Family & Companions
Actor Alan Rachins found television success not once, but twice, playing two characters who could not be less alike on the series "L.A. Law" (NBC, 1986-1994) and "Dharma & Greg" (ABC, 1997-2002). After abandoning a planned career in the family food processing business, he gained early acting experience on the stages of New York in productions like the sexy musical romp "Oh! Calcutta!" in the late-1960s. Rachins soon moved to Hollywood where he studied screen craft at the American Film Institute and picked up minor parts in television projects such as the docudrama "Fear on Trial" (1975) and the hit melodrama "Dallas" (CBS, 1978-1991). He had minor success writing for several television series and lending acting support in a few small feature films before landing the career-defining role of acerbic attorney Douglas Brackman, Jr. on "L.A. Law." At the height of its popularity, the program was one of the most watched shows on television and set the ground rules for the many ensemble dramas that would follow. Although a substantial role in the critical and box office disaster "Showgirls" (1995) may not have provided Rachins with the preferred exposure, a supporting role as a member of the "Dharma & Greg" cast offered him the opportunity to play against type as the aging hippie Larry Finkelstein. Instantly familiar, yet surprisingly versatile, Rachins complemented any project he was involved in, whether it was comedy, drama, or - as in the case of "L.A. Law" - a brilliant merging of the two.
Born on Oct. 3, 1942 in Cambridge, MA, Alan Rachins was the son of Ida and Edward Rachins. Rachins' father ran a successful food processing company and Alan's original intent was to follow in his footsteps. After graduating from Brookline High School, the exceedingly intelligent Rachins - a member of MENSA, the networking organization for people who score in the top two percent on IQ tests - enrolled at Pennsylvania's prestigious Wharton School of Finance. Two years later, and against his father's wishes, he dropped out of Wharton and moved to New York City to pursue his acting ambitions. During this period, Rachins studied with respected acting teachers such as William Ball, Kim Stanley and Harvey Lembeck. Eventually, he made his Broadway debut with a small role in the short-lived "After the Rain" in 1967. Rachins followed in 1969 with more stage work that included parts in "Hadrian VII" and the controversial erotic musical comedy "Oh! Calcutta!" - the latter off-Broadway production calling for the shy young actor to perform au naturel. In 1972 he moved to Los Angeles, where he enrolled at the American Film Institute and studied screenwriting and directing. Rachins, however, had far from given up on his acting career, and made his television debut with a bit part in a docudrama about the Hollywood blacklist of the 1950s, "Fear on Trial" (CBS, 1975), starring George C. Scott and William Devane.
As the decade drew to a close, Rachins gradually picked up more work with guest appearances on series such as "The White Shadow" (CBS, 1978-1981) and the giant of the primetime soaps, "Dallas" (CBS, 1978-1991). Putting his AFI screenwriting skills to good use, he penned scripts for episodes of "Hart to Hart" (ABC, 1979-1984), "Hill Street Blues" (NBC, 1981-87), and others, as well as directing an episode of the short-lived James Earl Jones police drama, "Paris" (CBS, 1979-1980). Although not a breakthrough project, Rachins made his feature film debut with a tiny role in the barely-seen, sci-fi B-movie "Time Walker" (1982). Substantially more impressive was the Henry Jaglom-directed independent feature chronicling one couple's impending divorce during a fourth of July weekend with friends, "Always (But Not Forever)" (1985). In the film, Rachins played a husband drowning in the disappointment of his mediocre life and unhappy marriage. Significantly, his wife in the largely-improvised film was played by actress Joanna Frank, Rachins' real-world significant other and the sister of TV power player, Steven Bochco. He followed Jaglom's art house film with the truck-driving action adventure "Thunder Run" (1986), starring Forrest Tucker in his final film role.
So impressed was Bochco by Rachins' performance in "Always" that he cast him as attorney Douglas Brackman, Jr., the socially-inept, parsimonious partner of a high-profile Los Angeles law firm on his seminal legal drama series, "L.A. Law" (NBC, 1986-1994), Hugely successful, the show made household names of an exceptional ensemble cast that included Harry Hamlin, Susan Dey, Jimmy Smits and Richard Dysart. A hallmark of the series was its ability to mesh broad comedy with high drama amidst the backdrop of timely - and often controversial - storylines. For his work on the long-running show, Rachins was nominated for both Emmy and Golden Globe awards. During his tenure on the hit show, Rachins found time to appear in several TV movies, including "Mistress" (CBS, 1987) and "She Says She's Innocent" (NBC, 1991), in addition to a 1991 episode of "Tales from the Crypt" (HBO, 1989-1996). Interspersed with his television schedule were a handful of films, beginning with a small part in "Heart Condition" (1990), an action comedy about a racist cop (Bob Hoskins) who receives a heart transplant from a black attorney (Denzel Washington), who then enlists him to track down his killers from beyond the grave. Later came director Rob Reiner's critically reviled "North" (1994), which starred a young Elijah Wood as a boy searching the globe for an ideal mom and dad after divorcing his biological parents.
After "L.A. Law" closed it doors, Rachins landed his meatiest feature film role up to that time; unfortunately, it was in a movie whose odious reputation would taint everyone involved: the unintentionally hilarious "Showgirls" (1995). In the box office bomb, Rachins played a no-nonsense Vegas dance show director in the Paul Verhoeven film that many critics assailed as the worst movie of the year, if not the decade. Other work included a pair of appearances on the popular comic book adventure-romance "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman" (ABC, 1993-97) in 1996. There were also supporting roles in the mediocre comedy features "Meet Wally Sparks" (1997), starring Rodney Dangerfield, and a big screen adaptation of the beloved television series "Leave it to Beaver" (1997). Returning to series television, Rachins was featured alongside veteran actors Mimi Kennedy, Susan Sullivan and Mitch Ryan as the older generation coping with the marriage of one couple's free-spirited daughter (Jenna Elfman) and the other's conservative son (Thomas Gibson) on the sitcom "Dharma and Greg" (ABC, 1997-2002). A top-rated show during its first three seasons, the "opposites attract" comedy gradually lost it audience and was canceled after its fifth year. Ironically, the end of Rachins' second regular series led to his reuniting with (most) of the cast from his first hit series in "L.A. Law: The Movie" (NBC, 2002). Along with guest spots on several live action series, Rachins also lent his voice to animated shows, including "Justice League" (Cartoon Network, 2001-06), and another superhero series "The Spectacular Spider-Man" (CW, 2008-09), as the malevolent millionaire, Norman Osborn. Continued television appearances included a turn on the twenty-something relationship sitcom, "Happy Endings" (ABC, 2011-13).
Cast (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Moved to NYC
Broadway debut in "After the Rain"
Was part of ensemble cast of Off-Broadway's erotic revue "Oh! Calcutta!"
TV acting debut in political drama "Fear on Trial" (CBS)
TV directorial debut, an episode of the police drama "Paris" (CBS)
Feature debut in the romantic comedy "Always (But Not Forever)", directed by Henry Jaglom
Was series regular on the NBC legal drama "L.A. Law"; portrayed Douglas Brackman Jr
Appeared in "Spoiled", an episode of the horror series "Tales From the Crypt" (HBO)
Co-starred in the notorious "Showgirls"
Appeared in "Afterlife", an episode of the sci-fi anthology "The Outer Limits" (Showtime)
Returned to series TV as a regular in the ABC sitcom "Dharma & Greg"