Canadian actor Bruce Gray, who was a prolific presence on the stage and screen with roles including an investment banker on the series Traders and the hapless father of the groom in the film My Big Fat Greek Wedding, has died.
Mike Pashak, Gray’s good friend of nearly a decade, said the actor died Wednesday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 81.
Gray had brain cancer that had metastasized throughout his body. He was in hospice care for about two weeks before his death, Pashak said Friday.
He was “generous, a mentor, witty, compassionate,” Pashak said from Gray’s home in Los Angeles.
“He volunteered as a director at the local Theatre 40 in Beverly Hills. They weren’t paying him a lot but he would donate the money back so that the artistic director and some of the stage crew would get a little more income.
“He volunteered at a local public school, Grades 3 and 4, and helped them to put on little plays throughout the year.”
Gray’s giving nature left a deep impression on many in the industry.
“He was artistically accomplished and just brimming with kindness and generosity,” actor Allan Wasserman, Gray’s friend of 40 years, said from Altadena, Calif.
“He was a great mentor to many people and a great friend and the most ultimately supportive person to fellow actors.”
Gray was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico to Canadian parents, who had relocated south to work in the insurance industry there. His parents decided to move back to Toronto when Gray was 13.
He graduated from the University of Toronto with a master’s degree in psychology before getting into modelling and acting.
Gray moved to Hollywood in 1980 and racked up credits in a wide variety of genres, including lead roles on the Canadian series High Hopes and Traders, which earned him a Gemini Award for best actor.
He also had parts on numerous American shows, including Beverly Hills, 90210, Chicago Hope, Murphy Brown, Melrose Place, ER and Picket Fences. On Murder, She Wrote, he played Ted Hartley, Jessica’s publisher, and on Queer As Folk, he played gay millionaire George Schickel.
In the film world, Gray played a lead role opposite Carol Burnett in Between Friends. His other film credits included For the Boys, The Peacemaker and Spy Hard.
Earlier this year, Gray was seen at the Toronto International Film Festival in the Canadian film Don’t Talk to Irene. He played a reluctant nursing home resident who joins a seniors’ cheerleading troupe led by a plucky teen.
“The greatest thing about Bruce is he will do absolutely anything as an actor that you ask him to,” said Pat Mills, writer-director of Don’t Talk to Irene.
“We dressed him up in cheerleading outfits and got him to dance to ’80s music and he was totally game the entire time.”
Alyson Richards, producer of Don’t Talk to Irene, said Gray didn’t take anything for granted.
“He was just so happy to act and to be there every day on set and brought such a great sense of energy to everybody,” said Richards.
“To every member of the cast and crew he gave time and gave an incredible performance.”
Pashak said Gray’s wishes were to be cremated and have a “memorial party” at his house instead of a service at a funeral home.
Gray is survived by his sister Judy Elson, nephew Randy Elson, and niece Wendy Anderson.