Barbara Barrie Played Barney Miller's Wife Liz. See Her Now at 90.
The actor has had a 70+ year career and is still working today.
She'd been working in Hollywood and on Broadway for more than two decades by the time she got her breakthrough TV role, but Barbara Barrie certainly made her mark in Barney Miller. On the 1975-1982 police sitcom, she played Elizabeth "Liz" Miller, the wife of the titular detective. Though Barrie wasn't a permanent fixture throughout the show's eight-season run, Liz was always an integral part of the plot—and Barney Miller would hardly end up being the most famous credit on Barrie's resumé.
Forty years since Barney Miller ended, Barrie is now 90 years old. And while her career has slowed down a bit, fans can still see her onscreen and on the red carpet from time to time. Read on to learn what she's up to today.
Barrie has had a lengthy career onscreen and onstage.
Prior to taking the role of Liz, Barrie's biggest claim to fame was her leading part in 1964's One Potato, Two Potato. On TV, she had racked up several guest appearances and teleplays.
Barrie was cast in some of her most iconic roles after the sitcom ended, from playing Evelyn Stohler in the film Breaking Away (which earned her an Oscar nomination) and its TV adaptation (which earned her an Emmy nomination) to playing Harriet in Private Benjamin alongside Goldie Hawn. In more recent years, Barrie memorably played Susan's (Brooke Shields) grandmother Helen in Suddenly Susan, was nominated for a Guest Actress Emmy for her work on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and made cameos on Enlightened and Nurse Jackie, among other series. Her most recent onscreen credit is the 2021 film, The Magnificent Meyersons.
The actor has also enjoyed a thriving stage career, with credits including Significant Other, Fiddler on the Roof, and the original production of Company. (That's her pictured with co-stars Elaine Stritch and Dean Jones above.)
"It's so expensive now," Barrie said in a 2017 interview with NewYorkTheater about how Broadway has changed since she got started. "It's all millions of dollars…glitz and publicity. When we did a play, you went to the producer's office and you read and you got the part. It's not that way anymore."
She's shared her health struggles with her fans.
In 1994, Barrie was diagnosed with and treated for rectal cancer. To help bring awareness to the disease, she wrote the 1997 memoir Second Act: Life After Colostomy and Other Adventures about her journey.
"I had started to bleed, but I was running around the world doing so many fun things, and I decided not to worry. Because [the doctors] had said not to worry," she told the South Florida Sun Sentinel at the time. "They said it was hemorrhoids, not to worry, or they said it was a fissure, or they said it was stress."
She found out that she had a tumor in her rectum, had surgery to remove it, and received a colostomy. Barrie also learned that colorectal cancer actually ran in her family. "I think if I can get the word out on this thing, that will be my legacy," she added.
Two decades after she discovered that she had cancer, Barrie shared that she had been diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, an incurable lung disease. She partnered with the Coalition for Pulmonary Fibrosis to again spread the word about early diagnosis and living with the condition.
"I have a very full, active life, but what lies ahead is unknown and yet known at the same time," she said in a press release at the time. "I am living full steam ahead and am now trying to help other people do the same."
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She's also written children's books.
In addition to her memoir, Barrie has also written two children's books. The first is Lone Star, which was published in 1990. Set in 1944, the story is about a girl and her family who "leave Chicago and their Jewish community for Corpus Christi, Texas, where Jane's parents clash and where a visit from her orthodox grandfather forces them to confront their identities," per the Amazon synopsis. It's based on Barrie's own childhood.
Her second children's book, Adam Zigzag, which was published in 1994, is about two children struggling with dyslexia.
She lives in a loft in New York City.
In 2007, Barrie's husband of 43 years, Broadway performer and co-founder of children's theater company TheatreWorks USA, Jay Harnick, died at the age of 78. The couple shared two children, Aaron Harnick and Jane Harnick, both of whom would follow in their parents' footsteps and join the entertainment industry themselves. (Aaron is a producer, and Jane is an actor.) These days, Barrie lives in a New York City apartment that she and Harnick renovated and that she described to The New York Times in 2017 as her "loft in the sky."
"I'm alone now, so this is a really good place for me," she said. "I don't feel separated from the world here. I can see every element of the West Side out the window, the clouds, the sky, planes flying in and out of Newark. This is a huge building, but it's utterly quiet—I can play [classical music station] WQXR at high volume, and nobody hears it. That's a blessing, don't you think?"