Mark Margolis, ‘Breaking Bad’ and ‘Better Call Saul’ Actor, Dies at 83

The Emmy-nominated actor was known for portraying Hector Salamanca in the AMC series

Mark Margolis (Photo Credit: Getty Collection)
Mark Margolis (Photo Credit: Getty Collection)

Mark Margolis, best known for portraying Hector Salamanca in AMC’s “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul,” has died at the age of 83.

Margolis died after a short illness Thursday at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City with his wife Jacqueline and son Morgan at his bedside. Morgan Margolis, who is the CEO of Knitting Factory Entertainment, was the one to announce the news.

“He was one of a kind. We won’t see his likes again. He was a treasured client and a lifelong friend. I was lucky to know him,” said Robert Kolker, Margolis’ manager since 2007.

A Philadelphia native born in 1939, Margolis started as a student of Temple University before moving to New York City to study acting. He counted the Actors Studio’s Stella Adler, the Group Theatre’s Lee Strasberg and the actor Barbara Loden among his teachers. Under Adler, Margolis began his theatrical career, which included starring in “Infidel Caesar,” a Broadway show based on Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar.”

Later, Margolis founded the avant-garde touring theater company Blue Dome. Over the course of his career, he starred in over 50 off-Broadway shows, including “Uncle Sam” and “The Golem.” He also starred as Bernie Madoff in an upstate New York production titled “Imagining Madoff.”

The actor became known to mainstream film audiences through his portrayal of Alberto “The Shadow” in “Scarface.” Over the years, Margolis became a go-to performer for director Darren Aronofsky, appearing in several of his films including “Noah,” “Black Swan,” “The Wrestler” and “Pi,” which Margolis considered a favorite.

As for the actor’s other film roles, he also starred in John McTiernan’s “The Thomas Crown Affair” alongside Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo; Ben Affleck’s “Gone Baby Gone” alongside Morgan Freeman and Ed Harris; and Fisher Stevens’ “Stand Up Guys” alongside Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin, just to name a few of his credits. On the TV side of things, Margolis portrayed Antonio Nappa in HBO’s prison drama “Oz.”

But perhaps his most memorable turn for modern audiences was as Tío Hector Salamanca in “Breaking Bad” and later its spinoff and prequel series “Better Call Saul.” The elderly don of the Salamanca cartel, the paralyzed Hector first appeared in Season 2 of “Breaking Bad.” As Walt (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse (Aaron Paul) attempt to escape from his drug-addled nephew Tuco (Raymond Cruz), Hector repeatedly tries to warn his nephew that the two are not to be trusted. Between the memorable dings of Hector’s bell and Margolis’ intense expressions, the character quickly became a fan favorite.

The late actor credited his ability to play the critically acclaimed role to a family member he cared for following a paralyzing stroke. For the role, the actor was nominated for an Emmy in 2012, a Gold Derby and a Saturn Award.

Margolis is survived by his wife of 61 years, Jacqueline; his son Morgan and Morgan’s wife, Heide, as well as their three sons, Ben, Aidan and Henry. He is also survived by his brother and his wife, Jerome and Ann Margolis.