A prolific character actor for nearly four decades, Mark Margolis amassed an impressive resume of supporting roles in projects ranging from "Scarface" (1983) and "Oz" (HBO, 1997-2003) to a hailed performance as a once vicious mob enforcer in "Breaking Bad" (AMC, 2008-12). As with all great character actors, Margolis excelled at a particular type, with his specialty being cagey, often hot-tempered men of authority on both sides of the law, often of Italian or Latin extraction. However, director Darren Aronofsky - who cast him in nearly all his films - tapped further into Margolis' talents for more nuanced characters, including a math professor in "Pi" (1998), a seedy supermarket manager in "The Wrestler" (2008) and a ballet patron in "Black Swan" (2010). After decades of steady work in nearly all mediums, Margolis landed his breakout role as Hector "Tio" Salamanca on "Breaking Bad," a once-lethal Mexican mob enforcer rendered speechless and immobile by a stroke, but who is still capable of unleashing considerable mayhem. His extraordinarily malevolent turn earned him long-overdue praise, underscoring Margolis' enduring status as one of show business' most capable character actors.
Born Nov. 26, 1972 in Philadelphia, PA, Margolis briefly attended Temple University before heading to New York, where he studied drama with Stella Adler at the Actors Studio. He began working in film as early as 1976 with a non-performing minor role in the pornographic feature "The Opening of Misty Beethoven." He soon settled into a string of bit and supporting roles, frequently playing cops, cons and other streetwise types in features like "Going in Style" (1979) and "Dressed to Kill" (1980), as well as numerous television series like "Kojak" (CBS, 1973-78). His first prominent early appearance was in "Scarface" (1983) as the cold-blooded Alberto the Shadow, who attempted to press Tony Montana (Al Pacino) into murdering a journalist along with his wife and children. Two years later, he enjoyed a recurring role on "The Equalizer" (CBS, 1985-89) as a hotwired operative who aided Edward Woodward's troubleshooting Robert McCall.
Margolis balanced work on stage and television with features throughout the late-1980s and early-1990s, turning up in small but memorable roles in "1492: Conquest of Paradise" (1992) and "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective" (1994) as Jim Carrey's suspicious landlord. He marked his first of several collaborations with Darren Aronofsky with his turn in "Pi" (1998) as the mentor to Sean Gullette's paranoid number theorist. The following year, he enjoyed a solid showcase on "Oz" (HBO, 1997-2003) as mob boss Antonio Nappa, whose brief rise to power within the walls of Oswald Prison was cut short by villainous fellow con Adebisi (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), who injected him with a needle infected with the HIV virus. He reunited with Aronofsky to play a pawnbroker in "Requiem for a Dream" (2000), which preceded a string of minor roles in such high-profile pictures as "The Tailor of Panama" (2001), "Daredevil" (2003), "House of D" (200) and Aronofsky's "The Fountain" (2006) as the priest who accompanied Hugh Jackman in his past life as a conquistador - a part Aronofsky wrote specifically for Margolis.
Margolis continued with a number of character roles throughout the 2000s, including turns in "Gone Baby Gone" (2007) and Aronofsky's "The Wrestler" (2008) as Mickey Rourke's sleazy supermarket boss. The following year, Margolis began his two-year recurring run on "Breaking Bad" as Hector Salamanca, a once-feared Mexican cartel boss rendered mute and virtually motionless by a debilitating stroke - his only method of communicating was by using his forefinger to ring a bell strapped to his wheelchair. Though largely silent throughout his appearance, save for several flashbacks, Margolis nevertheless imparted a sense of Salamanca's formerly fearful presence, as well as his intense loathing for the vicious Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito), whom he murdered with the help of a makeshift bomb at the end of the series' fourth season. For his work on "Breaking Bad," Margolis received a 2012 Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series. While working on "Breaking Bad," Margolis continued to maintain his busy schedule of appearances in other projects, including a bit part in Aronofsky's "Black Swan" (2010) and a recurring turn as a mob boss on "Person of Interest" (CBS, 2011-16).
By Paul Gaita