Beloved TV star Jessica Walter, best known for her portrayal of biting Lucille Bluth on Arrested Development, has died. She was 80.
Jessica Walter Has Passed Away
Deadline reports that Walter died in her sleep on Wednesday, March 24 at her home in New York City.
Walter was born in Brooklyn, New York, on January 31, 1941, and studied at both New York’s High School of the Performing Arts and the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre. Her first credit was on the New York-based soap Love of Life. She played the part of Julie Murano.
Her breakout role came in the Clint Eastwood-directed film, Play Misty For Me, in which he also starred. Walter played an obsessed woman, Evelyn Draper, who tried to kill Eastwood’s character, Dave.
The actress worked constantly in guest-starring or series regular roles throughout her career. She won an Emmy for playing Amy Prentiss, a police detective based in San Francisco. The series was a spinoff of Ironside. Her other TV credits include Mission: Impossible, It Takes a Thief, The Name of the Game, and Wonder Woman.
Walter was considered for the role of Alexis on Dynasty, which, of course, went to Joan Collins. But Walter made her mark in the primetime soap world when she was cast as Ava on Bare Essence, the short-lived nighttime serial that starred Genie Francis (Laura, General Hospital) as Tyger.
She was also a series regular on Three’s A Crowd, the spinoff of Three’s Company. She played Claudia Bradford, the mother-in-law of John Ritter’s Jack Tripper.
In the 1990s, Walter recurred as Susan Miller on Coach opposite Craig T. Nelson. In 1996, she returned to soaps, playing the part of Eleanor Armitage, mother to Crystal Chappell’s Maggie on One Life to Live.
“I just heard of her passing,” Chappell tells Soap Hub in this exclusive statement. “She was a legendary actress, full of talent and fire. She played my Mom but we’d also get together at Louise Sorel’s (ex-Vivian, Days of Our Lives) holiday parties. She was a kind soul.
“Our paths also crossed on a primetime show,” recalls Chappell. “Her episode was shooting after mine. May she Rest In Peace.”
The beloved actress found a level of fame after she was cast as Lucille Bluth in the critically-acclaimed Arrested Development, which debuted in 2003 and ran until 2006. The series was revived in 2013 and again, in 2018. Walter was nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her role as Lucille in 2005.
“I’m nothing like Lucille,” she said of her role as the comedically distant Bluth family matriarch. “Nothing. My daughter will tell you. I’m really a very nice, boring person.”
Last month, Walter appeared on an episode of American Housewife. In 2020, she wrapped up a run on the animated FX series Archer. “The Archer family is heartbroken to lose Jessica Walter, our beloved colleague and friend,” said Adam Reed, executive producer and creator of Archer, said in a statement. “Jessica was a consummate professional, an actor’s actor, and the exact opposite of Malory Archer – warm caring, and kind, with an absolute cracking sense of humor — and it was both a privilege and a true honor to work with her over these many years. She will be greatly missed, but never forgotten.”
Walter was predeceased by her husband, actor Ron Leibman (Kaz) in 1983. He died in 2019. She is survived by a daughter, Brooke Bowman, SVP, Drama Programming at Fox Entertainment, and a grandson Micah Heymann.
“It is with a heavy heart that I confirm the passing of my beloved mom Jessica,” Bowman said in a statement. “A working actor for over six decades, her greatest pleasure was bringing joy to others through her storytelling both on screen and off. While her legacy will live on through her body of work, she will also be remembered by many for her wit, class and overall joie de vivre.”
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Guiding Eyes for the Blind. Entertainment Hub sends sincere condolences to Jessica Walter’s loved ones at this difficult time.