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

Kalesnikoff Lumber will be providing materials for a 21-storey apartment building in Vancouver. Rendering: Henriquez Partners Architects
Kalesnikoff supplying mass timber for several major projects

The West Kootenay lumber company will be making the products at South Slocan facility

School District 8 superintendent Christine Perkins says she’s leaving at the end of the school year. Photo: Tyler Harper
School District 8 superintendent Christine Perkins resigns

Perkins is leaving to take over another district

The Kootenay Lake ferry terminals will receive a number of upgrades this year. File photo
Kootenay Lake ferry terminals to receive upgrades

The transportation ministry announced the $5.5-million project Thursday

Selkirk College has received provincial funding to assist students. File photo
Selkirk College receives funding to assist students

Provincial funding is available to West Kootenay students

Burnaby MLA Raj Chouhan presides as Speaker of the B.C. legislature, which opened it spring session April 12 with a speech from the throne. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. NDP promises more health care spending, business support in 2021 budget

John Horgan government to ‘carefully return to balanced budgets’

—Image: contributed
Indoor wine tastings still allowed in B.C., not considered a ‘social gathering’

“Tasting is really just part of the retail experience. The analogy I use is you wouldn’t buy a pair of pants without trying them on.”

A sign on a shop window indicates the store is closed in Ottawa, Monday March 23, 2020. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is raising its estimate for the number of businesses that are considering the possibility of closing permanently. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Small business struggling amid COVID-19 pandemic looks for aid in Liberals’ budget

President Dan Kelly said it is crucial to maintain programs to help businesses to the other side of the pandemic

The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians says that includes attempts to steal Canadian research on COVID-19 and vaccines, and sow misinformation. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
Intelligence committee warns China, Russia targeting Canadian COVID-19 research

Committee also found that the terrorist threat to Canada has shifted since its last such assessment

Part of the massive mess left behind in a Spallumcheen rental home owned by Wes Burden, whose tenants bolted from the property in the middle of the night. Burden is now facing a hefty cleaning and repair bill as a result. (Photo submitted)
Tenants disappear in the night leaving Okanagan home trashed with junk, feces

Spallumcheen rental rooms filled with junk, human and animal feces; landlord scared to rent again

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Parliament Hill is viewed below a Canada flag in Gatineau, Quebec, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020. A new poll suggests most Canadians are feeling more grateful for what they have in 2020 as a result of COVID-19 pandemic.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions increased slightly in 2019: report

2019 report shows Canada emitted about one million tonnes more of these gases than the previous year

Dr. E. Kwok administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a recipient at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to register people ages 40+ for COVID-19 vaccines in April

Appointments are currently being booked for people ages 66 and up

Interior Health improves access to mental health supports amid COVID-19 pandemic. (Stock)
Interior Health connects people to mental health resources amid COVID

310-MHSU line receives positive feedback in early months of rollout

Most Read