Jessica Walter, who played a scheming matriarch in television series, has died. She was 80. Walter’s death was confirmed Thursday, March 25, 2021, by her daughter, Brooke Bowman. The actor’s best-known film roles included playing the stalker in Clint Eastwood’s 1971 thriller, “Play Misty for Me.” (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)

Jessica Walter, who played a scheming matriarch in television series, has died. She was 80. Walter’s death was confirmed Thursday, March 25, 2021, by her daughter, Brooke Bowman. The actor’s best-known film roles included playing the stalker in Clint Eastwood’s 1971 thriller, “Play Misty for Me.” (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)

‘Arrested Development’ actor Jessica Walter dies at 80

Walter was the Brooklyn-born, Queens-raised daughter of a Soviet immigrant mother

Jessica Walter, whose roles as a scheming matriarch in TV’s “Arrested Development” and a stalker in “Play Misty for Me” were in line with a career that drew on her astringent screen presence more than her good looks, has died. She was 80.

Walter’s death was confirmed Thursday by her daughter, Brooke Bowman, an entertainment industry executive. A cause of death and other details were not immediately provided.

“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,” Bowman said in a statement.

Walter will also be well-remembered for “her wit, class and overall joie de vivre,” or life of love, her daughter added.

“She was a force, and her talent and timing were unmatched,” Tony Hale, her “Arrested Development” co-star said on Twitter.

“I loved you Jessica Walter. I grew up watching you AND admiring you. Always consistently excellent,” Viola Davis tweeted.

Although Walter’s photogenic appearance qualified her for standard leading lady roles, she claimed no regrets about being viewed as a character actor.

She loved playing difficult women because “those are the fun roles. They’re juicy, much better than playing the vanilla ingenues, you know — Miss Vanilla Ice Cream,” Walter said in an AV Club website interview.

Her most memorable film part was in Clint Eastwood’s 1971 thriller “Play Misty For Me” — her first significant lead — in which she plays Evelyn Draper, the woman who becomes obsessed with Eastwood’s disc jockey character. Walter was widely praised for her unnerving performance.

A Roger Ebert review compared her to “something like flypaper the more you struggle against her personality, the more tightly you’re held.”

Walter’s comedic flair as the deeply flawed mom of a dysfunctional family in “Arrested Development” won her a new generation of fans. She addressed the second-act success in candid style.

“It exposed me to a demographic of people who thought I was sick or dead,” Walter said in a 2013 interview with The Associated Press.

“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 on `Arrested Development,”’ the series’ producer, 20th Television, said in a statement.

Younger viewers also discovered her gifts in “Archer,” in which she played a petty, martini-swilling spymaster whose deeply dysfunctional relationship with her title character son was the subject of most of the show’s early plots when it launched in 2009.

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.

She won a role in John Frankenheimer’s racing epic “Grand Prix,” from 1966, as the glamorous but discontented wife of a Formula One racer who falls for another driver.

That same year she appeared in Sidney Lumet’s “The Group,” a female-led ensemble about the graduates of a prestigious university (Walter played the catty Libby), and acted for Lumet again in 1968’s “Bye Bye Braverman.”

Walter was the Brooklyn-born, Queens-raised daughter of a Soviet immigrant mother who was a teacher and a father who played bass in the NBC Symphony Orchestra.

She graduated from New York’s High School of the Performing Arts and by her early 20s was an established actress who would work steadily for the rest of her life. She made her Broadway debut in 1963’s “Photo Finish” and starred in the TV series “Love of Life” from 1962 to 1965.

She made numerous appearances on popular ’60s shows including “Naked City,” “Route 66,” “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour,” “The Fugitive” and “Flipper.”

Walter earned an Emmy for best actress in a limited series in 1975 for “Amy Prentiss,” in which she played the title character, the first woman to become chief of detectives in the San Francisco Police Department. The show, a spin-off of “Ironside,” featured Helen Hunt as Walter’s teenage daughter.

Walter was married to Ross Bowman from 1966 to 1978, with whom she had daughter Brooke. Walter was married to actor Ron Leibman from 1983 until his death in 2019.

Walter and Leibman, who won a Tony Award for playing Roy Cohn in 1993’s “Angels in America,” were often co-stars, including a Broadway run in 1988 of Neil Simon’s “Rumours,” and on “Archer,” where Leibman also voiced a recurring role as her husband.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

District of houston
Council dips into surplus for highway project

Costs have risen to place utility lines underground

“Skeena,” by John Hudson and Paul Hanslow is one of five fonts in the running to become the default for Microsoft systems and Office programs. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Font named after Skeena River could become the next Microsoft default

One of the five new fonts will replace Calibri, which has been Microsoft’s default since 2007

Accessibility improvements and more classrooms at the Houston Christian School should be completed by the new school year. (Houston Today photo)
Accessibility improvements coming to Houston Christian School

Construction package includes two classrooms

The soft opening of the nature centre at the Buck Creek CANFOR hatchery took place mid-April. (Angelique Houlihan photo/Houston Today)
Houston hatchery and nature centre’s upcoming events

The conservation group to host summer students this year

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman’s body found in Kootenay National Park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

People pass the red hearts on the COVID-19 Memorial Wall mourning those who have died, opposite the Houses of Parliament on the Embankment in London, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. On May 3, the British government announced that only one person had died of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kirsty Wigglesworth
For a view of a COVID-19 future, Canadians should look across the pond

Britain, like Canada, is one of the only countries in the world to delay second doses for several months

Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) celebrates his 100th point this season with Leon Draisaitl (29) against the Vancouver Canucks during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 8, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton superstar McDavid hits 100-point mark as Oilers edge Canucks 4-3

NHL scoring leader needs just 53 games to reach century mark

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

A map showing where the most number of cases were recorded from April 23 to 29. This map, revealing a breakdown of infections by neighborhood, was pulled from a data package leaked to the Vancouver Sun last week (and independently verified).
36 Abbotsford schools flagged for COVID-19 exposures in the last 2 weeks, shattering record

Clearbrook Elementary recorded an ‘exposure’ on all 11 school days

Canada’s chief public health officer is reminding Canadians even those who are fully vaccinated are not immune from transmitting the COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns full vaccination does not equal full protection from COVID-19

Post-inoculation, Theresa Tam says the risk of asymptomatic infection and transmission is far lower but not obsolete

Most Read