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PASSINGS: Tony Musante

Tony Musante, who gave up the well-received TV series 'Toma' for a variety of other acting jobs, dies at 77.

November 30, 2013
  • Actor Tony Musante agreed to play a New Jersey detective in "Toma" for just one season. He appeared in a wide variety of TV, stage and film roles.
Actor Tony Musante agreed to play a New Jersey detective in "Toma"…

Tony Musante, 77, a versatile actor who worked on stage and in film and television but was best known for his starring role on the 1973 TV police drama "Toma," died Tuesday of complications from surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, according to his wife of 51 years, Jane.

When Musante was approached to play a New Jersey detective in "Toma," he agreed — but only for one season. So despite good reviews and ratings, in 1974 he walked away from a regular TV job. "I didn't want to play the same character for five years," he told the Associated Press a few years later.

The producers retooled "Toma" and cast a different actor, Robert Blake, in a new series called "Baretta," which was an immediate success. But Musante insisted that he hadn't missed out on anything.

"I've had the opportunity to do several plays, feature films and TV shows that I couldn't have done were I still doing 'Toma,'" he told the AP.

Musante appeared on Broadway in "P.S. Your Cat Is Dead" (1975) and "The Lady From Dubuque" (1980). He had notable guest roles on TV series including "Medical Story," "Police Story" and "Oz" and in TV movies including "Judgment: The Court Martial of Lt. William Calley" (1975) and "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" (1979). He also acted in such diverse films as "The Pope of Greenwich Village" (1984) and "We Own the Night" (2007).

Born in Bridgeport, Conn., on June 30, 1936, Musante graduated in 1958 with a degree in psychology from Oberlin College in Ohio. He began acting in regional theater and off-Broadway before breaking into television in the early 1960s.

Times staff reports

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