Jessica Walter obituary: Arrested Development and Archer actress dies aged 80

Jessica Walter, famed for her icy roles in Play Misty for Me, Arrested Development and Archer, has died at the age of 80.

The Emmy-winning actress passed away in her sleep at her home in New York. Her daughter Brooke Bowman issued a statement confirming the sad news:

“It is with a heavy heart that I confirm the passing of my beloved mom.

A working actor for over six decades, her greatest pleasure was bringing joy to others through her storytelling both on screen and off.”

Born in Brooklyn, Walter began her acting career in theatre before breaking into television with appearances in the likes of Naked City (1962-63), Ben Casey (1964), The Defenders (1964), For the People (1965), The Fugitive (1966), The F.B.I (1966-73) and Mission: Impossible (1970).

At the same time, she also cracked onto the big screen with credits in Lilith (1964), The Group (1966) and Bye Bye Braverman (1967). During that period, she received the first of two Golden Globe nominations for her role as Pat in the sports drama Grand Prix (1966).

Her most memorable film performance came in the psychological thriller Play Misty for Me (1971) in which she played Evelyn, a psychotic woman who terrorised Clint Eastwood’s radio DJ after a one-night stand. Unsurprisingly, she received her second Globe nomination for a turn that deserved to be in the same category as Glenn Close’s Alex Forrest and Kathy Bates’s Annie Wilkes.

More small-screen work followed in the 1970s with turns in Columbo (1974), Ironside (1974), Barnaby Jones (1974) and Hawaii Five-0 (1974). Success finally came her way when she won the Emmy for Best Actress in a Limited Series for her performance as female police chief Amy Prentiss in the crime drama Amy Prentiss (1974-75).

Walter continued to work excessively in a variety of series including The Streets of San Francisco (1973-76), Wonder Woman (1977), The Love Boat (1978-85), Bare Essence (1983), Three’s a Crowd (1984), Magnum, P.I. (1986) and an Emmy-nominated turn in Trapper John, M.D. (1979-85).

She also provided the voice of dinosaur matriarch Fran Sinclair in the prehistoric family series Dinosaurs (1991-94) and went on to pop up in other television projects including Murder, She Wrote (1985-94), Coach (1994), Oh Baby (1998-2000), 90210 (2008-09) and The Big Bang Theory (2011).

In her later years, Walter gained a cult following with her iconic role as ruthless matriarch Lucille Bluth in the hit sitcom Arrested Development which ran between 2003 and 2018.

Her last recognisable turn came in animation when she provided the voice of sarcastic spy agency leader Mallory Archer,  the mother of leading protagonist Sterling Archer in the popular FX series Archer (2009-present). It is understood that she had finished recording lines for the show’s upcoming 13th season that is due to air later this year.

Walter is survived by her daughter Brook and a grandson.

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