(written from a Production point of view)
Eugene Roche (22 September 1928 – 28 July 2004; age 75) was the American character actor who played Jor Brel in the Star Trek: Voyager third season episode "Remember". He accumulated nearly 200 film, television, and stage credits over the span of four decades and is well-known for his work on such sitcoms as Soap, Webster, and Perfect Strangers. He is also remembered for portraying the "Ajax Man" in the Ajax dish detergent commercials of the 1970s.
Roche was born in Boston, Massachusetts. He was the father of nine children (two of whom are also actors) from his first marriage, which lasted from 1958 through 1981. He died of a heart attack in Los Angeles, California, at the age of 75.
Roche made his film debut with an uncredited role in the acclaimed, Academy Award-winning romantic drama Splendor in the Grass. This film also featured Gary Lockwood (Gary Mitchell in Star Trek's second pilot, "Where No Man Has Gone Before") in a supporting role, while Star Trek: The Original Series guest actor Lou Antonio had a bit part. Roche's next film was the 1967 comedy The Happening, which starred TOS guest actor Robert Walker. This was followed by a small role in the 1971 comic mystery They Might Be Giants, which also featured Star Trek: Insurrection actor F. Murray Abraham.
Roche's first major film role was that of Edgar Derby in the 1972 film Slaughterhouse-Five, based on the novel of the same name by Kurt Vonnegut. Fellow Star Trek veteran Kevin Conway had a role in this film, as well. Roche appeared in several more films throughout the 1970s, including the 1975 crime thriller thriller Mr. Ricco (acting with Thalmus Rasulala), Robert Benton's 1977 comic neo-noir mystery The Late Show (in which Roche and Joanna Cassidy play husband and wife), and the 1978 comedies Foul Play (with Marc Lawrence) and Corvette Summer (with Stanley Kamel, Dick Miller, Nathan Jung, and Paddi Edwards).
In 1984, Roche made a return to feature films with a supporting role in the comedy Oh, God! You Devil. This film also featured performances by Star Trek: Voyager regular Robert Picardo, Star Trek veteran James Cromwell, and TOS guest actor Jason Wingreen. Ten years later, Roche had a supporting role in the romantic drama When a Man Loves a Woman, along with Gail Strickland and Susanna Thompson. Roche's last major film work was the 1996 action thriller Executive Decision, which was directed by Stuart Baird (who later helmed Star Trek Nemesis). Other performers who appeared in this film included Brad Blaisdell, Len Cariou, Ken Jenkins, Andreas Katsulas, Tim Kelleher, Warren Munson, Richard Riehle, and Dey Young).
Roche's earliest television credits included multiple appearances on the crime drama Naked City, including one episode in 1963 that was directed by Ralph Senensky and which co-starred Lou Antonio. Roche subsequently made appearances on such programs as Route 66 (which starred Glenn Corbett), The Trials of O'Brien (with Frank Langella), and Premiere (with Sally Kellerman and George D. Wallace).
In 1973, Roche was a regular on the ABC sitcom The Corner Bar for the show's six episode-long second season. Star Trek: The Next Generation guest actor Vincent Schiavelli was a cast member on the show during its first season, which aired the previous year. That same year, he played the title role in a pilot for a proposed detective drama called Egan, but it did not sell; his co-stars in the pilot included John Anderson, Michael Bell, and the aforementioned Glenn Corbett, and it was directed by Jud Taylor. Taylor subsequently directed Roche, as well as Lawrence Pressman, in the 1974 TV movie Winter Kill. Perhaps Roche's most memorable television role during the 1970s, however, was that of practical joker (and "Gold Star father") Pinky Peterson in three episodes of the hit CBS sitcom All in the Family.
Roche guest-starred on nearly two dozen other television shows throughout the 1970s, including Ironside (with David Spielberg), McCloud (in an episode with Terri Garr, Michael Pataki, and Gregory Sierra), Ellery Queen (with Bill Quinn), Kojak (two episodes, including one with Jason Wingreen), Harry O (with Richard Hale and Jon Lormer), Medical Center (with Percy Rodriguez and William Windom), The Streets of San Francisco (with Joseph Hindy), Serpico (with Fionnula Flanagan and Allan Miller), Barnaby Jones (starring Lee Meriwether, in an episode with Paul Sorensen), Starsky and Hutch (starring David Soul), Police Woman (with Corey Allen, Charles Dierkop, Richard Lynch, and Diana Muldaur), and Kingston: Confidential (with Marc Alaimo).
In addition, Roche had roles in many made-for-TV movies, the first of which was the 1972 horror-thriller Crawlspace, directed by John Newland. In 1975, Roche acted alongside David Clennon and Robert Lansing in the CBS pilot movie Crime Club and worked with his Voyager co-star Bruce Davison (as well as Percy Rodriguez) in The Last Survivors. Roche's subsequent TV movie credits included NBC's The Ghost of Flight 401 (with Gary Lockwood, Allan Miller, Byron Morrow, Alan Oppenheimer, and Mark L. Taylor), The New Maverick (with Graham Jarvis), The Winds of Kitty Hawk (with Robin Gammell and John Hoyt), You Can't Take It with You (with Kenneth Mars and Alan Oppenheimer), and Love for Rent (with Catherine Hicks and Bert Remsen).
One of Roche's best-known roles was that of Attorney E. Ronald Mallu, Esq., on the soap opera spoof Soap from 1978 through 1981. Among the other Star Trek alumni he worked with on this series were Hamilton Camp, Michael Durrell, the aforementioned Allan Miller, Granville Van Dusen, and Ian Wolfe. In 1980, Roche and fellow Voyager guest star Barry Gordon were regulars on the sitcom Good Time Henry, which aired for seven episodes on NBC.
Throughout the 1980s, Roche had recurring roles on multiple television shows. Between 1983 and 1988, he appeared as Luther Gillis on Magnum, P.I., including one episode directed by Russ Mayberry and co-starring Clyde Kusatsu. Roche also made three appearances as Jack Sullivan on the NBC sitcom Night Court, on which Star Trek III: The Search for Spock actor John Larroquette was a regular cast member. In addition, Roche played demanding mail room manager Harry Burns on Perfect Strangers during the show's third season (1987-1988). Sam Gorpley, the supervisor of the mail room overseen by Roche's character, was played by TNG guest actor Sam Anderson.
Roche's other TV credits during the 1980s included an appearance in the penultimate episode of the fourth season of Taxi, which featured Christopher Lloyd as "Reverend Jim" Ignatowski. Roche was also seen on such shows as Hardcastle and McCormick (starring Brian Keith and Daniel Hugh Kelly, in an episode with Nancy Parsons), Crazy Like a Fox (with Branscombe Richmond), Hotel (two episodes, including one with Ian Abercrombie, Stephen Macht, and Michelle Phillips), and Stingray (with Charles Lucia). In addition, he made several appearances on Murder, She Wrote, each time playing a different character. Among those he worked with on this series are Ray Buktenica, Tim O'Connor, Matt Roe, and Dean Stockwell. He made one last appearance on Murder, She Wrote in 1991, in an episode with Rosemary Forsyth, Scott McGinnis, and William Windom.
Between 1984 and 1986, Roche was a regular on the hit ABC sitcom Webster. In this series, he portrayed Bill Parker, who co-owned (with his wife) the Victorian house in which the title character and his adoptive parents lived starting with the second season. Others who made frequent appearances on this series during Roche's stay included Chad Allen as Webster's friend, Rob, and Ben Vereen as Webster's uncle.
In 1990, Roche was a regular on the short-lived CBS series Lenny. This was followed by a regular role on the equally short-lived ABC series Julie in 1992. Roche also voiced mob boss Arnold Stromwell on Batman: The Animated Series, while Star Trek: Deep Space Nine guest star Paul Dooley voiced his brother, Father Michael Stromwell. (Batman also featured the voices of Robert Costanzo and Loren Lester.) In 1995 and 1996, Roche had a recurring role on the sitcom Dave's World, including an episode with Ray Walston.
Roche's TV movie credits during the 1990s include role in the 1991 TV movie The Last Halloween, which also featured Stan Ivar and the voices of Frank Welker and Paul Williams. He was later one of several Star Trek alumni to have a role in the 1993 TV movie A Case for Murder; his co-stars included Robert DoQui, Samantha Eggar, Rosemary Forsyth, Bruce French, Thomas Kopache, and Mark Phelan. Roche also had a supporting role in the 1994 science fiction movie Roswell, along with Bob Gunton, and in the 1995 biopic Liz: The Elizabeth Taylor Story, alongside Michael Cavanaugh, Michael McGrady, and Ray Wise.
Between 1996 and 2003, Roche guest-starred on such shows as Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: The TV Show (starring Thomas Dekker and Barbara Alyn Woods), Family Law (starring Christopher McDonald, Salli Elise Richardson, and Julie Warner), The Guardian (starring Raphael Sbarge), and The Division (with Martha Hackett). He was also a voice actor on the short-lived series The Chimp Channel, as was Dwight Schultz. Roche's final acting role was a guest appearance on 7th Heaven, which starred Star Trek film alumni Stephen Collins and Catherine Hicks.
Other Trek connections
- The White House (1964 Broadway play) with James Daly and Fritz Weaver
- Newman's Law (1974 film) co-starring David Spielberg
- W (1974 film) with Ken Lynch, Alfred Ryder, and Michael Witney
- Mallory: Circumstantial Evidence (1976 TV pilot) with Stanley Kamel and William Lucking
- Tales of the Unexpected episode "The Nomads" (1977) with David Huddleston
- The Feather and Father Gang pilot "Never Con a Killer" (1977) with Joseph Mell and James B. Sikking
- Kaz episode "Verdict in Department 12" (1978) with Kenneth Tigar
- Quincy, M.E. episode "Main Man" (1977) with Robert Ito and Garry Walberg
- Vega$ episode "Second Stanza" (1978) and Airwolf episode "Firestorm" (1984) with Joseph Campanella
- The Child Stealer (1979 TV movie) with Phillip Richard Allen and Robert DoQui
- Miracle on Ice (1981 TV movie) with Allan Miller
- Mr. Merlin episode "Change of Venue: Part 1" (1982) with Phil Morris
- Farrell for the People (1982 TV movie) with Richard Herd and Gregory Sierra
- Cocaine and Blue Eyes (1983 TV movie) with Keye Luke and Bumper Robinson
- Quincy, M.E. episode "Guilty Until Proven Innocent" (1983) with Robert Ito, Garry Walberg, Allan Miller, and Rudy Solari
- Pigs vs. Freaks (1984 TV movie) with Elisha Cook, Graham Jarvis, and William Windom
- Stranded (1986 TV movie) with Joel Brooks
- Eternity (1989 film) with Charles Dierkop
- An Eight Is Enough Wedding (1989 TV movie) with Christopher McDonald and Paul Rossilli
- Father Dowling Mysteries episode "The Priest Killer Mystery" (1991) with Roger Aaron Brown and Alexander Enberg
- The Sitter (1991 TV movie) with Brett Cullen
- Daddy's Girl pilot (1994) with Keri Russell and Symba Smith
- A Friend to Die For (1994 TV movie) with James Avery and Terry O'Quinn
- The Rockford Files: Shoot-Out at the Golden Pagoda (1997 TV movie) with Glenn Morshower
- Chicken Soup for the Soul episode "The Question" (2000) with Rosemary Forsyth