Lovable tough guy character actor Dennis Farina was already well into his first career as a Chicago cop before he was able to turn his occasional acting gigs into a prodigious new line of work.
Raised in Chicago by Italian immigrant parents, Farina joined his hometown's police force in the mid-'60s, settling into a life of law enforcement. When he was hired to be a local consultant on Michael Mann's film Thief (1981), however, Farina wound up with a bit part as the villain's heavy. Farina continued to moonlight as an actor for several years, appearing in local theater and occasional movies, including Final Jeopardy (1985) and the Chuck Norris vehicle Code of Silence (1985). Though he never took an acting class, Farina was a natural; after Michael Mann offered him the lead in the series Crime Story in 1986, Farina left the police force to play a TV cop. During his 1986-1988 stint on the series, Farina also played FBI agent Jack Crawford (Scott Glen's part in Silence of the Lambs ) in Mann's stylish thriller Manhunter (1986), was the Birdman of Alcatraz in the TV movie Six Against the Rock (1987), and a cop in TV movie mystery Through Naked Eyes (1987).