Barbara Bosson, Emmy-Nominated Actress on ‘Hill Street Blues,’ Dies at 83

She played Fay Furillo on the legendary series, one of several created by her then-husband, Steven Bochco.

Barbara Bosson, who received Emmy nominations in five consecutive years for her turn as the divorcee Fay Furillo on the acclaimed NBC drama Hill Street Blues, co-created by her then-husband Steven Bochco, has died. She was 83.

Bosson died Saturday in Los Angeles, her son, director-producer Jesse Bochco, announced. 

The actress also was known for her work on three ABC series: as the divorced boss of John Ritter’s San Francisco police inspector on the 1987-89 comedy-drama Hooperman, as the mayor of Los Angeles on the 1990 musical drama Cop Rock and as prosecutor Miriam Grasso on the 1995-97 legal drama Murder One. All three shows were co-created by Bochco, too.

She and Bochco first met when they attended Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh in the 1960s, and they were married from 1970 until their 1997 divorce. He died in April 2018 at age 74 after a battle with leukemia.

Bosson sparked as the needy Fay, the ex-wife of Capt. Frank Furillo (Daniel J. Travanti) and mother of their son, on the first five seasons of MTM Productions’ Hill Street Blues. She landed a supporting actress Emmy nom after each of the show’s first five seasons (1981-85) as her character evolved.

“The whole time I played Fay I agitated with Steve to make Fay something beside a whining kvetch,” she said in a 1985 interview with United Press International. “It took two years to convince him Fay should be a victim’s advocate. She was a victim herself.”

Following the fifth season, Bochco was fired by MTM after he refused to cut costs and pare storylines. Bosson soon would exit Hill Street Blues as well, quitting after filming three episodes for season six.

“I’m very sad about what they’re doing with Fay. The new producers don’t like the character,” she said in another ’85 interview. “Before, my husband always wrote her scenes. I stayed on after he left because I wanted my career to be separate from his. People have always made snide remarks that I was on the show because of Steven.”

Bosson was born on Nov. 1, 1939, in Charleroi, Pennsylvania, and raised in the nearby coal-mining town of Belle Vernon. She and her family moved to Florida, and she graduated from Boca Ciega High School in Gulfport in 1957.

Bosson was accepted into the drama department at Carnegie-Mellon but couldn’t come up with the tuition, so she moved to New York and worked as a secretary for the American Conservatory Theater and as a Playboy bunny while taking acting classes with Herbert Berghof and Milton Katselas.

“I put up with a lot of leering men to be able to study acting,” Bosson told the St. Petersburg Times in 1990.

Finally able to afford college, she enrolled at Carnegie-Mellon when she was 26. There, she met Bochco and two future Hill Street Blues castmates, Bruce Weitz and Charles Haid.

During one summer, Bosson joined the San Francisco improv troupe The Committee, where she performed alongside the likes of Howard Hesseman, Peter Bonerz and Mel Stewart, then appeared as a nurse in Bullitt (1968).

In Los Angeles, she reconnected with Bochco, now an up-and-coming writer for Universal Television, and they wed in 1970. (His marriage to Gabrielle Levin, the daughter of a Hollywood lawyer, had ended in divorce.)

Bosson appeared in Mame (1974) and on Delvecchio and McMillan & Wife — two shows that her husband was writing for — then was cast in 1976 as the assistant to a young crime solver (Dennis Dugan) on Richie Brockelman, Private Eye, a short-lived NBC show created by Bochco and Stephen J. Cannell.

Bosson also appeared in Capricorn One (1977) and The Last Starfighter (1984) and on such series as Mannix, Ironside, Hotel, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and three more Bochco series: L.A. Law, Civil Wars and NYPD Blue. She received one final Emmy nomination, for her work on Murder One, in 1996.

Survivors also include her daughter with Bochco, Melissa, and two grandchildren.

In a 1985 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Bosson acknowledged that she landed her famous Hill Street Blues role because of her relationship with Bochco, who often employed friends and family members. But, she added, “It hurts me to believe that maybe everything that was good was because of Steven.”