Richard Schiff (born May 27, 1955 in Bethesda, Maryland) is an American actor, best known for playing Toby Ziegler on the NBC television drama The West Wing, a role for which he has won an Emmy Award. Schiff also made his directorial debut with The West Wing, directing an episode entitled "Talking Points."
Richard Schiff was the middle of three sons born to a real estate lawyer and a cable TV and publishing executive. His parents divorced when he was twelve. He dropped out of high school, but obtained an equivalency diploma. He studied briefly at CCNY in 1973, but had no interest. After not bothering to show up for finals, he headed to Colorado where he cut firewood and lived a hippie life. He returned to New York in 1975 and started studying acting at CCNY and was eventually accepted into their theater program. He initially disliked acting and studied to be a director. He directed several off-Broadway plays, including "Antigone" with a then just-graduated Angela Bassett in 1983. He met present wife, Sheila Kelley, during auditions for this play. The two married many years later - in 1996.
In the mid-1980s, Schiff says he conquered his fears and decided to take a stab at acting. He got several TV roles, but he was seen by Steven Spielberg in an episode of the TV drama High Incident. Spielberg then cast him in The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) and his career has been on an upward climb ever since that has lead to his co-starring role in The West Wing.
Schiff was also in the 1998 movie blockbuster Deep Impact, where he played Don Beiderman.
In 2004, Schiff appeared in Ray as famed musician Ray Charles's producer, Jerry Wexler.
After starring on The West Wing since 1999, Schiff chose to leave the series in its seventh season (2005-2006), and was contracted to appear in half of the season's episodes. However, with NBC choosing to end the series, Schiff continued to appear until the end of the show's run in May 2006.
Schiff most recently had a memorable cameo in the Season Finale of Entourage where he played himself. In the scene, Schiff is at lunch with his agent Ari Gold, and declares his desire to act in action movies.
In early 2006, Schiff returned to his stage roots, starring in the premiere run of Underneath the Lintel, a one-act, single-character play by Glen Berger, at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, New Jersey.