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

The Latoria South section of the Royal Bay development in Colwood could include a new long-term care facility. (Black Press Media file photo)
Colwood’s Royal Bay could be home to new long-term care facilities

Capital Regional Hospital District board approves $8M land purchase for purpose

Demonstrators at the legislature on April 14 called on the province to decriminalize drug possession and provide widespread access to regulated safe supply across B.C. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)
Rally calls for decriminalization, safe supply as overdose emergency turns 5

From 2016 to the end of February, 7,072 British Columbians died due to overdose

(Black Press Media file photo)
Youth gets combative with police at Victoria hospital

VicPD officer injured, youth kept in care under Mental Health Act

A man with a history of sexual offences was arrested after he followed and aggressively tried to talk to two young woman on the weekend. Black Press File Photo
Man convicted of sexual offences arrested after teens followed in Victoria

Women hid in a Quadra Village convenience store as man aggressively tried to get in

A few dozen students and parents gathered outside Lansdowne Middle School April 14 to protest proposed budget cuts to SD61 music programs. From left to right: Lyra Gaudin, Cleo Bateman, Abby Farish, Brigitte Peters, Enid Gaudin, Des Farish. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
SD61’s proposed $7 million cuts threaten equity and inclusion, say parents, teachers

Music classes, inclusion services, reading programs on the line

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: Do you have a plan in place in the event of a tsunami?

Tsunamis have claimed the lives of more than 250,000 people between 1998… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of April 13

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Government of Canada)
Liberal MP caught stark naked during House of Commons video conference

William Amos, in Quebec, appeared on the screens of his fellow members of Parliament completely naked

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Feb. 1, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps to 1,168 Wednesday, nearly 400 in hospital

Now 120 coronavirus patients in intensive care, six more deaths

Moss covered branches are seen in the Avatar Old Growth Forest near Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island, B.C. Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. blockades aimed at protecting old-growth forests reveal First Nation split

Two Pacheedaht chiefs say they’re ‘concerned about the increasing polarization over forestry activities’ in the territory

One of the grand prizes for this year's Hometown Heroes Lottery includes a seaside home at SookePoint, $1.5 million, and an Audi Quattro. (Photo courtesy of Hometown Heroes)
Hometown Heroes Lottery features seaside home in Sooke

A stunning seaside home in Sooke could be yours for the price… Continue reading

City workers from Duncan were busy recently putting up street signs in both Hul’q’umi’num’ and English. (Submitted photo)
Hul’q’umi’num street signs installed in downtown Duncan

Partnership with Cowichan Tribes sees English street names twinned with Indigenous language

Homicide investigators who asked not to be identified put up signs Wednesday, April 14, along the Nanaimo Parkway in the area where a body was found March 31. RCMP are asking for witnesses or dash cam footage as the suspicious death has now been ruled a homicide. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Suspicious death along the highway in Nanaimo now being investigated as a homicide

RCMP identify victim as Randell Charles Thomas, repeat call for any information related to the case

Most Read