A short, curly-haired stage actor with Broadway credits, Chip Zien had several false starts as a regular on TV series before being cast as TV writer Gary Karp in the CBS sitcom "Almost Perfect" (1995-96).
Zien bounced around in Off-Off-and Off-Broadway productions (including a 1972 revival of "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying") before Dustin Hoffman cast him in "All Over Town," the 1974 Broadway show that marked both Hoffman's directorial debut and Zien's Broadway debut. Zien's next stage "break" came originating the role of Mendel in William Finn's "March of the Falsettos" (1981) and followed with Wendy Wasserstein's "Isn't It Romantic" (1983) at Playwright's Horizon. In 1987, he originated the role of The Baker in the James Lapine-Stephen Sondheim musical "Into the Woods" at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, and followed the show to New York. (The production was later taped for American Playhouse/PBS.) More recently, he appeared in "Falsettos," recreating the role of the psychiatrist Mendel in an expanded reworked version of Finn's earlier musical.
Zien made his first film appearance in the small role of a reporter in "The Rose" (1979). He won strong reviews as Nick Nolte's analyst in "Grace Quigley" (1984), but few feature roles followed. In 1986, Zien was one of the actors hired to provide the voice for "Howard the Duck," better recalled as one of Hollywood's all-time box office disasters. In 1994, he returned to films as Franklin P. Adams, one of the members of "Mrs. Parker and The Vicious Circle" at the Algonquin Hotel.
Television series work first came with the NBC sitcom "Love, Sydney" (1981-83), with Zien as the art director employer of Tony Randall, a gay man helping to raise a little girl. Zien was the boss of Richard Mulligan on "Reggie," a short-lived 1983 ABC series. He was again a boss as station manager of two con artists turned TV producers in "Shell Game" (CBS, 1987), another short-lived venture. With "Almost Perfect," Zien was finally involved with a successful show (although the sitcom's ratings were victim to its ever-changing time slot). The actor has also appeared occasionally in TV-movies, notably as a doctor trying to stop an outbreak of plague in "Quest Killers" (CBS, 1992) and as an assistant district attorney who spars with the heroines in two "Cagney & Lacey" reunion films in 1995 and 1996.
Cast (Feature Film)
Made New York debut as Finch in off-Broadway revival of "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying"
Broadway debut "All Over Town" (directed by Dustin Hoffman)
Film debut "The Rose"
Was series regular on short-lived ABC sitcom "Reggie"
Appeared as regular on CBS TV series "Shell Game"
Co-starred in TV-movie, "Quest Killers"
Played Franklin P. Adams in "Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle"
Joined cast of the ABC soap opera "All My Children"