Richard Schiff (born May 27, 1955) is an American actor. He is best known for playing Toby Ziegler on the NBC television drama The West Wing, a role for which he received an Emmy Award. Schiff made his directorial debut with The West Wing, directing an episode entitled “Talking Points.”
Schiff was born in Bethesda, Maryland, the second of three sons of Charlotte, a television and publishing executive, and Edward Schiff, a real estate lawyer.
Schiff dropped out of high school, but later obtained an equivalency diploma. In 1973, he studied briefly at The City College of New York (CCNY) but did not graduate. He moved to Colorado where he found employment cutting firewood. Returning to New York in 1975, he began to study acting at CCNY and was accepted into their theater program.
Schiff initially studied directing. He directed several off-Broadway plays, including Antigone in 1983 with a just-graduated Angela Bassett. In the mid-1980s Schiff decided to try his hand at acting and landed several TV roles. He was seen by Steven Spielberg in an episode of the TV drama High Incident and was cast in The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997). His career began an upward climb that led to his co-starring role as White House Communications Director Toby Ziegler on Aaron Sorkin’s award winning television series The West Wing. Schiff became known for his introverted and intense approach to his craft as well as his low-key delivery style.
1995 saw Schiff playing the lawyer to Kevin Spacey’s “John Doe” in the hit Se7en. In 1996, Schiff guest starred on the TV series ER (Season 2 – Episode 17), and appeared in NYPD Blue the following year. In 1996 he played a corrupt probation officer in City Hall along with Al Pacino and John Cusack. Schiff played a doctor alongside Eddie Murphy in the 1998 Dr. Dolittle remake. He also played Col./Brig. Gen. Robert Laurel Smith in the 1998 HBO TV movie The Pentagon Wars, based on the real-life development of the US Army’s Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle. That same year, Schiff appeared in the movie Deep Impact, in which he played Don Beiderman. Schiff appeared in one episode of Becker during its first season. In 2001, he acted in the movie What’s the Worst That Could Happen? starring Martin Lawrence and Danny DeVito. He played the part of the tough Mr. Turner in I Am Sam opposite Sean Penn and Michelle Pfeiffer and co-starred in People I Know with Al Pacino.
Schiff appeared in the 2004 film Ray as Ray Charles’s producer, Jerry Wexler, shaving his beard for the role. After working on The West Wing for six seasons, Schiff chose to leave the series, fulfilling his contractual obligations by appearing in half of the following season’s episodes. When NBC chose to end the series, Schiff continued his appearances until the end of the show’s run in May 2006, though he appeared only briefly in the series finale. That same year he starred along with Peter Krause in the thriller Civic Duty.
Schiff had a cameo appearance as himself in the second season finale of Entourage. The scene has Schiff at lunch with his agent Ari Gold, where he declares a desire to act in action movies. In early 2006, Schiff returned to his stage roots, starring in the premiere run of Underneath the Lintel, a one-act, single-character play by Glen Berger, at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, New Jersey. In February 2007, he appeared in the West End production of Underneath the Lintel in the Duchess Theatre in London, England, and appeared on BBC Radio Five Live and talked at length to Simon Mayo about his experiences acting in The West Wing and his new West End production. In 2007, he appeared as Philip Cowen in the season finale of Burn Notice. A radio version of Underneath the Lintel, performed by Schiff, was broadcast by BBC Radio 4 on January 5, 2008. Schiff starred in Lanford Wilson’s Talley’s Folly at the McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, New Jersey in the fall of 2008, as accountant Matt Friedman, opposite Margot White as Sally Talley. Later that year Schiff co-starred in Last Chance Harvey with Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson and Another Harvest Moon with Ernest Borgnine and appeared in the season finale of Eli Stone.
Schiff played Charles Fischer in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles in the Season 2 episode “Complications”. The character was a collaborator of Skynet and a traitor to the resistance. He was sent back in time to the present as a reward for his service to Skynet. He played an Orthodox rabbi on an episode of In Plain Sight with former The West Wing co-star Mary McCormack. In 2009, he co-starred in the movies Imagine That, with Eddie Murphy, and Solitary Man, with Michael Douglas and Susan Sarandon. Later in 2009, he went back to London to shoot two other movies: The Infidel, in which he starred opposite Omid Djalili, and Made in Dagenham, with Sally Hawkins and Bob Hoskins. Schiff also appeared as a hypnotist in one episode of Monk’s seventh season.
He starred in Fox’s short-lived 2010 series Past Life. He also had a recurring role in CBS´s spinoff-series Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior as FBI Director Jack Fickler, the boss of Forest Whitaker´s character. Schiff also had a recurring role in the NBC series The Cape. He also has guest starred on Any Human Heart with Jim Broadbent playing the role of a psychiatrist and on White Collar’s second season episode 15. He also played the role of an ex-CIA agent in a terrorist organization in Johnny English Reborn. In April 2011, Schiff returned to the London West End in the play Smash!. He played opposite Rob Lowe in the drama Knife Fight, and starred opposite Josh Duhamel, Rosario Dawson and Bruce Willis in Fire with Fire. Schiff played an important plot character in three episodes of CBS’s NCIS, bridging seasons 9 and 10, as Harper Dearing, the replacement of Osama bin Laden on the Most Wanted Wall “for attacks against the United States Navy”.
Schiff has been cast to star in the new Showtime series House of Lies, starring Kristen Bell and Don Cheadle. He also stars in the TV movie Innocent with Bill Pullman. He has an recurring guest role in the TV series Once Upon A Time and has joined Helen Hunt and former West Wing star Bradley Whitford in the movie Decoding Annie Parker. Schiff stars in the political series Chasing The Hill.
He played Erie Smith in a revival of the Eugene O’Neill play, “Hughie”, at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, D.C., February–March 2013.
He portrayed Dr. Emil Hamilton in Zack Snyder’s 2013 Superman film, Man of Steel.
Richard Schiff has joined three different movies in 2013; Kill the Messenger, The Automatic Hate, and Explosion.
Schiff met his wife Sheila Kelley during auditions for Antigone in 1993, and they married in 1996. They have a son, Gus, and a daughter, Ruby.
Schiff is a member of the Democratic Party; he supported Barack Obama in the 2008 US Presidential Election. Previously, he had endorsed Senator Joe Biden, before Biden dropped out.
His brother is film-producer – Paul Schiff.