LOS ANGELES – Steven Hill, who starred for years as District Attorney Adam Schiff on “Law & Order” and decades earlier played the leader of the Impossible Missions Force before Peter Graves on TV’s “Mission: Impossible,” died Tuesday in Monsey, N.Y., his daughter Sarah Gobioff told The New York Times.
ASSOCIATED PRESS. Hill played Schiff from the show’s first season in 1990 until 2000, when Hill resigned; within the show Schiff was said to have accepted a position coordinating commemorations of the Holocaust Project and goes on to work with Simon Wiesenthal.
In a 1996 profile of the actor, the New York Times said: “Legal vagaries aside, Mr. Hill is a law-and-order man. ‘T’s a certain positive statement in this show,’ he says. ‘So much is negative today. The positive must be stated to rescue us form pandemonium. To me it lies in that principle: law and order.’ Personally, Mr. Hill says, he is no plea bargainer. ‘But our stories are about real life, and that’s how life is today,’ he says. ‘We plea bargain all over the place.'”.
On the first season of “Mission: Impossible” in 1966, Hill played Dan Briggs, who initially led the IMF force; while most viewers remember fondly the tape that plays at the onset of each episode and begins by saying “Good Morning Mr. Phelps” the character later played by Peter Graves and details the assignment that must be accomplished, the device was used from the beginning of the series, only the recording said, “Good morning, Mr. Briggs.”
Steven Hill was an Orthodox Jew whose faith required that he depart the set on Friday by 4 p.m. in order to ensure that he make it home by sundown and the onset of the Sabbath; he was unavailable until the end of the Sabbath at sundown on Saturdays.
After the actor climbed through dirt tunnels and climbed rope ladders for the episode “Snowball in Hell,” Hill balked at performing similar duties in the next episode, and the producers shot around him.
Line producer Joseph Gantman later told Patrick J. White, author of the 1991 book “The Complete ‘Mission: Impossible’ Dossier,” that he simply had not understood what had been agreed to with regard to Hill’s religious requirements: “If someone understands your problems and says he understands them, you feel better about it. But if he doesn’t care about your problems, then you begin to really resent him. Steven Hill may have felt exactly the same way.”
In 1986, at a time when his career was revitalized, Hill told the New York Times: “I don’t think an actor should act every single day. I don’t think it’s good for the so-called creative process. You must have periods when you leave the land fallow, let it revitalize itself.” A decade later, in a profile in the Times, he painted a far less cheerful picture of his past: “‘What we have is a story of profound instability and impermanence,’ he says of his own career.
Appearing in the play in which a patient screams at Freud, “You are a Jew!” profoundly affected Hill.