Vale: Jessica Walter

Veteran US actress, best known for Arrested Development, Archer and Play Misty for Me, has died.

Veteran US actress Jessica Walter, best known for Arrested Development, Archer and Play Misty for Me, has died aged 80.

She died on Wednesday at her home in New York City.

“It is with a heavy heart that I confirm the passing of my beloved mom Jessica,” Walters’ daughter, Brooke 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.”

Walter played icy matriarch Lucille Bluth on Arrested Development, initially from 2003 – 2006 before reprisals through to 2019.

Arrested Development‘s studio, 20th Television, said, “Jessica Walter’s spectacular turn as the devilish Lucille Bluth is one of the great comedic performances of television history, and we loved working with her as much as audiences loved her. Our hearts go out to her family and friends, particularly her daughter, and our former colleague, Brooke. We know that heaven just got a whole lot funnier with Jessica now in residence.”

In 2018, while promoting a revival season, Walter revealed that her embattled co-star, Jeffrey Tambor, had verbally harassed her. “He never crossed the line on our show, with any, you know, sexual whatever. Verbally, yes, he harassed me, but he did apologize,” she told the New York Times through tears, with Tambor sitting nearby. “In like almost 60 years of working, I’ve never had anybody yell at me like that on a set.”

Walter was also providing the voice of Malory Archer on the long-running Archer, which was heading into its 12th season.

She made her Broadway debut in 1963’s Photo Finish and starred in the TV series Love of Life from 1962 to 1965.

Walter’s feature debut was in the 1964 film Lilith, with Warren Beatty, Jean Seberg and Gene Hackman, who was also on his first film. In Play Misty for Me she was nominated for a Golden Globe as stalker Evelyn Draper.

Other film credits included Grand Prix, Victory at Entebbe, The Group, Going Ape!, Spring Fever, The Flamingo Kid, Unaccompanied Minors, Dummy, Bending the Rules and The Mimic.

There were numerous TV credits including Naked City, East Side/West Side, Ben Casey, Route 66, The Doctors and the Nurses, The Rogues, The Defenders, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Flipper, The Fugitive, Columbo, Trapper John M.D., Amy Prentiss, Law & Order: SVU, and Rules of Engagement.

When asked how she tapped into Lucille, Walter cited the character’s humanity—not a quality most would associate with the Bluth family matriarch. “We all have the feelings that Lucille has, somewhere,” she said. “Everybody wants to kill somebody at one time or another. Or keep up a lifestyle that they really shouldn’t. I tried to use those things inside myself to keep it close to the vest and not let it become a caricature.”

Source: ABC, TV Line, Vanity Fair.

4 Responses

  1. What a loss and what a fantastic actress. Now there surely can be no more Arrested Development revivals , too big a hole to fill without the acerbic but somehow loveable Lucille Bluth.

  2. I was stunned and have been so saddened all day upon hearing of her passing.
    She was a remarkable performer in a remarkable show on Arrested Development. She was endlessly quotable, firing off her lines in iconic fashion. Lucille Bluth is truly one of the greatest comedic characters of our time and it was all thanks to Jessica’s portrayal of her.

    Lindsay: I have the afternoon free
    Lucille: Really? Did “nothing” cancel?

    Lucille: I mean it’s one banana Michael. What could it cost? Ten dollars?

    Lucille: Get me a Vodka rocks
    Michael: Mom, it’s breakfast
    Lucille: …And a piece of toast

    Lucille: I don’t understand the question, and I won’t respond to it.

    Endlessly quotable

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