Joseph Ruskin, ‘Star Trek’ Actor, Union Activist, Dies At 89

Joseph Ruskin, a veteran Hollywood character actor perhaps best known for his appearances on several different series in the Star Trek franchise, has passed away of natural causes at age 89, the film and television actor’s union SAG-AFTRA announced earlier this week.

Born Joseph Schlafman in Haverhill, Massachusetts on April 14, 1924, Ruskin died Saturday at UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, California, the announcement said.

In addition to his many film and TV roles, Joseph Ruskin was longtime board member of the Screen Actors Guild, which merged last year with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists to form the single SAG-AFTRA union.

Ruskin had worked actively on issues surrounding the merger since the 1980s, current SAG-AFTRA President Ken Howard told CNN.

“Joe was the epitome of the actor who takes care of all the other actors while keeping one foot firmly planted on the stage or the set,” Howard said. “He gave so much for so long it’s hard to believe he’s gone.”

Fans of Star Trek will remember Joseph Ruskin first as the character “Master Thrall Galt” in the original series’ 1968 episode, “The Gamesters of Triskelion.” He later appeared as a Klingon in two episodes of the 1990s Star Trek spin-off series Deep Space Nine, as well as in the feature film Star Trek: Insurrection.

He was one of only four actors to have roles in both the “classic” 1960s Star Trek series, and the franchise’s final (to date) television version, Star Trek: Enterprise in 2001. He also performed voice-acting work in Star Trek video games.

But with parts in 124 TV shows and 25 films, as well as dozens of stage roles, Star Trek was just one small aspect of the respected character actor’s lengthy career as shown on his Internet Movie Database career summary

Perhaps most notably, he appeared in the 1985 John Huston-directed gangster film Prizzi’s Honor and the landmark 1960 western, The Magnificent Seven.

His final film appearance came in the 2006 action flick Smokin’ Aces. Joseph Ruskin also did his last TV work that year in an episode of the Fox Network drama Bones.

He acted on stage almost until the end of his life, taking his final bow in a production of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible as part of the Los Angeles-based Anaetus Theater Company earlier in 2013.

Joseph Ruskin was a World War II veteran, serving in the U.S. Navy. He held a post on the SAG board from 1976 until 1999 and was also active as an official of Actor’s Equity, the union for stage actors. Ruskin put in 10 years on the AFTRA board, as well.