Born in New York City, Vigoda went to Carnegie Hall's Theater School of Dramatic Arts and began his acting career in the 1950s.
Vigoda had several small roles on television and in New York stage productions before he was cast in The Godfather as Sal Tessio, whose death is ordered by Michael Corleone (Al Pacino). He's best known, however, for playing haggard Det. Phil Fish on Barney Miller. In 1977, Vigoda got his own spin-off series called Fish, which chronicled the character's home life with his wife and their foster children. The show ran for a season and a half, and Vigoda continued to make guest appearances on Barney Miller.
Vigoda's second wife, Beatrice Schy, died in 1992. He is survived by a daughter, three grandchildren, and a great-grandson.