IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Mark Margolis, actor known for ‘Breaking Bad’ and ‘Better Call Saul,’ dies at 83

He earned an Emmy Award nomination in 2012 for his performance as a wheelchair-bound drug kingpin on the hit series “Breaking Bad.”
/ Source: NBC News

Mark Margolis, a journeyman character actor best known for playing a wild-eyed drug lord on the AMC shows “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul,” died Thursday, according to his family and his agent. He was 83.

He died at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City after a short illness, his family said in a statement. The actor’s wife and son were at his bedside at the time of his death.

Actors Luis Moncada, Daniel Moncada and Mark Margolis (center) in  "Better Call Saul".
"Better Call Saul" actors Luis Moncada, Mark Margolis and Daniel Moncada.Greg Lewis / Sony Pictures Television via Alamy Stock Photo

“Mark’s enduring excellence and amiable nature have left an indelible impression on those fortunate enough to collaborate with him and know him,” Robert Attermann, his agent, said in a statement. “He will certainly be missed.”

Margolis received an Emmy Award nomination for best guest actor in a drama series in 2012, for his performance on “Breaking Bad” as Hector Salamanca, a former Juarez drug cartel captain who cannot speak or walk because he suffered a stroke. The character communicates by tapping on a bell affixed to his wheelchair.

He reprised the role on “Better Call Saul,” a prequel series set before the events of “Breaking Bad.”

"Breaking Bad" Actors Aaron Paul and Mark Margolis  at the AMC Emmy After Party, in Los Angeles on Sept. 23, 2012.
"Breaking Bad" actors Aaron Paul and Mark Margolis at an Emmy afterparty on Sept. 23, 2012. John Shearer / Invision for AMC AP Images

Margolis got his start as a screen actor in the 1970s with small roles in genre films. He played a henchman in Brian De Palma’s crime epic “Scarface,” and appeared in movies as varied as the Civil War drama “Glory” and “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.”

He was a regular in the films of director Darren Aronofsky, including “Pi,” “Requiem for a Dream,” “The Fountain,” “The Wrestler,” “Black Swan” and “Noah.”

Margolis drew wider attention for his work as a Sicilian mob boss infected with HIV in the brutal prison drama “Oz,” acting in 10 episodes of the HBO series.

But his role on “Breaking Bad” cemented him deeper in public consciousness. He was one of the key antagonists of the series, a villain who managed to be menacing without uttering a single word.

“I was only coming onto ‘Breaking Bad,’ as far as I knew, for that one episode, but there’s no accounting for taste, and the fans took a fancy to me,” Margolis told The Hollywood Reporter in 2012. “Somebody asked me recently, ‘How did you manage to play such a horrible guy?’ and I said, ‘Have you talked to my friends?’ They’ll tell you I’m pretty miserable to begin with.”

In the explosive finale of the fourth season of “Breaking Bad,” Hector Salamanca exacts revenge on his nemesis, the stoic drug lord Gustavo “Gus” Fring (Giancarlo Esposito), thanks to a bomb hidden under his wheelchair. Margolis was blown away by the exacting vision of series creator Vince Gilligan.

“Vince is the Einstein monster of television writing,” Margolis told The Hollywood Reporter in the same interview. “He’s both Frankenstein and Einstein. He’s so surprising; he’s like no one else I’ve ever met in the film or TV world.”

This story first appeared on

Actors Luis Moncada, Daniel Moncada and Mark Margolis (center) in  "Better Call Saul".
Actors Luis Moncada, Daniel Moncada and Mark Margolis (center) in "Better Call Saul".Greg Lewis / Sony Pictures Television via Alamy Stock Photo