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Mark Margolis, the Emmy-nominated actor who played cartel boss Hector Salamanca on Breaking Bad and its spinoff series Better Call Saul, died on Thursday, August 3, at the age of 83 in New York City. “As both an actor and a person, Mark’s enduring excellence and amiable nature have left an indelible impression on those fortunate enough to collaborate with him and know him,” his representatives said in a statement. “He will certainly be missed.”
Born in Philadelphia in 1939, Margolis moved to New York as a teenager, where he became a devoted pupil of the legendary acting instructor Stella Adler. In addition to learning under her (and later, for a brief period, the equally esteemed Lee Strasberg), Margolis worked as Adler’s personal assistant, just one in a series of many odd jobs and passions he pursued before working professionally as an actor. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Margolis strung together a number of small roles in films like Scarface and recurring roles on TV series including soap opera Santa Barbara and spy thriller The Equalizer. Margolis had a number of memorable roles in the ’90s, including playing a pet-hating landlord in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and jailed mafioso Antonio Nappa in Oz.
He also appeared in Darren Aronofsky’s debut feature Pi, and continued to be a small player in Aronofsky films Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain, The Wrestler, and Noah. However, Margolis is best known for playing infirm drug boss Hector Salamanca, or “Tio,” on Breaking Bad. The role allowed him to really show off his acting abilities, as the character communicated primarily through facial expressions. The performance earned him an Emmy nomination in 2012. After Tio’s explosive demise in the season-four finale, fans made a tribute website where they could ring a bell to pay their respects. Margolis reprised the character for the spinoff series Better Call Saul, playing a younger, more active version of the character. Talking to Vulture in 2016, he said of the role, “I tell people I’m the second-most famous bell ringer after Quasimodo. It’s me and Quasimodo.” He is survived by his wife, Jacqueline Margolis, his son, and his grandchildren.