Jessica Walter has died. The Emmy-winning actress, whose career spanned five decades, passed away in her sleep at home in New York City on Wednesday, March 24, Deadline reports. She was 80.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Walter had an early interest in acting, attending New York City’s High School of Performing Arts. She began her career in theater, winning a Clarence Derwent Award in 1963 for Outstanding Debut Broadway Performance in Photo Finish. Her first role onscreen was in NBC’s Flipper in 1964, appearing in the episode “300 Feet Below.” That same year, Walter made her feature film debut in Lilith. “It was exciting, because there was Warren Beatty, who was the star,” Walter told The A.V. Club in 2012. “He had just been in Splendor In The Grass. He was a huge, big star and [we had] a wonderful director named Robert Rossen who did All The King’s Men, The Hustler… Jean Seberg was in the movie, and she was quite the top of the game at the time. She had just been in Saint Joan for Otto Preminger. Actually, it was my first movie, and it was Gene Hackman’s first movie.”
Walter got her first Emmy win early in her career for 1975's Amy Prentiss. She was nominated again in 1977 and 1980 her work on Streets of San Francisco and Trapper John M.D., respectively, and received her final Emmy nomination 25 years later for playing the outlandish Lucille Bluth on Arrested Development. Her portrayal as Lucille Bluth became a fan-favorite, recurrently referenced in memes and pop culture nearly two decades later.
The actress most recently guested on an episode of ABC’s American Housewife earlier this year as the title character’s grandmother, but her last series regular work was on the FXX animated series Archer, a show she’s admitted often went over her head. “I have no idea [what] half the things mean,” Walter told The A.V. Club in that 2012 interview of lines written for her character, Malory Archer. “I always have to ask, ‘What does this mean?’ because I’m not trendy.... Archer is probably the raciest thing I’ve ever done. Arrested Development wasn’t that racy. Anyone would know the references in that.” The actress also lent her instantly recognizable voice to other voice acting roles, including Dinosaurs, Wildfire, The Land Before Time, and Harley Quinn.
In lieu of flowers, Walter’s family asks that donations be made to Guide Dogs for the Blind.