Actress/singer Nell Carter dies. The 54-year-old ''Gimme a Break'' star had suffered for years from diabetes and obesity

By Gary Susman
February 01, 2003 at 05:00 AM EST
Nell Carter: Fred Prouser/Reuters/NewsCom

Nell Carter, the Tony- and Emmy-winning actress best known for the ’80s sitcom ”Gimme a Break!”, died Thursday at 54, her publicist announced. The 4’11” actress, who had long suffered from diabetes and obesity, collapsed at her Beverly Hills home. ”Obviously she was overweight and with diabetes that is always a concern,” spokesman Roger Lane told Reuters. ”It can put a strain on the heart. We are waiting to hear the exact cause.”

Carter first gained fame on Broadway, where she won a Tony in 1978 for the Fats Waller musical revue ”Ain’t Misbehavin’.” She later won an Emmy for the TV production of the show. Her greatest fame came from her starring role as the housekeeper for a small-town police chief’s family on ”Gimme a Break!”, which ran from 1981 to 1987. She was nominated for two more Emmys for the show and participated in its milestone live episode in 1985, the first for a primetime sitcom in nearly 30 years. In the 1990s, she played a school principal on TV’s ”Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper” and returned to Broadway as Miss Hannigan in a revival of ”Annie.”