Jessica Walter, ‘Arrested Development’ and ‘Archer’ Star, Dies at 80

Fan-favorite actress had a five-decade career

Last Updated: March 25, 2021 @ 4:26 PM

Jessica Walter, a fan-favorite actress who is best known for her iconic roles on the TV series “Arrested Development” and “Archer,” has died. She was 80.

Walter passed away Wednesday at her home in New York. Walter’s publicist confirmed her passing to TheWrap.

Brooke Bowman, Walter’s daughter who is a senior vice president of drama programming at Fox Entertainment, also released a statement: “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. While her legacy will live on through her body of work, she will also be remembered by many for her wit, class and overall joie de vivre.”

Walter is best known for her Emmy-nominated turn as Bluth family matriarch Lucille Bluth on “Arrested Development.” She played the role on the show’s initial three-season run on Fox from 2003-2006, and then on the show’s two-season revival on Netflix. Walter starred on the series alongside Jason Bateman, Portia de Rossi, Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Alia Shawkat, Tony Hale, David Cross and Jeffrey Tambor.

“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,” 20th Television, the studio that produced “Arrested Development,” said in a statement to TheWrap on Thursday. “Our hearts go out to her family and friends, particularly her daughter, and our former colleague, Brooke. We know that heaven just got a whole lot funnier with Jessica now in residence.”

Walter is also fondly remembered for her voice part on FX’s long-running animated comedy “Archer,” where she played Malory Archer, the mother of H. Jon Benjamin’s Sterling Archer.

“We are utterly heartbroken to learn of the passing of Jessica Walter,” FX said in a statement. “She was a comedic genius and a brilliant actor who personified wit, grace and elegance. Jessica’s ‘Malory Archer’ served as the bedrock character for the series and we were always honored to have her as member of our FX family. Words cannot describe the monumental loss we and the ‘Archer’ producers and cast feel. We extend our love, appreciation and condolences to Jessica’s family.”

“Archer” creator Adam Reed added: “The ‘Archer’ family is heartbroken to lose Jessica Walter, our beloved colleague and friend. Jessica was a consummate professional, an actor’s actor, and the exact opposite of Malory Archer – warm, caring, and kind, with an absolutely cracking sense of humor – and it was both a privilege and a true honor to work with her over these many years. She will be greatly missed, but never forgotten.”

Walter’s career spanned five decades. She starred in Clint Eastwood’s directorial debut “Play Misty for Me” in 1971, and her additional film roles include “Grand Prix” and “The Group.”

On the TV side, Walter won an Emmy for her lead role in “Amy Prentiss.” She also received Emmy nominations for “The Streets of San Francisco” in 1977 and “Trapper John, M.D.” in 1980.

Walter was born in 1941 in Brooklyn and grew up in the Queens neighborhood of Astoria. She got her start in the 1960s, winning the Clarence Derwent Award in 1963 for Outstanding Debut Broadway Performance for “Photo Finish.” Her first TV role came on the CBS soap opera “Love of Life” in 1962.