How Late ‘Untouchables’ Actor Nicholas Georgiade Got Big Break Thanks to Lucille Ball

by Josh Lanier

Nicholas Georgiade, who played the tough-as-nails Rico Rossi on The Untouchables, got his first big break thanks to a chance meeting with Lucille Ball. The New York native died on Sunday. He was 88.

Georgiade didn’t always want to be an actor. He was a boxer in high school and while serving in the U.S. Army and planned to be a teacher after college. It wasn’t until he appeared in a production of The Rose Tattoo while attending Syracuse University that he decided to make a run as an actor, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

He made his way to Los Angeles where Lucille Ball saw him perform as the lead in the play A View From the Bridge at a small theater in 1958. She introduced him to legendary acting coach Herbert Berghof. He invited Georgiade to become one of the first members of the Desilu Workshop, a troupe of up-and-coming actors that Ball believed showed promise.

Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse created a stage version of The Untouchables, based on the real-life Prohibition-era agent Elliot Ness. Producers turned the stage production into a two-part, one-time TV event. But ratings were so high, that ABC rushed a series into production. Georgiade played a thug in that original broadcast, but producers bumped him up to series regular alongside Robert Stack’s Ness. The series ran for four seasons.

An Incredible Hollywood Career

He had a long career in Hollywood. Georgiade appeared in the films It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and Indecent Proposal. He also has credits in The Rockford Files, Hawaii Five-0, The Equalizer, and many other TV shows, reported.

His last role was in the 2007 film Three Days to Vegas. (That’s Georgiade on the far right in the photo below.)

Georgiade Based Some of ‘Untouchables’ Character on Family

Nicholas Georgiade’s brother was a police detective in Syracuse, New York. He said he took some inspiration for his role in The Untouchables character from him and other officers he knew.

“I’m playing myself,” Georgiade told the Chicago Tribune in 1960. “Sometimes actors have to be doctors of human behavior, and the more they like their work, the better they are at it. I’ve watched policemen and have been interested in their reactions. My brother George is a detective and he, like most cops, has the same emotions, fallibilities, frustrations, and joys of all human beings.”

Nicholas Georgiade’s nephew, Nick, announced that his uncle died on Dec. 19. It’s unclear what caused his death.

“He lived 88 long years and had a beautiful life,” the actor’s daughter Stazia posted on Facebook. “He was also a wonderful father to me. I had the blessing to have him pass away in my arms tonight. Thank you in advance for all your kind words and prayers.”

Georgiade lived for decades in Las Vegas and was a beloved member of the community there.

“(Nicholas) meant a tremendous amount,” close friend Mike Distefano told “He was larger than life, and his persona was very powerful and magnetic. He was extremely generous. (And) he was a star and a superstar.”