Paula Kelly, an Emmy-nominated actress known for TV series like “Night Court” and films like “Sweet Charity” and “The Andromeda Strain,” died on Feb. 8 in Whittier, California, according to the Washington Post. She was 77.
The dancer and singer, who made a splash in the 1960 big-screen musical “Sweet Charity,” went on to earn two Emmy nominations, first for her supporting role as a public defender Liz Williams in the 1980s NBC sitcom “Night Court.” She earned a second nomination for her pioneering role as a lesbian in the 1989 miniseries “The Women of Brewster Place.”
In addition to her TV work, she had a memorable role as a nurse in 1971’s “The Andromeda Strain” and as a love interest nurse in 1973’s dystopian drama “Soylent Green.”
She soon found herself a regular on TV, including roles in “The Carol Burnett Show,” “Sanford and Son,” “Police Woman,” “Hill Street Blues,” “Kojak” and “Golden Girls.”
Black Laurel Films, founded in 2001 as the International Black Women’s Film Festival, shared praises for Kelly in a Facebook post on Sunday.
“Paula Kelly broke sooo many barriers in film! She played roles that were never stereotypical and were always met with grace, beauty, and sophistication. She starred in such films as “Sweet Charity,” “Soylent Green,” “The Andromeda Strain,” etc. In a way, she was a pioneer in putting Black women in the science-fiction narrative when there wasn’t a language for it, much like Nichelle Nichols. She was known to later audiences for her work in “The Women of Brewster Place.” She was also an outstanding dancer and performed on Broadway. Aw, man,” reads the post.
The actress was also a dancer, choreographer, and singer.