made his stage debut in the early 1960s. In 1978, Hirsch landed his first major role on the hit sitcom Taxi, for which he won two Emmy Awards. Around this time, he scored an Oscar nomination for his performance in the 1980 film Ordinary People. Hirsch went on to enjoy featured roles on such shows as Dear John and Numb3rs, as well as in movies like Independence Day.

Early Years

Judd Hirsch was born on March 15, 1935, in the New York City borough of the Bronx. After graduating from DeWitt Clinton High School, Hirsch enrolled at the City College of New York to study engineering. He transferred to Cooper Union for its architecture program and then spent six months in the Army, before returning to City College to earn a degree in physics. 

Uninspired by the idea of a career in science, Hirsch switched gears after graduation and began to study acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and the Herbert Berghof Studio. 

Early Stage and Screen Roles

Hirsch's first professional acting job came with a stock company in Colorado in 1962, and he soon returned to New York to appear in a stage production of A Thousand Clowns at the Woodstock Playhouse. In 1966, he made his Broadway debut in the first run of Barefoot in the Park.

It would be several years before Hirsch earned widespread attention for his work on stage, and that point came with a role in Lanford Wilson's award-winning The Hot I Baltimore in 1973. That same year, he made an uncredited appearance in the classic crime thriller Serpico, starring Al Pacino.

While the silver screen may not have been loudly calling his name quite yet, Hirsch made his way onto the small screen in the 1974 TV movie The Law and its subsequent series. He settled into a comfort zone on TV, landing parts on such shows as Medical Story and Columbo, as well as a starring role on the short-lived detective series Delvecchio.

'Taxi' and Beyond

Hirsch's big breakthrough came in 1978; after earning an Emmy nomination for his guest spot on the sitcom Rhoda, he grabbed what became his first major role on a new comedy called Taxi. The show, with its ensemble cast that included Danny DeVito, Marilu Henner, Tony Danza, Andy Kaufman, Christopher Lloyd and Jeff Conaway, was an instant hit, and for his portrayal of the pragmatic Alex Rieger, Hirsch won the Emmy for Lead Actor in a Comedy Series in 1981 and 1983.

Already in his 40s when Taxi began its five-year run, the accolades pumped new life into Hirsch’s career, his success underscored by Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for his work as a psychiatrist in the highly regarded Ordinary People (1980). 

In 1988, Hirsch became the centerpiece of his own show with Dear John. Playing a teacher adjusting to single life after being left by his wife, he took home a Golden Globe in 1989 for his acclaimed work on this bittersweet comedy.

Later Career Highlights

Hirsch’s work in feature films continued after Dear John came to an end in 1992. He scored a prominent role in the blockbuster Independence Day (1996), and also appeared in the acclaimed flicks Man on the Moon (1999) and A Beautiful Mind (2001). His TV series work continued as well, with Hirsch enjoying solid runs on George and Leo and Regular Joe, before joining the cast of the highly successful crime drama Numb3rs in 2005.

Subsequent shows such as Damages, Forever, and Maron kept Hirsch busy on the small screen, as did big screen roles in The Muppets (2011), Tower Heist (2011) and Altered Minds (2013). The actor reprised his Independence Day role in the film’s sequel, which began production in 2015 and premiered in June 2016.    

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