Jessica Walter, ‘Arrested Development’ and ‘Archer’ Star, Dies at 80
The entertainment world has lost another legend. Jessica Walter, whose career in show business stretched across 50 years, has died. In recent years, Walter was best known as Lucille, the irreformable matriarch of the Bluth family, on the acclaimed sitcom Arrested Development. According to Deadline, she “ passed away in her sleep at home in New York City on Wednesday, March 24th.”
Her death was confirmed by her daughter, Brooke Bowman, who released this statement:
It is with a heavy heart that I confirm the passing of my beloved mom Jessica. 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.
Born in 1941, Walter got her start in theater, and became a mainstay on Broadway in the 1960s. A career in television followed, and she made appearances throughout the ’60s and ’70s on shows like Flipper, Mission: Impossible, Columbo, and Hawaii Five-O. Her first breakthrough in film came in 1971’s Play Misty For Me, where she played a woman who becomes obsessed with a radio DJ played by Clint Eastwood. The movie was also Eastwood’s directorial debut. It became a hit, cementing Walter’s career in Hollywood.
Walter continued working steadily in television and film all through the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s, appearing on shows like Murder, She Wrote, Magnum P.I,, and Knots Landing, and in movies like The Flamingo Kid, Tapeheads, and PCU. In 1975, she won an Emmy as the star of Amy Prentiss, a series of TV movies spun off from another popular police drama of that time, Ironside.
Throughout the early ’90s she voiced the mom, Fran Sinclair, on the popular ABC sitcom Dinosaurs. Then, in 2003, she played a very different sort of sitcom mother on Arrested Development, and became part of one of the greatest television comedy ensembles in history. She earned another Emmy nomination for the show, and returned with the rest of the regular cast when Netflix revived Arrested Development in 2013 and then again in 2018.
After Arrested Development, she also provided the voice of Malory Archer on Archer, a job that led to even more voice work in recent years. Walter remained busy until the end, recently filming an episode of the ABC sitcom American Housewife. She leaves behind an incredible body of work. Lucille Bluth alone is a character who will be remembered for generations as the patron saint of bad TV moms. This is an enormous loss.
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