George Segal, the Oscar-nominated actor who sparred with Richard Burton in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” romanced Glenda Jackson in “A Touch of Class” and earned laughs in the TV sitcom “The Goldbergs,” has passed away at the age of 87.
“The family is devastated to announce that this morning George Segal passed away due to complications from bypass surgery,” his wife Sonia Segal said in a statement on Tuesday.
Charming and witty, Segal excelled in dramatic and comedic roles, most recently playing laid-back widower Albert “Pops” Solomon on the comedy series “The Goldbergs.”
“Today we lost a legend,” Adam F. Goldberg, who created the TV series that was based on his own life, wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.
“It was a true honor being a small part of George Segal’s amazing legacy. By pure fate, I ended up casting the perfect person to play Pops. Just like my grandfather, George was a kid at heart with a magical spark,” Goldberg added.
Segal’s long-time manager Abe Hoch said in a statement that he would miss his friend’s “warmth, humor, camaraderie, and friendship. He was a wonderful human.”
Segal’s acting career started up on the New York stage and television in the early 1960s. He quickly moved into films, playing an artist in the star-studded ensemble drama “Ship of Fools” and ascheming, wily American corporal in a World War Two prisoner-of-war camp in “King Rat” in 1965.
Two years later, he attained an Academy Award nomination as best supporting actor in the harrowing, marital drama “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” with Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.
“Elizabeth and Richard were the king and queen of the world at that moment, and there was a lot of buzz about it,” Segal told The Daily Beast in 2016. “For me, there was a great satisfaction of being involved with it.”
Segal played a lawyer in the 1970 dark comedy “Where’s Poppa” with Ruth Gordon, a gem thief along with Robert Redford in 1972’s “The Hot Rock,” an out-of-control gambler in Robert Altman’s “California Split” and a philandering Beverly Hills divorce attorney in Paul Mazursky’s “Blume in Love” in 1973.
“I always try to find the humor and the irony in whatever character I am playing because I think of myself as a comedic actor,” Segal said in an interview with the online movie journal filmtalk.org in 2016. “So that makes drama a lot more fun for me by not taking it so seriously, you know.”
He credited an early appearance on the late-night talk show “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” to switch to comedic roles.
“It was the first time that the people who make movies saw me doing comedy and having this funny interchange with Carson,” Segal told the Orlando Sentinel in 1998.