Richard Moll, actor who played 'Bull' Shannon on 'Night Court,' dies at 80

A silver-haired Richard Moll arrives at an event in a black jacket, blue-striped shirt and patterned blue tie
Richard Moll, shown arriving at the 2010 TV Land Awards in Culver City, died Thursday at age 80 at his home in Big Bear Lake. (Kathy Hutchins via Associated Press)

Actor Richard Moll, best known for playing bailiff Nostradamus "Bull" Shannon in the original "Night Court" sitcom, died Thursday at home in Big Bear Lake. He was 80.

Moll's death was confirmed through a family representative. The cause of death was not disclosed.

Moll became a beloved TV fixture as Bull, who appeared in nearly every episode of "Night Court," which aired from 1984 to 1992 on NBC. (The series was recently revived with John Larroquette, who starred in the original version).

Standing 6-foot-8 with a shaved head, Moll's menacing look provided a humorous contrast to his genial persona on the series set in a late-night shift of a Manhattan municipal courtroom.

Richard Charles Moll was born in Pasadena to Harry and Violet Moll on Jan. 13, 1943, the youngest of three children.

A graduate of UC Berkeley as a history and psychology major, Richard worked several jobs including as a probation officer and a head of stock in the hosiery department of a San Francisco store. He gravitated to acting after performing Shakespearean works at the Will Geer open air theater in Topanga.

Moll moved to Hollywood in 1968. He spent a decade touring in theater troupes while landing occasional roles in movies and commercials that tapped into his imposing appearance. Early roles included a cannibal in a commercial for Hertz rent-a-car and an abominable snowman in the 1981 film "Caveman."

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Moll shaved his head for a role in the 1983 science fiction film "Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn," which set him up well for his "Night Court" audition. Casting directors were immediately sold.

"When I went in they said, 'Oh, that's great. We love the look. Will you shave your head for the role?' " Moll recalled in a 2003 interview with People. "I said, 'Are you kidding? I'll shave my legs for this role.' "

Moll said the producers of "Night Court'" originally envisioned the gentle giant Bull as a "very hard edged" character. "I think they saw something in me to make him a lot softer," he said.

Moll's success on "Night Court" opened the door to film and voice-over work on animated shows. He was the voice of Harvey Dent/Two-Face on "The Adventures of Batman & Robin" and Scorpion on "Spider-Man: The Animated Series." He landed small film roles in "The Flintstones," the Arnold Schwarzenegger comedy "Jingle All the Way"and "Scary Movie 2."

Moll worked steadily in television after "Night Court" ended its run. He landed recurring roles on the NBC sitcom "Getting By" starring Cindy Williams, and the Nickelodeon series "100 Deeds for Eddie McDowd." He appeared as a guest star on numerous series including "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch," "7th Heaven," "Smallville" and "Cold Case."

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The actor demonstrated range later in his career. In the independent film "Cats and Mice," he played a cross-dressing madam in a brothel. In 1999, Moll was cast in the satirical romantic comedy "But I'm a Cheerleader” in which he played a gay man who, along with his partner (Wesley Mann), shepherd teenagers sent to a re-education camp by parents who suspect they are gay. .

Moll was married to Susan Moll, the stepdaughter of legendary TV comedian Milton Berle. They remained friends after their divorce. He is survived by their children, Chloe and Mason Moll, and two stepchildren, Cassandra Card and Morgan Ostling.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.