Mark Margolis, who played Hector Salamanca on ‘Breaking Bad,’ dies at 83

There were many unforgettable scenes throughout Breaking Bad‘s five-season run, but one of the most memorable is when drug kingpin Hector Salamanca blows up himself and nemesis Gus Fring by repeatedly ringing a bell hooked up to explosives on his wheelchair. Now, a sad goodbye to the veteran character who played Salamanca, Mark Margolis, who has died at the age of 83, reports The Hollywood Reporter. Margolis’ son, Knitting Factoy Entertainment CEO Morgan Margolis, confirmed the actor’s death Thursday at New York City’s Mount Sinai Hospital after a brief illness.

The Philly native studied acting under Stella Adler as a young man, even serving as her personal assistant in exchange for acting classes. “I had a real fixation with her,” he told the Observer in 2012. “I was 19 years old and she was 60. That’s what a turn-on she was.” The AP notes that Margolis started off on the stage, taking on roles in dozens of off-Broadway shows. He made his on-screen debut in 1976’s X-rated The Opening of Misty Beethoven, then took roles in such films as Dressed to Kill (1980), Arthur (1981), Scarface (1983), and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994). He also worked often with director Darren Aronofsky, appearing in six of his movies, including Pi, Requiem for a Dream, and Black Swan. It was his turn as Hector Salamanca on Breaking Bad, however, that earned Margolis the most attention in recent years.

Margolis doesn’t himself speak Spanish, even though the Salamanca character does—but in Breaking Bad, Salamanca is paralyzed and can’t speak, communicating only through facial expressions and by ringing a service bell. Margolis once noted that he’d based his portrayal of Salamanca on his own experiences caring for his mother-in-law after she’d suffered a stroke. Margolis also played the character, a role that earned him an Emmy nomination, in prequel show Better Call Saul. Tributes to the actor poured in on Friday. “We join millions of fans in mourning the passing of the immensely talented Mark Margolis, who—with his eyes, a bell, and very few words—turned Hector Salamanca into one of the most unforgettable characters in the history of television,” the official Breaking Bad account posted on Twitter, now known as X.

Actor Dean Norris, who played Hank Schrader on BB, called Margolis a “funny guy” and “phenomenal actor,” while Bryan Cranston, the show’s Walter White, thanked Margolis for his “exceptional body of work.” “Fun and engaging off the set, and … intimidating and frightening on set,” Cranston wrote on Instagram. “His quiet energy belied his mischievous nature and curious mind … And he loved sharing a good joke.” Giancarlo Esposito, who played Salamanca’s mortal enemy Fring, wrote that he was “deeply saddened” at the death of his “dear friend and dynamic human.” “You made me laugh, made me cry doubled over with laughter, but more than anything you made me think,” he noted. “Always honest, always true. I will miss you.” Margolis is survived by his son and daughter-in-law; wife Jacqueline; three grandsons; and his brother and sister-in-law. (Read more Breaking Bad stories.)

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