Reni Santoni was born on April 21st 1939 in New York City. Growing up he briefly played professional baseball and originally planned on being a sports journalist but then began his career in off-Broadway theatre playing oddball/strange characters before becoming a comedy writer. He moved in front of the camera in the early 1960s with a role in Strangers in the City where he was billed as Reni Sands.
It would be another two years before Santoni would get a significant role, as Felipe Valdes in the television show East Side/West Side; this would be followed up with an uncredited appearance as “Junkie Selling Radio” in The Pawnbroker. This was followed up with roles in The Trials of O’Brien, Look Up and Live, and as Nick Weller in the television series Hawk.
In the years that followed Santoni found himself all over the big and small screen with roles in Enter Laughing, A Great Big Thing, The Battle for Anzio, Guns of the Magnificent Seven, and Love, American Style.
As the 1970’s rolled in Santoni became even busier with roles in The Student Nurses, The Odd Couple, The Psychiatrist, and Bearcats! In 1971 Santoni was cast as Inspector “Chico” González in Dirty Harry opposite Clint Eastwood as Harry Callahan. Gonzalez was Callahan’s partner – a newcomer who graduated from San Jose state. He has a wife. Harry does not treat him well at first, but they ended up getting along. Gonzalez was wounded when Scorpio shot him with a machine gun. While recovering, Gonzalez decides to quit the police force and become a teacher. In Magnum Force, he is mentioned by Harry and is said to have become a teacher.
Following Dirty Harry, Santoni appeared in The F.B.I., Indict and Convict, Owen Marshall – Counselor at Law, Barnaby Jones, Panic on the 5:22, The Rookies, Jigsaw John, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, Lou Grant, Hawaii Five-O, They Went That-A-Way & That-A-Way, The Rockford Files, and Charlie’s Angels.
As the 80’s arrived Santoni would again achieve success on the big and small screen with roles in CHiPS, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, Bad Boys, and Lottery!
In 1983 Santoni was cast as Lt. Nick Rivera in Manimal; this was followed up with Scarecrow and Mrs. King, Brewster’s Millions, Radioactive Dreams, 227, and Hardcastle and McCormick.
In 1986 Santoni starred as Detective Tony Gonzales opposite Sylvester Stallone in Cobra, as well as Hill Street Blues, Sanchez of Bel Air, Moonlighting, Miami Vice, Rain man, Murphy’s Law, Midnight Caller, Quantum Leap, Dream On, The New WKRP in Cincinnati, Groundhog Day, The Brady Bunch Movie, Murder She Wrote, Renegade, Walker Texas Ranger, Private Parts, NYPD Blue, Dangerous Minds, Murder One, Murder One: Diary of a Serial Killer and Seinfeld.
As the new Millennium arrived so did more work, so appearances for Santoni soon racked up in The Tony Danza Show, Jessie,Love Boat: The Next Wave, V.I.P., 28 Days, Judging Amy, Dr. Dolittle, Dr. Dolittle 2, Kingpin, Gang Warz, Grey’s Anatomy, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, and Four Kings.
Santioni’s last role to date was as Judge Maurice Vincent in “Voir Dire” a 2012 episode Franklin & Bash.