Jessica Walter, Emmy winner and Arrested Development star, dies at 80
Walter's career spanned five decades, and while she was best known to younger audiences for her television work on shows Arrested Development and Archer, she made an early mark in the 60s and 70s in films such as Play Misty for Me, The Group, and Grand Prix.
Walter made iconic turns on television, appearing as a series regular on the first half of season 1 of 90210, voicing matriarch Fran Sinclair on Disney Channel's Dinosaurs, and earning an Emmy for starring as the title character on Amy Prentiss. She also earned Emmy nominations for her work on Trapper John M.D., and Streets of San Francisco.
For many, Walter will be best remembered as the caustic, comically out-of-touch Lucille Bluth on Fox's Arrested Development, who famously didn't know the price of a banana or how to wink.
"It was just very, very special," Walter previously told EW of the role. "Of all my memories of things I've done in my career, that was definitely a highlight. I'll never forget it."
Over five seasons (with a jump from Fox to Netflix and several years in between seasons 3 and 4), she earned an Emmy nomination and two SAG nominations.
Walter also had a dedicated record of service to her fellow actors, serving as the second National Vice President of the Screen Actors Guild and was an elected member of the SAG Board of Directors for over a decade.
Jessica Walter was born in Brooklyn on Jan. 31, 1941 and grew up in Astoria, Queens. She studied acting from a young age, attending Manhattan's High School of Performing Arts and the famous Neighborhood Playhouse where she studied alongside the likes of James Caan and under Sydney Pollack.
Her early career was defined by stage work, winning the Clarence Derwent Award in 1963 for Outstanding Debut Broadway Performance in Photo Finish. She returned to Broadway throughout her career, most notably in 1964's A Severed Head, 1988's Rumors, and 2011's Anything Goes.
Walter also worked steadily on television throughout her early career, working on the soap Love of Life from 1962 to 1965 and appearing on a broad range of series, including Naked City, Diagnosis: Unknown, Route 66, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, the pilot of Flipper, and more.
She made her feature film debut alongside Gene Hackman in 1960's Lilith, appearing opposite the likes of Warren Beatty and Jean Seberg.
In 1966, she earned a Golden Globe newcomer nomination for her role in Grand Prix as the unhappy wife of an American race car driver, who has an affair with James Garner's Pete Aron. She earned another Globe nod for her work as an obsessive fan of a disc jockey in Clint Eastwood's directorial debut, 1971's Play Misty For Me.
Walter worked regularly in film in the era, appearing in titles such as Bye Bye Braverman, Number One, The Flamingo Kid, and PCU.
But it was television where she made her most substantial mark. Beyond her Emmy-nominated work on Trapper John M.D. and Streets of San Francisco and more recent memorable turns on Arrested Development and Archer, Walter appeared on countless shows, including The Big Bang Theory, Just Shoot Me!, Oh Baby, Saving Grace, Jennifer Falls, Good Girls, American House, NCIS, Coach, Murder She Wrote, Law and Order, Wild Fire, The Love Boat, Bare Essence, and dozens more.
Walter was married from 1966 to 1978 to Ross Bowman, and they had one daughter Brooke Bowman, who survives her. She was preceded in death by her husband of 36 years, Tony-winning actor Ron Liebman, who died in December 2019 at the age of 82.