Actor Reno Roop Passes Away at Age 80
Prolific actor Reno Roop passed away Friday morning August 31 at his home in New York. He was 80. The cause of death was Parkinson's disease and Lewy body dementia.
Roop had a full and varied acting career with many critically-acclaimed stage and television roles to his credit. He was equally at home in the classical repertoire of Shakespeare, Shaw and Chekov as in Neil Simon comedies and British farce.
His theatrical career spanned three decades. His work in the Seventies included his first Broadway show The Emperor Henry IV (1973) with Rex Harrison and his portrayal of Deborah Kerr's husband in Souvenir (1975). His many Eighties credits include the U.S. national tour of Neil Simon's Rumors with Peter Marshall. In the Nineties he performed with Ellen Burstyn in Sacrilege (1995), in the revival of The Sound of Music (1998) with Rebecca Luker and Michael Siberry, and then (1999) with Laura Benanti and Richard Chamberlain. He also played Tolstoy's son in Sonya (1996) with Julie Harris - with whom he developed an enduring friendship. In the new Millennium he appeared on Broadway in Judgment at Nuremburg (2001) with Maximilian Schell, George Grizzard and Joseph Wiseman.
In addition to his work on Broadway, he performed in off-Broadway plays, at many regional theaters and on several national tours. Roop also appeared in prestige television productions ranging from The Adams Chronicles (1976) to his acclaimed performance as James Madison in Sally Hemings: An American Love Story (2000) alongside Sam Neill, Carmen Ejogo, Mare Winningham and Mario Van Peebles.
Prior to his acclaimed acting career in America, Roop traveled an astonishing life-journey. Born in Narva, Estonia in 1937, he survived a grueling childhood in his war-torn homeland and in a displaced person's camp in Germany. He arrived in the U.S. at age 15 speaking little English. Roop taught himself to speak English flawlessly with no trace of accent, was accepted into, and graduated from, one of America's most prestigious theater schools (the Goodman Theater School in Chicago), served in the U.S. Army as an immigrant, leaving it as a fully-fledged U.S. citizen.
Following the "Singing Revolution" the protest movement between 1987 and 1991 in which hundreds of thousands of Estonians gathered publicly to sing forbidden patriotic songs - a campaign that eventually led to the re-establishment of Estonian independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 - Roop returned to his homeland many times and reconnected with his long-lost family.
The little boy from Estonia - whose early childhood took place in the center of the inferno of World War II - was the navigator of his own astonishing voyage to become a much-cherished American actor - chosen to portray one of America's Founding Fathers and Presidents.
Roop is survived by his wife, psychotherapist and former actress Marjorie (Murray) Roop, his sister Marika Nurk, his brother Jim Doster, and sister Inna Laikre. A private celebration of life will be held with friends and family in New York. Donations may be made to The Actors Fund and the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research.