Played by Dennis Franz: A hulking, mustachioed, walking contradiction, Sipowicz is a recovering alcoholic, a hot-tempered bully and a crude bigot. He's also a dedicated, brilliant cop, a fiercely loyal friend, and a sensitive soul who, in the last few years, has learned to ignore his prejudices, if not forget them. A Vietnam veteran who joined the police force after leaving the infantry, he spent the better part of his police career and his first marriage living inside a bottle, driving away wife Katie and son Andy Jr. After a near-fatal shooting by mobster Alfonse Giardella, he quit drinking and began the painful process of reassembling his life. Things were great for a while, as he reconciled with Andy Jr., courted and wed beautiful ADA Sylvia Costas, fathered a new son, Theo, and became good, good friends with new partner Bobby Simone. But then life on the job for Andy became the life of Job. Andy Jr. was killed trying to stop a robbery. Simone died of heart failure. Sylvia died in a courthouse shooting. Even Danny Sorenson, Simone's replacement and Andy's surrogate for Andy Jr., was murdered during an undercover investigation. Andy fell off the wagon a few times, almost drank a few other times, and briefly shut out the world. But he's slowly learned that you have to live your life and try to do some good with it and has reluctantly settled into the role of mentor to the younger detectives in the 15th squad. His constant need for babysitters for Theo caused him to get closer to Det. Connie McDowell, a friendship that eventually led to marriage and the addition of two new kids to Sipowicz's life: Connie's niece Michelle, plus Matthew, a baby that Andy and Connie had together.
He made his acting debut in the play "Cops," and one of his co-stars was fellow Chicago tough guy actor Joe Mantegna. After pulling off the impressive double of working for both Robert Altman and Brian DePalma (in "A Wedding," and "The Fury," respectively) in 1978, he decided to move to LA, where he became a part of both directors' "repertory companies," appearing in "A Perfect Couple" and "Popeye" for Altman, and "Dressed to Kill," "Blow Out," and "Body Double" for DePalma.
His massive build, rough features, and world-weary delivery generally typecast him as a cop, a part he played to the hilt in a two-episode guest stint as dirty cop Sal Benedetto in the middle of "Hill Street Blues" third season. Benedetto was so popular that he was brought back for an end of the season arc, but unfortunately, killed off. "Hill Street" producer Steven Bochco then cast Franz as one of the leads in his baseball drama "Bay City Blues," but the show was quickly cancelled.
Franz turned up alive on "Hill Street" at the start of the sixth season, but this time, as a regular, a nasty but ultimately moral cop named Norm Buntz. The departure of Bochco from the show, coupled with new producer David Milch's rapport with Franz, and a general feeling that all the other characters had pretty much outlived their usefulness, pushed Buntz into the spotlight quickly. When "Hill Street" was cancelled after its seventh season, Milch and Franz spun off the Buntz character in a short-lived "dramedy" called "Beverly Hills Buntz."
Franz's career hit a downturn after that. He was still typecast as a cop, but the parts weren't nearly as interesting as those he'd played for DePalma, Bochco, or Milch (check him out as a windbag airport police chief in "Die Hard 2"). When he guest-starred in the debut of Bochco's "Civil Wars" as a married man with an Elvis fixation, many TV critics lamented how far he had fallen.
But Franz bounced back, reteaming with both Bochco and Milch to play Det. Andy Sipowicz on "NYPD Blue," a role which has already earned him four Emmys for his performance. The part of Sipowicz may be something like Franz's 50th cop role, but it's certainly his best.
Dennis recently married longtime companion Joanie Zeck.