Jessica Walter, star of TV shows and films from “Arrested Development” to “Play Misty for Me,” died Wednesday in New York City, according to reports in Deadline and The Hollywood Reporter. She was 80.
“It is with a heavy heart that I confirm the passing of my beloved mom Jessica,” said her daughter Brooke Bowman in a statement to THR. “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 had a long, prolific career in Hollywood, most recently in comedies “Arrested Development,” which aired on Fox and later, Netflix, where she earned legions of fans as snarky, snobby matriarch Lucille Bluth. “As far as I’m concerned, we can never push things enough,” Walter told USA TODAY in 2005. “We try to do it all with class and elegance.”
She voiced another conniving mother, Mallory Archer, to the title superhero character in FXX’s animated adult comedy “Archer.”
Her occasional “Arrested” co-star Henry Winkler reacted to her death on Twitter, writing “OH NO …We worked together for years on ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT ..It was an honor to watch her comedy explode from the very first row.”
Walter started her career in 1960s appearing in TV guest roles in series such as “Flipper” and “Ben Casey.” But her big breakout role was in 1971 film “Misty,” as the obsessive fan of Clint Eastwood’s radio DJ, for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe. Walter has worked steadily for more than 50 years in TV, film and on Broadway.
She has guest starred on countless series, from “The Love Boat” to “NCIS” to “Murder She Wrote.” Walter won an Emmy in 1975 as lead actress in a special program for her role as San Francisco’s first female chief of detectives in NBC’s miniseries, “Amy Prentiss.” She was nominated three more times, for ABC’s “The Streets of San Francisco” in 1977; CBS’ “Trapper John, M.D.” in 1980; and for “Arrested” in 2005. She most recently appeared in February, on a Season 5 episode of ABC sitcom “American Housewife.”
In 2018 Walter made headlines when she revealed in an emotional interview that her “Arrested” co-star Jeffrey Tambor verbally harassed her on the set of the comedy.
“I have to let go of being angry at him,” she said during a New York Times group interview with her castmates. “He never crossed the line on our show, with any, you know, sexual whatever. Verbally, yes, he harassed me, but he did apologize.” She added that in “almost 60 years of working, I’ve never had anybody yell at me like that on a set, and it’s hard to deal with, but I’m over it now. I just let it go right here.”
Walter’s husband of 36 years, actor Ron Leibman, died in December 2019 at 82. Her daughter, Bowman, from her first marriage, is an executive at Fox Entertainment.
This story is developing.
More:‘Arrested Development’: Walter says Tambor verbally harassed her; Bateman offers apology
Contributing: Gary Levin