• Home
  • /
  • Film
  • /
  • Joe Spano | American Actor, Age, Biography, Early Life, Career, Facts

Joe Spano | American Actor, Age, Biography, Early Life, Career, Facts


IntroAmerican actor
IsActor, Film actor, Stage actor, Television actor
FromUnited States of America
TypeFilm, Television, Stage and Radio
Birth7 July 1946, San Francisco
Age73 years


Joseph Peter “Joe” Spano (born July 7, 1946) is an American actor who came to prominence through his role as Lt. Henry Goldblume on Hill Street Blues. Spano is now best known for his work on NCIS as FBI Special Agent Tobias C. Fornell.


Joe Spano was a member of the San Francisco improv group The Wing, and in college debuted as Paris in a production of Romeo and Juliet in 1967. In 1968, he helped found the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, appearing in its first production, and stayed with the company for 10 years. He moved to Hollywood in the late 1970s, landing guest shots on TV and bit roles in American Graffiti (1973) and The Enforcer (1976/I).

In Hill Street Blues he played Henry Goldblume during the entire seven-year run of the series, first as a detective sergeant, later as a lieutenant. Goldblume was one of Hill Street Precinct Captain Frank Furillo’s trusted junior officers, serving at times as a hostage negotiator and gangs relations officer. The character was sympathetic to crime victims, sometimes coming in conflict with his duties as a police officer. Spano was one of many actors appearing through each episode, which typically had several interwoven story lines.

After Hill Street Blues ended, Spano won recurring roles in television police shows Murder One (1995) and NYPD Blue (1993), again as a detective, and has appeared regularly in 27 television movies and 20 television shows like The X-Files (episodes Tempus Fugit and Max), Mercy Point and Amazing Grace. Spano won the Emmy award in 1988 for Best Guest Actor in a Drama Series for a role he played in an episode of Midnight Caller. He has appeared in 27 feature films, including working alongside Tom Hanks in Apollo 13 and Richard Gere and Edward Norton in Primal Fear. His credits are often confused with Australian actor Joseph Spano. They are not related.

He is a veteran stage actor on the east and west coasts. Spano made his Broadway debut in 1992 in the Roundabout Theater revival of Arthur Miller’s The Price, with Eli Wallach, which was nominated for a Tony for Best Revival. West coast stage credits include Eduardo Pavlovsky’s Potestad, and David Mamet’s Speed-the-Plow and American Buffalo, for which he was awarded an LA Drama Critics Circle Award. At the Rubicon Theater in Ventura he has played General Burgoyne in Shaw’s The Devil’s Disciple, Greg in A. R. Gurney’s Sylvia and Vladimir in Waiting for Godot. He is a member of the Antaeus Theater Company and a founding member of three other theater companies. He played a seductive vampire in the cult musical Dracula: A Musical Nightmare in a small LA theatre. He also appeared in the TV movie Brotherhood of Justice with Keanu Reeves and Kiefer Sutherland.


Spano has been a recurring character in NCIS since its premiere episode, “Yankee White”, playing FBI Special Agent Tobias Fornell, the FBI counterpart to NCIS Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, portrayed by Mark Harmon. The on-screen rapport between the two actors has made Spano much more visible to viewers than his number of actual screen appearances would suggest. Spano is best known for straight dramatic roles but, in NCIS, has adapted to the comedic/drama style of the show. Spano’s character, Fornell, holds rank in the FBI equivalent to that held by the NCIS main character, Gibbs. Thus Spano is given key lines and comic moments as a foil for Gibbs and, in some episodes, equal screentime with the main lead.

Two episodes have used the Fornells’ personal life as the main crux of an NCIS episode: one where Fornell’s daughter is imperiled and another where Fornell’s career is imperiled. In each episode, it is the friendship between Gibbs and Fornell which is invoked in order to involve NCIS in the resolution of an FBI agent’s crisis. Further indicating his status on the show, Spano’s Fornell was written into the Gibbs backstory, by having Fornell been married to Gibbs’ first ex-wife, linking their private lives as well as their professional lives and further establishing their equivalence of status. Spano’s character has also been involved in operations run by other agencies, including both Homeland Security and the CIA, as the liaison between those agencies and NCIS.

Notable episodes of NCIS, featuring Spano in a prime role, include the Episode 1, Season 1 “Yankee White”, Episode 2 of Season 4 “Escaped”, as well as episodes titled “Seadog”, “Enigma”, “Reveille”, “The Boneyard”, “Conspiracy Theory”, “Twilight”, “Kill Ari: Part 2”, “Under Covers”, “Frame up”, “Smoked”, “Brothers in Arms” and “Angel of Death”, all of which are available for searching on the NCIS pages. Spano continued to appear in season 5 of NCIS, starting with “Identity Crisis” about an FBI operation gone wrong and “Internal Affairs” when NCIS is being investigated for murder. In season 6, he appears in the episodes “Nine Lives” and “Semper Fidelis”. In season 7, he appears in the episodes “Jack-Knife” and “Moonlighting”. He continues to appear in the following seasons as well, in the episodes “Short Fuse” and “Tell-All” (both season 8), “Devil’s Triangle”, and “Life Before His Eyes” (both season 9), “Extreme Prejudice”, “Devil’s Trifecta”, “Damned If You Do” (all season 10), and “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot”, “Past, Present, and Future”, “Devil’s Triad”, “Crescent City (Part I)”, and “Crescent City (Part II)” (all season 11).


Spano was born in San Francisco, California, the son of Virginia Jean (née Carpenter) and Vincent Dante Spano, a physician. Spano and his wife Joan Zerrien, a therapist, were married in 1980. They have two adopted daughters.


  • One Is a Lonely Number (1972)
  • American Graffiti (1973)
  • Warlock Moon (1973)
  • The Streets of San Francisco (1974)
  • The Enforcer (1976)
  • Northern Lights (1978)
  • Lou Grant (1979)
  • Trapper John, M.D. (1979)
  • Roadie (1980)
  • Tenspeed and Brown Shoe (1980)
  • Fighting Back (1980)
  • Insight (1981)
  • The Incredible Shrinking Woman (1981)
  • Terminal Choice (1985)
  • Brotherhood of Justice (1986)
  • Hill Street Blues (1981-87)
  • Deep Dark Secrets (1987)
  • Valerie (1987)
  • L.A. Law (1988)
  • Disaster at Silo 7 (1988)
  • Midnight Caller (1989)
  • Cast the First Stone (1989)
  • The Easter Story (1990)
  • Blind Faith (1990)
  • The Girl Who Came Between Them (1990)
  • The Great Los Angeles Earthquake (1990)
  • American Dreamer (1990)
  • The Summer My Father Grew Up (1991)
  • For the Very First Time (1991)
  • Fever (1991)
  • Civil Wars (1992)
  • Bloodlines: Murder In the Family (1993)
  • Reasonable Doubts (1993)
  • The Flood: Who Will Save Our Children? (1993)
  • Rave Review (1994)
  • Dream On (1994)
  • Apollo 13 (1995)
  • Amazing Grace (1995)
  • Primal Fear (1996)
  • Murder One (1996)
  • Her Costly Affair (1996)
  • The X-Files (1997)
  • A Call To Remember (1997)
  • In Quiet Night (1998)
  • Profiler (1997–1998)
  • From the Earth to the Moon (1998)
  • JAG (1998)
  • Break Up (1998)
  • Logan’s War: Bound by Honor (1998)
  • L.A. Doctors (1998)
  • Nash Bridges (1998)
  • Mercy Point (1998–1999)
  • A.T.F. (1999)
  • Touched by an Angel (1999)
  • A Question of Faith (2000)
  • Batman Beyond (1999–2000)
  • Strong Medicine (2000)
  • Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000)
  • Texas Rangers (2001)
  • Providence (2001)
  • Ticker (2001)
  • The Invisible Man (2002)
  • Hart’s War (2002)
  • Static Shock (2002)
  • NYPD Blue (2002-2003)
  • Boomtown (2003)
  • Fortunate Son (2004)
  • L.A. Dragnet (2004)
  • Eyes (2005)
  • Crossing Jordan (2006)
  • The Closer (2006)
  • Hollywoodland (2006)
  • Standoff (2006)
  • Fracture (2007)
  • Shark (2008)
  • Frost/Nixon (2008)
  • In Plain Sight (2010)
  • If I Did It (2011)
  • NCIS (2003–present)
  • The Mentalist (2012)
  • NCIS: New Orleans (2014)


Ovation Awards

  • 2009: Nominated for Lead Actor in a Play for the role of George in the Rubicon Theatre Company production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
  • “Ovation Nominees”. 20 October 2009.
Spread the love

Leave a Reply