The son of actress Winnie Collins, Frederick Coffin attended Western Reserve Academy in Ohio, where he was a standout athlete. After planning to play football at the University of Michigan he eventually switched to acting and earned a Master's in Theatre. He performed Shakespeare on stage and then appeared in a TV production of "Much Ado About Nothing" in 1973 and "King Lear" a year later. In the late '70s he appeared in several episodes of the crime drama "Kojak" and in 1980 had a briefly recurring role on the daytime drama "Ryan's Hope". That same year he had one of his first significant film roles in the low-budget thriller "Mother's Day". He continued making frequent one-shot TV appearances in the '80s on "Remington Steele", "Hill Street Blues", and "The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd", among others. He had a longer recurring roles on the nighttime soap "Dallas" and played Big Zwey in the miniseries "Lonesome Dove". His feature film roles began growing in stature as well, with a supporting role in the action adventure film "Shoot to Kill" in 1988 and a major part in the Steven Seagal cop drama "Hard to Kill", playing Lt. O'Malley. He could also be seen on several episodes of the mystery series "Murder, She Wrote" and in the 1992 comedy "Wayne's World".