The Unauthorized Biography of Bruce Gray
1997’s Gemini Award winner for Best Performance by a Lead Actor in a Continuing Drama Series, would surprise Traders’ fans with how different he is from the Cunningham character. Born September 7, 1936, San Juan, Puerto Rico of Canadian parents, he returned to Toronto with them when he was thirteen. At Humberside Collegiate he was an honors student, a member of the swim team and the student council, and, to his horror, in the school yearbook was “candidate for Mr. Canada”.
He graduated from the University of Toronto with a Masters degree in Psychology before heading to London, England in 1960, in search of adventure. Bruce soon found himself on stage with a young Donald Sutherland in Androcles and the Lion at the Mermaid Theatre and later at Bath for a season as the juvenile lead at Theatre Royal. When he returned to Toronto in 1962, he continued to act, playing regional theatre everywhere from BC’s The Bastion to the Playhouse in New Brunswick.During this time he also ran Aries Productions with his Toronto partners and played the lead on CBC’s Son of a Hundred Kings and the young beachcomber in the cultist Strange Paradise series. First beckoned by offers from the US in 1968, he was soon playing at Buffalo’s Studio Arena and then in Rockford, Illinois, in The Owl and the Pussycat opposite the legendary black actress Diana Sands. She introduced him to her influential agent who encouraged him to move to Manhattan, which he did in 1970.
He travelled the width and breadth of the US in productions such as A Shot In the Dark (San Antonio) and The Philadelphia Story (Indianapolis). He played two seasons at the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival where he was “surprisingly”, very successful singing in Godspell as Jesus and The Beggar’s Opera as MacHeath.
During the 1970’s he played multiple national tours, including My Fat Friend opposite Patty Duke and Too True to Be Good opposite Jean Marsh. As a member of New York’s famed Circle Repertory Company he created world premiere performances including the title role in A.R. Gurney’s Who Killed Richard Cory? He even played a memorable Osric to William Hurt’s Hamlet in 1979, while simultaneously playing opposite Kim Hunter in the daytime soap The Edge of Night.
Bruce returned to Toronto in 1977 to play the lead in the Canadian series High Hopes. In 1980 he moved to Hollywood where he still maintains a modest but architecturally sublime canyon home. He subsequently became a regular guest star on series such as Beverley Hills 90210, Chicago Hope, Murphy Brown, Melrose Place, Nowhere Man, Wings and ER and won recurring roles on Picket Fences and the Star Trek series’, including The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine.
But he is best recognized for his role as Ted Hartley, Jessica’s harried publisher in the long-running Murder She Wrote and from Movies of the Week like Roswell, The Exxon Valdez Story, Sinatra, LBJ, The Club and Breaking Up.
Feature films include a lead role opposite Carol Burnett in Between Friends and principal parts opposite Mark Harmon in Let’s Get Harry and Bette Milder in For the Boys. He was featured in George Clooney’s The Peacemaker and played the President in Spy Hard with Leslie Nielsen and in Paul Verhoven’s Starship Troopers. Other films include Dragnet, Mi Familia and Up Close and Personal with Robert Redford and Michelle Pfeiffer.
Though less recognized for his work on the stage than on TV and in film, Bruce is prolific in his theatrical experience, as both Drama-logue and Philadelphia Critic’s Circle Awards will attest. He has performed notably in Quartermaine’s Terms, garnering an LA Weekly Award nomination, The Good Doctor (Drama-Logue Award), Inadmissible Evidence, The Merchant of Venice and Winter Signs and has toured the US and the USSR as George in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, directed by Edward Albee himself. He also played this role opposite Glenda Jackson in LA, and later with Carol Mayo Jenkins (Fame) at Houston’s The Alley, Leningrad’s Mally and Lithuania’s Juanimo Theatre in Vilnius (at the very time of their secession). He has also won LA Weekly and Robbie Awards for his direction of the works of Joe Orton.
Bruce has also directed Seymour in the Very Heart of Winter (Critic’s Choice), The Body Politic, Family Values, My Life in Art, with Ron Perlman and Jonathan Frakes, Weekends with Howie Morse and Lester’s Wife with Ray Camponella, all world premieres. Additional direction includes the much hailed holocaust play A Shayna Maidell, seven sundays (Drama-Logue Award), The Unexpected Guest, See How They Run, Entertaining Mr. Sloan (Director/Production Drama-Logue Award), and Blythe Spirit, which the LA Times called “The Year’s Most Beautiful Production.” He also wrote, produced and directed his own English-style pantomime, Aladdin.
He has trained with Michael Howard, David Lehman, Milton Katselas and Stephen Book and continues to study with Brian Reise. He retains his passion for Caribbean food from his days in Puerto Rico and the benefits of that diet are a major part of his health and wellness routine, which includes personal training and running. He collects primitive masks and art from Africa and New Guinea and his other passions is writing. He has been published in The American Theatre Magazine, Equity Newsletter, the Orange County Register and Playback. Bruce supports many charities, including (Aids Project Los Angeles), Angel Food (meals-on-wheels, LA), breast cancer research (North York Diagnostic Centre), the Heart Fund, REACH (Rights for the disabled) and the United Way.