By Phuong Pham
Ron Glass, a television legend and the beloved Shepherd Derrial Book to Firefly fans has passed away at the age of 71. Read more to learn about his expansive acting career of a talented actor who is greatly loved and missed.
One of the greatest accomplishments for an actor is to continue to receive roles well into old age and be able to remain relevant for the entirety of their career. Ron Glass was one such actor who was able to achieve this. While many Whedon fans may remember him today as Shepherd Book from Firefly or Dr. Streiten from Agents of SHIELD, a quick look at Mr. Glass’s filmography shows that he was so much more than that and was a part of many series which revolutionized television programming, making way for the contemporary roles he is known for today.
Glass’s career spans many decades with his first role being that of a repairman on the wildy controversial sitcom, All in the Family. From there Glass continued to find steady work in bit parts for other American television mainstays such as the series, Maude, another popular and provocative series starring Bea Arthur as a “liberal, independent woman living in Tuckahoe, NY with her fourth husband Walter.” Other television milestones that Glass found himself on include, The Twilight Zone, Hawaii Five-O, The New Perry Mason, The Bob Newhart Show, Good Times, Sanford and Son, and many others. Truly, Mr. Glass’s work reads like a who’s who of the most revolutionary programming of the past four decades. While we may know him from Firefly as Shepherd Book, the holy man with a mysterious past, older generations may know him from Barney Miller as New York City detective, Ron Harris dealing with racism in a 1970’s America.
Not only that, but Mr. Glass was also a skilled voice actor, as well. If you’re a “90’s kid” you may remember him as Randy Carmichael, father of Susie Carmichael from the beloved cartoon series, Rugrats. Mr. Glass also made appearances on Friends, Recess: School’s Out, and The Proud Family all before landing his iconic role on Firefly. And still, for those who prefer to game instead of watching TV, gamers will know Mr. Glass from Fable II as Garth, The Hero of Will.
And with all these prodigious, impressive credits under his belt, I’d like to end on a personal note: I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Glass at DragonCon in Atlanta, Georgia one year and he could not have been nicer. Being a huge Firefly fan, with Shepherd Book being one of my favorite characters, His character was mysterious, strong, had a lot of agency, and while I’m an atheist, I loved how he remained stalwart in his beliefs regarding religion and somehow still open-minded. Not only that, but he was also just an absolute badass. He was always underestimated and consistently exceeded expectations. I hope to be a fraction as awesome as the Shepherd was. (I would also accept being as awesome as Zoe.)
I leapt at the chance to meet him at a celebrity signing. When it was my turn to meet him, I paid the cost of an autograph and photo and gushed about how he was one of my favorite characters and what an awesome portrayal he gave as the Shepherd. He asked my name when I handed him my Shepherd Book graphic novel but went by the pen name listed on my badge (as I used to write under the pen name, “Gwen Stacy.”) I explained the situation of having an awkward ethnic name to him and we laughed. He thought a bit and wrote a lovely inscription in my book. Now it seems oh so fitting…