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'Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf' Actor George Segal Dead At 87

Actor George Segal who first became a star alongside Elizabeth Taylor, Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand has died at 87 after a career on stage, film and television that spanned more than 60 years.

The Oscar-nominated actor who recently wrapped up an eighth season on the ABC show The Goldbergs, died on Tuesday morning of complications from bypass surgery, his wife, Sonia, said in a statement.

"Today we lost a legend. It was a true honor being a small part of George Segal's amazing legacy," the show's creator Adam Goldberg, who cast Segal to play a comedic version of his own grandfather, wroteon Twitter.

"By pure fate, I ended up casting the perfect person to play Pops. Just like my grandfather, George was a kid at heart with a magical spark," Goldberg added.

Segal was born on Feb. 13, 1932, and raised in Great Neck, N.Y. He began his entertainment career as a banjo player and went on to serve in the U.S. Army before graduating from Columbia University with a degree in drama.

Before making his way as a leading man onstage, a young and struggling Segal, cleaned toilets at New York's Circle in the Square Theatre. He made his debut in 1955 in a production of Moliere's Don Juan. His first part on film came six years later. But it was his role as a young married professor in the 1966 classic,Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, that elevated him onto Hollywood's A-list and earned him an Academy Award nomination.

The adaptation of Edward Albee's play, directed by Mike Nichols, earned Oscar nominations for the entire cast; Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Sandy Dennis and Segal were all up for the golden statue but only Taylor and Dennis won.

Despite appearing in at least 70 films, Segal's later career was revived, in large part, by comedic television roles that kept him relevant for younger audiences. After playing a string of "dads" in films throughout the 1990s he made the same transition onto the small screen, notably as the magazine-owning dad on the long-running NBC sitcom Just Shoot Me.

He has been playing a madcap and indulgent grandfather, Albert "Pops" Solomon, on the The Goldbergssince 2013.

Abe Hoch, Segal's manager and friend, said he is "saddened by the fact that my close friend and client of many years has passed away."

"I will miss his warmth, humor, camaraderie and friendship. He was a wonderful human," Hoch added.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Vanessa Romo is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers breaking news on a wide range of topics, weighing in daily on everything from immigration and the treatment of migrant children, to a war-crimes trial where a witness claimed he was the actual killer, to an alleged sex cult. She has also covered the occasional cat-clinging-to-the-hood-of-a-car story.