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

FILE – Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have agreed to sign a memorandum on rights and title with B.C. and Ottawa, but elected chiefs are demanding it be called off over lack of consultation. (Thom Barker photo)
Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, Lake Babine Nation get provincial funding for land, title rights

Government says it’s a new, flexible model for future agreements between Canada, B.C. and First Nations.

CNC’s Applied Research and Innovation had partnered with the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Cariboo Agricultural Research Alliance and Mackin Creek Farm after receiving funding from the Canadian Agricultural Partnership to research a number of solutions potentially extending northern growing seasons. (Photo submitted)
Ways to extend growing season in B.C.’s north explored by College of New Caledonia in Quesnel

Low-cost supplemental LED lighting appears to benefit plant growth

The property on which a residential school (pictured) that was torn down years ago in Lower Post is to be the location of a cultural centre. (Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre photo)
Lower Post residential school building to be demolished, replaced with cultural centre

Project to be funded by federal and provincial governments, Daylu Dena Council

Photo collage of loved ones lost to substance use and overdose. (Photo courtesy Moms Stop The Harm)
B.C. overdose deaths still rising 5 years after public health emergency declared

Moms Stop the Harm calls on B.C. to provide safe supply in response to deadly illicit drug use

Binche residents Doug Connors (left) with Ross Duncan and Paul Lewis were thrilled after a mission to rescue a moose stranded on Stuart Lake was successful Friday, April 2. (Photo submitted)
Daring moose rescue on Stuart Lake garners national attention

“I’m just saving an animal,” said Ross Duncan with Paul Lewis and Doug Connors

Rainbow trouts thrashing with life as they’re about to be transferred to the largest lake of their lives, even though it’s pretty small. These rainbows have a blue tinge because they matched the blue of their hatchery pen, but soon they’ll take on the green-browns of their new home at Lookout Lake. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
VIDEO: B.C. lake stocked with hatchery trout to delight of a seniors fishing club

The Cherish Trout Scouts made plans to come back fishing soon

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

There’s “no way” the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, says Chad Norman Day, president of its central government

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

Stz’uminus Elder George Harris, Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, and Stz’uminus Chief Roxanne Harris opened the ceremony. (Cole Schisler photo)
Symbolic red dresses rehung along B.C. highway after vandals tore them down

Leaders from Stz’uminus First Nation and the Town of Ladysmith hung new dresses on Sat. April 17

A Western toadlet crosses the centre line of Elk View Road in Chilliwack on Aug. 26, 2010. A tunnel underneath the road has since been installed to help them migrate cross the road. Saturday, April 24 is Save the Frogs Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress File)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 18 to 24

Save the Frogs Day, Love Your Thighs Day and Scream Day are all coming up this week

Local carpenter Tyler Bohn embarked on a quest to create the East Sooke Treehouse, after seeing people build similar structures on a Discovery Channel show. (East Sooke Treehouse Facebook photo)
PHOTOS: B.C. carpenter builds fort inspired by TV’s ‘Treehouse Masters’

The whimsical structure features a wooden walking path, a loft, kitchen – and is now listed on Airbnb

The Attorney General’s Ministry says certain disputes may now be resolved through either a tribunal or the court system, pending its appeal of a B.C. Supreme Court decision that reduced the tribunal’s jurisdiction. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Court of Appeal grants partial stay in ruling on B.C. auto injuries

B.C. trial lawyers challenged legislation brought in to cap minor injury awards and move smaller court disputes to the Civil Resolution Tribunal

Most Read