Richard Schiff may well be the face of exasperation. Maybe because even in rooms crammed with smart folks, one gets the feeling he is a bit more intelligent.
As Dr. Aaron Glassman on The Good Doctor, ABC’s Monday night drama about a brilliant young doctor with savant syndrome, Schiff plays a physician, former hospital president and cancer patient. Schiff chatted about growing up in New York City, where he was an elite student. He attended a top public school, the Bronx High School of Science, but dropped out and later earned his degree. Always a math whiz, he put that and his sports knowledge (as a diehard Yankees fan, he has an encyclopedic cache of facts about the team) to the test when he made (and lost) money as a professional gambler. Schiff is married to actress Sheila Kelley. On a rainy Saturday in Vancouver, he answered our “5 Questions.”
- What were some of your jobs before you got into acting?
I drove a cab in NYC. I cleaned buses in the Greyhound terminal on 11th Avenue. It was a Teamster job, from 11pm to 7am. I would get on a subway at 7:15 in the morning during rush hour. If anyone lit a cigarette, the whole car would have gone up! We cleaned the grease off bus wheels with diesel fuel. I also laid cable for Manhattan Cable Television. I was a Teamster in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
- What are a couple of movies you can watch repeatedly?
I just watched Serpico again. The Godfathers I could watch forever, Raging Bull, Nashville. But my No. 1 would be Meet John Doe and Ninotchka with Greta Garbo and Melvyn Douglas.
- What three foods do have to have in your fridge or pantry?
Almond milk — it’s my workout drink base. Apple juice because I do a water/apple juice mix for my water, and corn chips are always good because you can fill up when hungry.
- Tell us about a time when you were starstruck.
I saw Willis Reed walking down Columbus Avenue in New York. For me, it has more to do with athletes. My mother took me to Pippin with Ben Vereen, and Hank Aaron was in the audience. It was just after he had hit his 713th home run and just before the new season, and the fans didn’t show up to see him hit! My mother took me to Sardi’s after, and there was Ben Vereen, Brock Peters and Hank Aaron. And my mother says, “Go over and say hi to Hank Aaron.” And I went over, and I said to Hank Aaron, “I noticed the schedule has the Braves up here in New York at Shea. You should wait and break the record here in New York in front of people who appreciate it.”
- If you could invite anyone (living or dead) to a dinner party, who would be there?
Frank Capra, Humphrey Bogart, Spencer Tracy, Thomas Jefferson, Cleopatra, Joan of Arc, Babe Ruth, Jim Thorpe and my grandfather.
- When you had some money, what was your first big splurge?
The first time I got a pilot, I ended up going in, and they gave me a deal, and all of a sudden there were these commas and zeros happening. I was making $500 a day whenever I would grab a job, so I got $20,000, and the first thing I did was run out, and I got a computer. This was in the ’90s. It was Macintosh and not Apple.
- What is your most treasured possession?
My family, but that’s not a possession. I would consider the 1988 NYC softball championship trophy my most treasured possession. It’s the tallest trophy in the trophy room. It towers over the Emmy and SAG. It’s a very big and very chintzy trophy.
The Good Doctor returns with new episodes Jan. 14 and airs Monday nights on ABC at 10/9c