Nehemiah Persoff, Twilight Zone and Star Trek: The Next Generation Actor, Dies at 102

Nehemiah Persoff, a character actor whose numerous television appearances included The Twilight Zone, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Wonder Woman, has passed away. Deadline brings word that Persoff died " at a rehabilitation facility in San Luis Obispo, California" on Tuesday, April 5, he was 102. Persoff's career began in bit-parts and uncredited roles, his first being in The Naked City but another of his earliest being the classic film On the Waterfront. His career would persist for seven decades, with a stable of appearances in film and on television from the late 1940s until the early 2000s when he retired from the profession. 

Though born in Jerusalem, Palestine, Persoff immigrated into the United States with his family in 1929, later serving in the U.S. Army during World War II. After his time in the armed forces he moved to New York and began working in the theater, leading to his career on the screen after he began working with director Elia Kazan, later appearing in Kazan's On the Waterfront where he shared a scene with Marlon Brando during the landmark "I could have been a contender" monologue. 

Persoff's career came largely from playing guest roles on television, among his most famous being in the 10th episode of The Twilight Zone, "Judgment Night." In the episode Persoff's Carl Lanser finds himself aboard a ship in the Atlantic Ocean traveling from the UK to New York during the 1940s. A paranoid man he becomes convinced that the disaster will strike the ship at some point, and is proven right when a German U-Boat sinks the vessel and kills everyone on board. The trademark twist of the episode however is the reveal that Lanser was actually the U-Boat Captain who ordered the attack on the ship, now forced to relive the terror that he ordered, stuck in a recurring loop in Hell.

Another landmark performance from Persoff was playing the role of "Papa" in the Barbra Streisand feature film, Yentl. Streisand, who wrote, directed, and starred in the film, paid tribute to Persoff on Instagram after the announcement of his passing was made, writing: "Nicky lived a long loving life. I'll miss you Papa!!' 

A certain generation of fans may know Persoff best from lending his voice to Papa Mousekewitz in all three of the An American Tail animated movies from Universal Pictures and Amblin. Some of his other credits include  The Untouchables, The Wild Wild West, Mission: Impossible, The Magical World of Disney, Gunsmoke, The Six Million Dollar Man, Hawaii Five-0, and Chicago Hope.