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‘The Equalizer’ Cast: Surprising Behind the Scenes Facts of the 1980s series

Plus, did you know William Zabka of Cobra Kai fame was on the show?


The Equalizer cast originally captivated audiences with its thrilling plotlines and compelling acting. Created by Michael Sloan and Richard Lindheim, this action-packed crime drama first graced television screens in the mid-1980s. At the heart of its success lay not only its gripping narrative but also the talented ensemble cast that brought its characters to life.

Premiering on CBS in 1985, The Equalizer followed the life of Robert McCall, portrayed by the esteemed actor Edward Woodward. McCall, a former covert operative with a mysterious past, embarks on a quest for redemption, utilizing his skills to help those in need.

Operating as a vigilante, he offers his services free of charge, acting as a guardian angel for the oppressed and downtrodden in New York City. The show’s unique blend of action, suspense, and moral ambiguity resonated deeply with viewers, propelling it to critical acclaim and a dedicated fanbase. Its success led to four seasons and a total of 88 episodes before concluding in 1989.

The Equalizer cast: William Zabka and Edward Woodward in The Equalizer (1989)
William Zabka and Edward Woodward in The Equalizer (1989)

Michael Sloan and Richard Lindheim are the creative minds behind The Equalizer. Drawing inspiration from the burgeoning vigilante genre and the social issues of the time, they crafted a narrative that was both thrilling and thought-provoking. Their vision, coupled with the stellar performances of the cast, ensured the show’s enduring legacy.

The Equalizer film starring Denzel Washington came out in 2014 and the reboot series that came out in 2021 starring Queen Latifah, Tory Kittles and Adam Goldberg proved to be another hit.

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Here, we look at the The Equalizer cast from the original 1980s show.

Edward Woodward as Robert McCall

Edward Woodward as Robert McCall (The Equalizer cast)
1985/2007; Claire Greenway / Staff/Getty

Born June 1, 1930, in Surrey, England, Edward Woodward was a big hit on the London stage as well as in British films including 1973’s the Wicked Man. He then turned to Hollywood and landed the part of Robert McCall in The Equalizer cast at the age of 55. In the pilot episode, Edward Woodward played Robert McCall with a soft American accent. By the time the series was commissioned, he acted with his own English accent. McCall was such a hit in the show that he was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series each year that the show aired.

Ironically, Woodward’s slightly older age required the actors portraying the criminals to physically act as if they were sprinting when in reality they were running slowly. This was done to make it look as if The Equalizer was able to run quick enough to catch them, when it was actually because Woodward couldn’t run very fast.

Following the conclusion of the series, Woodward continued to work in both film and television. He appeared in the horror film The Appointment (1982); the ghost of a murderer in the black comedy Deadly Advice (1994); the 18th century patriarch of The House of Angelo (1997), and a lord in the action adventure The Abduction Club (2002). His last movie was the drama A Congregation of Ghosts (2009).

Woodward passed away on November 16, 2009, at the age of 79.

Did you know? During the height of the show’s popularity, Woodward was often approached on the street by people in need, with situations similar to those depicted in the show. He began carrying flyers with the phone numbers of social services organizations and legal clinics for them to contact.

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Keith Szarabajka as Mickey Kostmayer

Keith Szarabajka as Mickey Kostmayer (The Equalizer cast)
2013 Vincent Sandoval / Contributor/Getty

Born in December 2, 1952, in Oak Park, Illinois, Keith Szarabajka had bit parts in shows like Miami Vice, before landing the role of Mickey Kostmayer in The Equalizer cast. After the series ended, he went on to several other TV series including Max Steel (2000-2002), Cold Case (2008-2010), Jedi Camp (2012-2013), Star Wars: Rebels (2014-2018) and Supernatural (2016-2019). He also appeared in several movies including The Dark Knight (2008), Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011) Argo (2012).

Most recently, he was seen in the 2023 movie Art Thief.

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Robert Lansing as Control

Robert Lansing as Control (The Equalizer cast)

Born in June 5, 1928, in San Diego, California, Robert Lansing had parts in several TV shows including Simon & Simon and Hotel, as well as films including the move The Nest. He had his big breakthrough playing the role of Control in The Equalizer cast.

After the series ended, he continued getting parts in TV series including Against the Law, Law & Order and Murder, She Wrote. A heavy smoker, Lansing died from lung cancer in 1994, one year into his last regular series, Kung Fu: The Legend Continues. He was 66 years old.

Related: Christopher Meloni: The ‘Law & Order: OC’ Star’s Best Movies and TV Shows

Mark Margolis as Jimmy

Mark Margolis as Jimmy (The Equalizer cast)
2001/2019 J. Vespa / Contributor/Getty; Jason Mendez / Contributor/Getty

Born November 26, 1939, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Mark Margolis began his acting career in the late 1960s, appearing in theater productions and small film roles. He gradually gained recognition for his intense and compelling performances. Most notably he was in the 1983 movie Scarface before landing the role of Jimmy in The Equalizer cast.

After the series, he appeared alongside Jim Carrey in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994). He also appeared in the films Pi (1998), Requiem for a Dream (2000), The Fountain (2006), The Wrestler (2008), Black Swan (2010) and Noah (2014).

Margolis was perhaps best known for his role as fearsome former drug lord Hector Salamanca in Breaking Bad. He received an Emmy nomination for his role in that series.

Most recently, he was in the TV series Better Call Saul and the 2023 series Your Honor.

Margolis passed away in 2023 at the age of 83.

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Maureen Anderman as Assistant Mickey

Maureen Anderman as Assistant Mickey (The Equalizer cast)
2005/2015 Bruce Glikas / Contributor/Getty; John Lamparski / Contributor/Getty

Born in October 26, 1946, in Detroit, Michigan, Maureen Anderman got her acting chops on several shows including Kojak (1976), St. Elsewhere (1982) and Spenser for Hire (1985). After The Equalizer series ended, she went on to play the role of Nina Shapiro in The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd (1987-1991). She also had parts on Law & Order (1990) and Homicide: Life on the Street (1993). She also appeared in the film Final (2001).

Most recently, she’s been acting on stage including the Broadway show The Year of Magical Thinking.

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William Zabka as Scott McCall

William Zabka as Scott McCall (The Equalizer cast)
1986/2023; Gerardo Mora / Contributor/Getty

Born October 20, 1965, in New York City, William Zabka got his start in commercials, promoting products like Kool-Aid, Pepsi, and milk. He’s best known for his role as Johnny Lawrence, the main villain in the movie The Karate Kid (1984). He had no martial arts experience prior to the filming of the movie, but he has since earned a black belt. After he appeared in The Equalizer cast, he was seen in several movies including Back to School (1986) and Hot Tub Time Machine (2010).

Most recently, he plays the role of Johnny Lawrence in the TV series Cobra Kai.

Related: The Cast of ‘The Outsiders’ Then and Now: See Where the Stars of the ’80s Classic Are Today

Click through for more nostalgic 1990s TV nostalgia,

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