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August 04, 2023

Remembering Mark Margolis, 'Breaking Bad' actor and Philly native, who died at 83

Best known for playing Hector 'Tio' Salamanca, Margolis also had memorable roles in the movies 'Scarface' and 'Ace Ventura: Pet Detective'

Celebrities Obituaries
Mark Margolis Obituary Kristin Callahan/Creative Commons

Actor Mark Margolis, the Philadelphia native who starred in 'Breaking Bad' and 'Better Call Saul,' died at 83 years old. During his long career, he had supporting roles in 'Scarface,' 'Ace Ventura: Pet Detective' and other films.

Mark Margolis, the actor who had late career roles in "Breaking Bad" and "Better Call Saul," has died at 83, his family and publicist said Friday.

Margolis starred in "Breaking Bad" as drug kingpin Hector "Tio" Salamanca, whose family used brutal tactics to maintain their turf in a drug market suddenly disrupted by Bryan Cranston's Walter White, a chemistry teacher-turned-meth making prodigy. The Salamanca story is explored in greater depth in the prequel series "Better Call Saul." Viewers learn how he wound up wheelchair-bound and unable to speak, iconically tapping a bell to answer questions.

Margolis briefly attended Temple University before dropping out to pursue acting in New York City. He was trained at the famed Actors Studio under Stella Adler and later received guidance from Lee Strasburg and Barbara Loden.

During his lengthy career, Margolis had supporting roles in the movies "Scarface," "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective" and multiple Darren Aronofsky films including "Pi," "Requiem for a Dream," "The Fountain," "The Wrestler" and "Black Swan." He also was an accomplished stage actor who was part of the cast of "Quills" at Philadelphia's Wilma Theatre in 1997. The production won a Barrymore Award for best play.

Below are clips of some of the highlights of Margolis' career in TV and film.

"Breaking Bad"(2008-2013) and "Better Call Saul" (2015-2022)

AMC released a compilation earlier this year showing some of the best moments featuring Hector Salamanca in both shows.

Margolis wasn't originally expected to have a recurring role in "Breaking Bad," but he his first appearance in season 2 was such a hit that Gilligan wrote him a full character arc.

"I was only coming onto 'Breaking Bad' as far as I knew for that one episode, but there's no accounting for taste, and the fans took a fancy to me," Margolis told Hollywood Reporter in 2012. "Somebody asked me recently, 'How did you manage to play such a horrible guy?' and I said, 'Have you talked to my friends?' They'll tell you I'm pretty miserable to begin with."

Margolis said his bell-ringing and facial expressions were inspired by his mother-in-law.

"She was in a nursing home and she couldn't talk," Margolis said during an interview at a theater expo in 2014. "And whenever we'd come in to visit, she'd get excited and go (makes face twitch) — so I took that from her."

"Ace Ventura: Pet Detective" (1993)

Margolis played the crotchety and suspicious landlord of Jim Carrey's character, a pet-hoarding maniac in search of an elusive white pigeon and a $25,000 reward for its capture.

"Requiem for a Dream" (2000)

In the haunting drama about drug addiction, Margolis was one of the few characters to be a voice of reason as the world started unraveling around Sara Goldfarb and her son Harry.

"Scarface" (1983)

Margolis played Shadow, a henchman of cocaine kingpin Alejandro Sosa, who put a hit on a man fixing to expose the drug operation. Tony Montana, played by Al Pacino, famously shot Shadow during a tense chase scene. Shadow wanted to carry out the hit, but Montana didn't want to do it while the target was with his family.

"Pi" (1998)

In "Pi," Margolis played Sol Robeson, a mathematics mentor who regales brilliant number theorist Max Cohen with a story about the ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes.