Actress Jessica Walter died this week at age 80, according to her family.  Walter’s representative said she passed away in New York City in her sleep.

“It is with a heavy heart that I confirm the passing of my beloved mom, Jessica,” said Walter’s daughter, Brooke Bowman, 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 was born in Brooklyn on Jan 31, 1941 to professional violinist, David Warshawsky, and Esther Groisser. Both her parents immigrated to New York City from Russia. Walter’s brother, Richard, was a screenplay writer and worked as a professor at UCLA.

Walter studied acting at Manhattan’s High School of Performing Arts and the Neighborhood Playhouse. She got her start in show business on Broadway, winning the Clarence Derwent Award in 1963 for her work in the play Photo Finish. She returned to the New York stage for multiple productions including 1964’s A Severed Head, 1988’s Rumors and 2011’s Anything Goes.

Her big break on the big screen was in the 1971 film Play Misty For Me with Clint Eastwood and Donna Mills. She was nominated for a Golden Globe for best actress in a motion picture for her work in the film.

She won an Emmy in 1975 for playing a police detective on Amy Prentiss and was nominated for Emmys in 1977 and 1980 for her work on The Streets of San Francisco and Trapper John, M.D. respectively.

Walter is best known for her work as Lucille Bluth on the show Arrested Development. Walter said she loved playing manipulative, unsympathetic characters.

“I love watching movies with people that I hate. I love those old movies with Bette Davis where she’s the evil one,” she told IndieWire in 2013. “Because we all have that in us, and we can’t really act on it as the audience, but we can watch the actor act on it and it sort of releases those feelings in us.”

Walter was nominated for an Emmy in 2005 for her portrayal on Bluth, the once-wealthy, razor-sharp matriarch of the family on the show.

Walter was also well known for her work as Malory Archer on the TV show Archer, starting in 2009. Her character was similar to Bluth, as a ruthless and critical head of the family.

Walter’s other film credits include Number One (1969), Goldengirl (1979), The Flamingo Kid (1984), Ghost in the Machine (1993) and Slums of Beverly Hills (1998). Her other television credits include Bare EssenceThree’s a CrowdAaron’s WayDinosaursCoach90210Retired at 35  and Jennifer Falls. 

Walter was married to Ross Bowman, a theatrical manager on Advise and Consent, from 1966 to 1978. Her husband of 36 years, Tony-winning actor Ron Leibman, died in December 2019 at age 82.

The family asks that any donations be made to Guiding Eyes for the Blind.

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