Gerald S. O’Loughlin, Star of 1970s ABC Cop Series 'The Rookies,' Dies at 93

Gerald S. O'Loughlin - S 2015
Courtesy of Photofest

Gerald S. O'Loughlin - S 2015

He also starred in such films as 'In Cold Blood' and 'Ice Station Zebra' but turned down the lead role in 'The Love Boat.'

Gerald S. O’Loughlin, the veteran blue-collar character actor perhaps best known for playing Lieutenant Ryker on the 1970s ABC cop show The Rookies, has died. He was 93.

O’Loughlin died July 31 of natural causes at West Hills Hospital in Los Angeles, his son, Christopher, said. His father was a resident of the Motion Picture & Television Fund Retirement Home in Woodland Hills.

O’Loughlin played the real-life Harold Nye, who investigated the murders of four members of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kan., in Truman Copote’s In Cold Blood (1967), and appeared in such films as Joshua Logan’s Ensign Pulver (1964), Ice Station Zebra (1968) with Rock Hudson and The Organization (1971) opposite Sidney Poitier.

O’Loughlin also starred as neighbor Joe Kaplan in the 1980s NBC family drama Our House, starring Wilford Brimley, and played John Cappelletti Sr. in the tear-jerking 1977 CBS telefilm Something for Joey, which centered on a Heisman Trophy-winning running back from Penn State and his younger brother, who has leukemia.

The Rookies, about cops new to the job, ran on ABC from 1972 through 1976 and starred Georg Stanford Brown, Michael Ontkean and Kate Jackson. His Ed Ryker was the voice of reason who guided his untested troops with patience (and a dash of resignation).

"I sort of enjoyed being a lieutenant on The Rookies. Maybe because I was a lieutenant in the Marine Corps," he said in a 2011 interview. "After The Rookies, they offered me The Love Boat [another show executive produced by Aaron Spelling]. The part that Gavin MacLeod got," but he turned it down.

Asked why, he said: "Because I was insulted. This is a dilemma that only an actor can get into. I play lieutenants with the police department, I don’t play captains on an excursion cruiser! Playing The Rookies was so embedded in me, I scorned the other one. Today, I wish I had not reacted that way. I’d have a couple of million more dollars. I think they ran for eight years."

O’Loughlin was born in New York City and raised in Spring Valley, N.Y. After serving with the Marines during World War II, he studied with Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York on the G.I. Bill.

He then became a member of the famed Actors Studio when Meisner recommended him to Lee Strasberg. (O'Loughlin's longtime friend, Martin Landau, moderated as O’Loughlin performed his final scene at the Studio on his 90th birthday).

O’Loughlin’s early acting years in New York included roles on Broadway in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest with Kirk Douglas, in Golden Boy with Lee J. Cobb and in the first revival of A Streetcar Named Desire as Stanley opposite Tallulah Bankhead as Blanche. He won an Obie Award for his work in Who’ll Save the Plowboy.

He also appeared in the William Inge play The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, where he met his longtime companion, the future Oscar-winning actress Sandy Dennis. (They lived in New York together for several years.)

On filming In Cold Blood, "It was a little shocking, going to the actual places where the murders took place in Kansas," he recalled in the 2011 interview. "It was a little spooky. We actually shot the murders in the actual house where they took place. I was still drinking, so I had hangovers sometimes."

O’Loughlin, who moved to Los Angeles in the early 1960s, was married to veteran casting executive and casting director Meryl O’Loughlin. She died in 2007. 

In addition to his son, survivors include his daughter, Laura; daughter-in-law, Colleen Clinton, an actress; and grandsons Finnian and Maximilian.

A memorial service will be held on Sept. 12. For service details, please contact Chris O’Loughlin at or the Motion Picture & Television Fund Retirement Home. 

In lieu of flowers, his son asked that you "buy a good meal for someone down on their luck."

Twitter: @mikebarnes4

Aug. 10, 1:10 p.m. Updated to correct date of death to July 31.