Richard Schiff

Richard Schiff

Schiff at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival premiere of Knife Fight
Born (1955-05-27) May 27, 1955
Bethesda, Maryland, U.S.
Nationality American
Alma mater City College of New York
Occupation Actor, comedian
Years active 1983–present
Political party Democrat
Spouse(s) Sheila Kelley (1996–present)
Children Gus Schiff
Ruby Schiff

Richard Schiff (born May 27, 1955) is an American actor and comedian. He is perhaps best known for playing Toby Ziegler on The West Wing, a role for which he received an Emmy Award. Schiff made his directorial debut with The West Wing, directing an episode entitled "Talking Points." He is on the National Advisory Board of the Council for a Livable World.[1]

Early life

Schiff was born on May 27, 1955, in Bethesda, Maryland, and was raised there, the second of three sons of Charlotte, a television and publishing executive, and Edward Schiff, a real estate lawyer.[2]

Schiff dropped out of high school, but later obtained an equivalency diploma. In 1973, he studied briefly at The City College of New York (CCNY) but did not graduate. He moved to Colorado, where he found employment cutting firewood. Returning to New York in 1975, he began to study acting at CCNY and was accepted into their theater program.

Schiff and his family are Jewish.[3][4]


Schiff initially studied directing. He directed several off-Broadway plays, including Antigone in 1983 with a just-graduated Angela Bassett. In the mid-1980s Schiff decided to try his hand at acting and landed several TV roles. He was seen by Steven Spielberg in an episode of the TV drama High Incident and was cast in The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997). His career began an upward climb that led to his co-starring role as White House Communications Director Toby Ziegler on Aaron Sorkin's award winning television series The West Wing. Schiff became known for his reclusive and intense approach to his craft as well as his low-key delivery style .[5]

In 1995, Schiff portrayed a lawyer in Se7en. In 1996, he guest starred on the TV series ER (Season 2 - Episode 17), and appeared in NYPD Blue the following year. In 1996, he portrayed a corrupt probation officer in City Hall along with Al Pacino and John Cusack. Schiff portrayed a doctor alongside Eddie Murphy in the 1998 Dr. Dolittle remake. He also portrayed Col./Brig. Gen. Robert Laurel Smith in the 1998 HBO TV movie The Pentagon Wars, based on the real-life development of the US Army's Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle. That same year, Schiff appeared in the movie Deep Impact, in which he played Don Beiderman. Schiff appeared in one episode of Becker during its first season. In 2001, he acted in the movie What's the Worst That Could Happen? starring Martin Lawrence and Danny DeVito. He played the part of the tough Mr. Turner in I Am Sam opposite Sean Penn and Michelle Pfeiffer and co-starred in People I Know with Al Pacino.

Schiff appeared in Ray as Jerry Wexler, shaving his beard for the role. After working on The West Wing for 6 seasons, Schiff chose to leave the series, fulfilling his contractual obligations by appearing in half of the following season's episodes. When NBC chose to end the series, Schiff continued his appearances until the end of the show's run in May 2006, though he appeared only briefly in the series finale. That same year, he starred alongside Peter Krause in Civic Duty.

Schiff in May 2009

Schiff had a cameo appearance as himself in the second-season finale of the series Entourage. The scene has Schiff at lunch with his agent Ari Gold, where he declares a desire to act in action movies. He appeared again as a fictionalised version of himself in Entourage (2015). In early 2006, Schiff returned to his stage roots, starring in the premiere run of Underneath the Lintel, a one-act, single-character play by Glen Berger, at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, New Jersey. In February 2007, he appeared in the West End production of Underneath the Lintel in the Duchess Theatre [6] in London, England, and appeared on BBC Radio Five Live and talked at length to Simon Mayo about his experiences acting in The West Wing and his new West End production. In 2007, he appeared as Philip Cowen in the season finale of Burn Notice. A radio version of Underneath the Lintel, performed by Schiff, was broadcast by BBC Radio 4 on January 5, 2008. Schiff starred in Lanford Wilson's Talley's Folly at the McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, New Jersey in the fall of 2008, as accountant Matt Friedman, opposite Margot White as Sally Talley. Later that year Schiff co-starred in Last Chance Harvey with Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson and Another Harvest Moon with Ernest Borgnine and appeared in the season finale of Eli Stone.

Schiff portrayed Charles Fischer in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles in the Season 2 episode "Complications". The character was a collaborator of Skynet and a traitor to the resistance. He was sent back in time to the present as a reward for his service to Skynet. He played an Orthodox rabbi on an episode of In Plain Sight with former The West Wing co-star Mary McCormack. In 2009, he co-starred in the movies Imagine That, with Eddie Murphy, and Solitary Man, with Michael Douglas and Susan Sarandon. Later in 2009, he went back to London to shoot two other movies: The Infidel,[7] in which he starred opposite Omid Djalili, and Made in Dagenham, with Sally Hawkins and Bob Hoskins. Schiff also appeared as a hypnotist in one episode of Monk's seventh season.

He starred in Past Life. He also had a recurring role in Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior as FBI Director Jack Fickler. Schiff had a recurring role in The Cape.[8] He also has guest starred on Any Human Heart with Jim Broadbent playing the role of a psychiatrist and on White Collar's second season episode 15. He also played the role of an ex-CIA agent in a terrorist organization in Johnny English Reborn. In April 2011, Schiff returned to the London West End in the play Smash![9] He played opposite Rob Lowe in the drama Knife Fight, and starred opposite Josh Duhamel, Rosario Dawson and Bruce Willis in Fire with Fire. Schiff played an important plot character in three episodes of CBS's NCIS, bridging seasons 9 and 10, as Harper Dearing, the replacement of Osama bin Laden on the Most Wanted Wall "for attacks against the United States Navy".

Schiff has been cast to star in the new Showtime series House of Lies, starring Kristen Bell and Don Cheadle. He also stars in the TV movie Innocent with Bill Pullman. He has a recurring guest role in the TV series Once Upon A Time and has joined Helen Hunt and former West Wing star Bradley Whitford in the movie Decoding Annie Parker. Schiff stars in the political series Chasing The Hill.

He portrayed Erie Smith in a revival of the Eugene O'Neill play, "Hughie", at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, D.C., February–March 2013, and Dr. Emil Hamilton in Zack Snyder's 2013 Superman film, Man of Steel. In September 2014, Schiff returned to the West End in a revival of Speed-the-Plow by David Mamet, co-starring Lindsay Lohan. In 2015, Schiff appeared as Dwayne Johnson's character's boss on HBO's Ballers. Around the same time, he also had roles in the films Kill the Messenger, The Automatic Hate, and Take Me to the River.

Schiff has a regular role on the TNT's newest crime drama Murder in the First as David Hertzberg. The show also stars Taye Diggs, Kathleen Robertson, and Tom Felton.

Personal life

Schiff met his wife Sheila Kelley during auditions for Antigone in 1993, and they married in 1996.[10] They have a son, Gus, and a daughter, Ruby.[11]

Schiff is a member of the Democratic Party; he supported Barack Obama in the 2008 US Presidential Election. Previously, he had endorsed Senator Joe Biden, before Biden dropped out.

His brother is film producer Paul Schiff.



Year Title Role Notes
1992 Malcolm X JFK Reporter
1992 The Bodyguard Skip Thomas
1994 The Hudsucker Proxy Mailroom Screamer
1994 Speed Train Driver
1995 Tank Girl Trooper in Trench
1995 Rough Magic Marvin Wiggins
1995 Se7en Mark Swarr
1996 City Hall Larry Schwartz
1996 The Arrival Calvin
1996 The Trigger Effect Gun Shop Clerk
1996 Michael Italian Waiter
1997 Touch Jerry
1997 Volcano Haskins
1997 The Lost World: Jurassic Park Eddie Carr
1998 Dr. Dolittle Dr. Gene Reiss
1998 Living Out Loud Phil
1998 Deep Impact Don Beiderman
1999 Forces of Nature Joe
1999 Crazy in Alabama Norman
2000 Gun Shy Elliot
2000 Whatever It Takes P.E. Teacher
2001 I Am Sam Mr. Turner
2002 People I Know Elliot Sharansky
2004 Ray Jerry Wexler
2004 With It Virgil LaRocca Short film
2006 Civic Duty Tom Hilary
2007 Waiting John Short film
2009 Imagine That Carl Simons
2009 Solitary Man Steve Heller
2009 Another Harvest Moon Jeffery
2010 The Infidel Lenny Goldberg
2010 Made in Dagenham Robert Tooley
2011 Johnny English Reborn Titus Fisher
2012 Knife Fight Dimitris Vargas
2013 Decoding Annie Parker Mr. Allen
2013 The Frozen Ground Roy Hazelwood
2013 Man of Steel Dr. Emil Hamilton
2014 Kill the Messenger Richard Zuckerman/Walter Pincus
2014 The Gambler Jeweler
2014 Before I Disappear Bruce Warham
2015 The Automatic Hate Dr. Ronald Green
2015 Entourage as himself
2015 Take Me to the River Don
2016 American Fable Jonathan


Year Title Role Notes
1988 Cheers Tourist Episode: "One Happy Chappy in a Snappy Serape"
1990 Tales from the Crypt Lester Middleton Episode: "Korman's Kalamity"
1992 Picket Fences Joey Fero Episode: "Pilot"
1992 L.A. Law Dog Pound Operator Episode: "Helter Shelter"
1993 South of Sunset Bobby Bruck Episode: "Dream Girl"
1993 Doogie Howser, M. D. Billy Tishler Episode: "What Makes Doogie Run"
1994 The John Larroquette Show Wilson Episode: "Don't Drink and Drive Nuclear Waste"
1994 Murphy Brown Mel Woodworthy Episode: "Anything but Cured"
1994 Thunder Alley Pat Perkins Episode: "Blood Suckers"
1994 Love & War Lester Michaels Episode: "The Bum"
1995 Maybe This Time Pearlman Episode: "Snitch Doggy-Dogg"
1995 NYPD Blue Vartan Illiescu Episode: "Bombs Away"
1995 Murder One Prof. Stanley Fletche Episode: "Chapter Nine"
1996 ER Mr. Bartoli Episode: "The Match Game"
1996 Chicago Hope Mark Sarison Episode: "Quiet Riot"
1996 Special Report: Journey to Mars Eric Altman Television movie
1996–1997 Relativity Barry Roth 17 episodes
1997 NYPD Blue Steve Cameron Episode: "Is Paris Burning?"
1998 The Practice Bob Show Episode: "Trees in the Forest"
1998 Brooklyn South Chris McIntrick Episode: "Cinnamon Buns"
1998 Ally McBeal Bernie Gilson Episode: "These Are the Days"
1998 The Pentagon Wars Lt. Colonel/Brigadier General Robert Laurel Smith Television movie
1998 The Taking of Pelham One Two Three Mr. Green Television movie
1999–2006 The West Wing Toby Ziegler 141 episodes
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (1999-2000)
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series (2001–02)
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (2001–02)
Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series (2003–06)
1999 Becker Barry Episode: "Truth and Consequences"
1999 Roswell Agent Stevens 3 episodes
2005 Entourage Richard Schiff Episode: "The Abyss"
2007 Burn Notice Phillip Cowan 2 episodes
2008 Eli Stone David Green Episode: "Soul Free"
2008 Monk Dr. Lawrence Climan Episode: "Mr. Monk Gets Hypnotized"
2008 Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles Charles Fischer Episode: "Complications"
2009 In Plain Sight Samuel Garfinkel Episode: "Aguna Matatala"
2010 Past Life Dr. Malachi Talmadge 9 episodes
2010 Svetlana Dr. Lawrence Episode: "Eco-Shlong"
2010 Any Human Heart Dr. Byrne 2 episodes
2011 The Cape Patrick Portman 3 episodes
2011 White Collar Andrew Stanzler Episode: "Power Play"
2011 Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior Jack Fickler 4 episodes
2011 Up All Night Dr. Dean Chafin Episode: "Parents"
2012 House of Lies Harrison 'Skip' Galweather 5 episodes
2012 Once Upon a Time King Leopold 2 episodes
2012 The Mindy Project Doctor Episode: "Pilot"
2012 NCIS Harper Dearing 3 episodes
2013 Bones Professor Leon Watters Episode: "The Spark in the Park"
2014 Murder in the First David Hertzberg 10 episodes
2014 Manhattan Occam 6 episodes
2015 The Affair Jon Gottlief 12 episodes
2015 Rogue Marty Abrams / Marty Stein 12 episodes
2015 Ballers Mr. Anderson 3 episodes
2015 Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp Dean Fairchild 8 episodes
2016 Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency Zimmerfield


  1. "Board". Council for a Livable World. Council for a Livable World.
  2. Richard Schiff Biography (1955-)
  3. ״Infidel actor Richard discovered drama in his family's history". The Jewish Telegraph. Published 2010. Accessed February 12, 2016.
  4. "Celebrities: Richard Schiff". Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. Accessed February 12, 2016.
  5. Schiff, Richard. "Richard Schiff bio". Retrieved 7 July 2016.
  6. Caesar, Ed (8 February 2007). "Richard Schiff: Life after 'The West Wing'". The Independent. London. Retrieved 16 April 2011.
  7. "The film that changed my life: Richard Schiff". The Guardian. London. 25 April 2010. Retrieved 16 April 2011.
  8. What's Behind the Cape? on Parallel Universe on MSN: Features. Last accessed 28th November 2013
  9. "Richard Schiff stars in the new West End play Smash!". BBC Website. BBC News: Entertainment and the Arts. April 13, 2011. Retrieved 16 April 2011.
  10. Lynch, Jason (23 April 2001). "First, Family - The West Wing, Richard Schiff". People Magazine. Retrieved 18 September 2014.
  11. Richard Schiff at the Internet Movie Database
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