Jessica Walter

Jessica Walter
Jessica Walter by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Walter at the 2019 WonderCon
Born(1941-01-31)January 31, 1941
New York City, U.S.
DiedMarch 24, 2021(2021-03-24) (aged 80)
New York City, U.S.
Alma materNeighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre
Years active1960–2021
Ross Bowman
(m. 1966; div. 1978)

(m. 1983; died 2019)
RelativesRichard Walter (brother)
AwardsEmmy Award

Jessica Walter (January 31, 1941 – March 24, 2021)[1] was an American actress who appeared in over 170 film, television, and stage productions. She was best known for her role as Lucille Bluth on the sitcom Arrested Development (2003–06, 2013–19), and providing the voice of Malory Archer on the long-running FX animated series Archer (2009–21). She received various awards over her career including a Primetime Emmy Award for Amy Prentiss (1975). She also received two Golden Globe Award nominations and three Screen Actors Guild Award nominations.[2]

Walter studied acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre in New York City and began her career on the Broadway stage, winning a 1963 Clarence Derwent Award for Outstanding Debut Performance. She made her film debut in the neo-noir drama Lilith (1964), and subsequently starred in the films Grand Prix and The Group (both 1966), which earned her critical acclaim. Her starring role opposite Clint Eastwood in Play Misty for Me (1971) won her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama.

Walter was a regular presence on American television, playing the titular role in the short-lived police procedural Amy Prentiss, appearing in a recurring role on Trapper John, M.D., working as a series regular for the first half of season one of 90210, and providing the voice of Fran Sinclair on the series Dinosaurs. Her role as scheming socialite Lucille Bluth in Arrested Development brought her renewed attention, and she contributed voiceover work to animated shows like Archer and Star vs. the Forces of Evil (2015–18).

Early life

Walter was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Esther (née Groisser) and David Walter, a musician who was a member of the NBC Symphony Orchestra and the NYC Ballet Orchestra.[3][4] Walter attended New York City's High School of Performing Arts.[5] Walter came from a Jewish[6] family, and her mother was an immigrant from the USSR.[7] Her brother, Richard Walter, is a screenwriter.[8]


Walter began her acting career on stage, winning a Clarence Derwent Award in 1963 for Outstanding Debut Broadway Performance in Photo Finish by Peter Ustinov. She soon moved to television, and played Julie Muranoon on the television series, Love of Life.[9] While appearing on Love of Life from 1962 to 1965, she also acted on many other popular television series, including Naked City, East Side/West Side, Ben Casey, Route 66, The Doctors and the Nurses, The Rogues, and The Defenders. Among those series is Walter's role as Lorna Richmond on "The Ordeal of Mrs. Snow" episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (April 14, 1964), and a supporting role as William Shatner's wife on the drama For the People (1965).

Walter appeared in the first episode of Flipper (September 1964), and in the episode "How Much for a Prince?" of CBS's drama The Reporter. In 1966, she appeared in "The White Knight" episode of The Fugitive.[10]

Her earliest notable film role was in the movie Play Misty for Me (1971), in which she played a young woman with behavior consistent with borderline personality disorder who becomes infatuated with and ultimately stalks a disc jockey. Walter received a Golden Globe Awards nomination for her performance in the Best Motion Picture Actress – Drama category[8][11] and critical praise, with Roger Ebert describing Walter as demonstrating "unnerving effectiveness" in the role.[12] Walter's other film credits from that era include Lilith (1964), Grand Prix (1966), The Group (1966), Bye Bye Braverman (1968), and Number One (1969). She was also in an episode of Mannix (starring Mike Connors), "Moving Target" in season 5.

In 1974, Walter co-starred in an episode of Columbo, "Mind Over Mayhem", had a recurring role on Trapper John, M.D. as Melanie McIntyre, Trapper John's former wife, and starred on the short-lived series Amy Prentiss, a spinoff of Ironside, for which she won a Primetime Emmy Award. In 1983, she had a role on the short-lived NBC primetime soap opera Bare Essence as Ava Marshall. Since then, she has worked most frequently in television and theater, though she did appear in some films including The Flamingo Kid (1984) and the film PCU (1994). She recorded a performance as the doll form of Chucky for the 1988 horror film Child's Play, but her lines were redubbed by Brad Dourif after negative test screenings which Tom Holland and Don Mancini attributed partially to Walter's performance; they claimed Walter was effectively frightening in the role but failed to convey the sense of black humor they envisioned the character to have and that her voice seemed out of place because the character was male.[13][14] In the 1990s, she voiced Fran Sinclair on the ABC comedy Dinosaurs, and appeared on Just Shoot Me! as Eve Gallo, the mother of Maya and the ex-wife of magazine publisher Jack Gallo.

From 2003 to 2006, she appeared in a regular role as the scheming alcoholic socialite matriarch Lucille Bluth on Fox's critically acclaimed comedy series Arrested Development. In 2005, she received a nomination for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress - Comedy Series for the role. Despite her convincing portrayal of Lucille, she states: "I'm nothing like Lucille. Nothing. My daughter will tell you. I'm really a very nice, boring person."[15] Despite acclaim from critics, Arrested Development received low ratings and viewership on Fox, which cancelled the series in 2006. It was revived by Netflix for season four in 2013, where it gained huge popularity. Walter reprised her role for season five, premiering in 2018.[16]

Walter played Tabitha Wilson on the first season of 90210, until the character was written off halfway through the season. She also guest-starred on the sitcom Rules of Engagement in the episode titled "Kids". She guest-starred in an episode of Law & Order: SVU in 2009, and appeared again later on as legal-aid lawyer Petra Gilmartin.[17] From 2011 to 2012, she starred in the TV Land sitcom Retired at 35 alongside her Bye Bye Braverman co-star George Segal.[18]

Walter starred as Evangeline Harcourt in the Broadway revival of Anything Goes, which began previews in March 2011 and officially opened on April 7, 2011.[19]

Walter voiced spymaster Malory Archer on the FX animated series Archer.[8] Walter mentioned that her performance in Arrested Development was explicitly referenced when auditions for the part of Malory were sought.[20]

She was at the center of a controversy which erupted in May 2018 over harassment she had received from Arrested Development co-star Jeffrey Tambor. During a cast interview with the New York Times, Walter was asked about an on-set incident which Tambor had alluded to several months before.[21] Walter teared up and stated that "[i]n like almost 60 years of working, I've never had anybody yell at me like that on a set. And it's hard to deal with, but I'm over it now", while also noting that Tambor had apologized and had not done anything sexually inappropriate, and that she would work with him again.[21][22][23][a] In the same interview, Walter's co-stars Jason Bateman, Tony Hale, and David Cross were criticized in multiple outlets for appearing to excuse Tambor's behavior without acknowledging Walter's experience.[24][25] Within days all three men had issued apologies to Walter.[26]

Personal life

Walter was married to Ross Bowman, a former Broadway stage manager and television director, from 1966 to 1978.[27] With him, she had a daughter, Brooke Bowman, who was born in 1972 and was an executive for 21st Century Fox Television.[28]

She later married actor Ron Leibman in 1983 and they remained married until his death in 2019.[29] They appeared together in Neil Simon's play Rumors, and portrayed husband and wife in the film Dummy (2003) and on Law & Order (in the episode "House Counsel"). Leibman joined the cast of Archer, voicing her character's new husband. She described herself as not religious but "very Jewish in my heart".[30]


Walter died in her sleep at her home in Manhattan on March 24, 2021. No cause of death was given. She was 80 years old.[31][32][33]


Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Project Result Ref.
1966 Golden Globe Awards Most Promising Newcomer – Female Grand Prix Nominated [34]
1971 Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama Play Misty for Me Nominated
1975 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series Amy Prentiss Won [35]
1977 Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series[b] The Streets of San Francisco Nominated
1980 Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series Trapper John, M.D. Nominated
2005 Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series Arrested Development Nominated
2004 Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Ensemble in a Comedy Series Nominated [36][37]
2005 Nominated [36][38]
2013 Nominated [36][39]


  1. ^ The two did not work together again before her death.[22]
  2. ^ Named "Outstanding Lead Actress for a Single Appearance in a Drama or Comedy Series" at the time.[35]


  1. ^ "Jessica Walter". Television Academy. Archived from the original on April 22, 2021. Retrieved May 29, 2021.
  2. ^ "Outstanding Lead Actress in a Special Program - Drama or Comedy - 1975". Archived from the original on March 4, 2021. Retrieved March 25, 2021.
  3. ^ "Jessica Walter profile at". Retrieved August 13, 2012.
  4. ^ "David Walter". Retrieved August 13, 2012.
  5. ^ King, Susan. "Classic Hollywood Jessica Walter tests boundaries in 'Jennifer Falls'," Los Angeles Times (July 5, 2014).
  6. ^ Brook, Vincent (2006). 'You Should See Yourself': Jewish Identity in Postmodern American Culture. Rutgers University Press. p. 278. ISBN 9780813539966. Retrieved April 18, 2017.
  7. ^ Aminosharei, Nojan (February 25, 2019). "Jessica Walter Is Game For Anything". Elle. Retrieved March 25, 2021.
  8. ^ a b c "Jessica Walter, 'Arrested Development' and 'Archer' Actress, Dies at 80". The Hollywood Reporter. March 25, 2021. Retrieved March 25, 2021.
  9. ^ Sepinwall, Alan (March 25, 2021). "Raising a Glass to Jessica Walter, from Sixties Soap Star to the Iconic Lucille Bluth". Rolling Stone. Retrieved March 26, 2021.
  10. ^ "THE WHITE KNIGHT THE FUGITIVE SEASON 3". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved March 25, 2021. Glenn Madison (Steven Hill), a war hero with political ambitions, is rescued from a plane crash by Richard Kimble (David Janssen). Normally, this would make Kimble a hero, but both he and Madison are anxious to keep the rescue a secret from the public--Kimble because he is a fugitive from justice, and Madison because his travelling companion was his mistress Pat Haynes (Jessica Walter).
  11. ^ "Jessica Walter | Golden Globes". March 25, 2021. Retrieved March 26, 2021.
  12. ^ Ebert, Roger (1971) Play Misty for Me. Retrieved March 6, 2014.
  13. ^ Heigl, Alex (March 26, 2021). "Jessica Walter almost had role as Chucky in 'Child's Play,' says Tom Holland". New York Post. Retrieved May 27, 2021.
  14. ^ "Your Friend 'Til the End: An Oral History of Child's Play". June 19, 2019. Retrieved May 27, 2021.
  15. ^ "Jessica Walter: Lucille Bluth on Arrested Development talks about her kooky character". Entertainment Weekly. June 24, 2005. Retrieved March 18, 2007.
  16. ^ "Netflix reveals trailer for Arrested Development season 5, confirms premiere date: Watch". Consequence of Sound. May 7, 2018.
  17. ^ Ross, Robyn (August 5, 2009). "Jessica Walter on SVU: An Arresting Development". TV Guide. Retrieved August 5, 2009.
  18. ^ Hale, Mike (January 18, 2011). "Moving in With the Folks, Who May Not Be Thrilled". The New York Times. Retrieved January 26, 2014.
  19. ^ Jones, Kenneth."Bon Voyage! Anything Goes, With Sutton Foster and Joel Grey, Opens on Broadway" Archived June 13, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, Retrieved May 19, 2014.
  20. ^ "The Fabulousness of Jessica Walter: On 'Archer,' 'Arrested Developmen…". March 25, 2021. Retrieved March 26, 2021.
  21. ^ a b Deb, Sopan (May 23, 2018). "'Arrested Development. We Sat Down with the Cast. It Got Raw". The New York Times. Retrieved May 24, 2018.
  22. ^ a b Bleznak, Becca (March 25, 2021). "'Arrested Development': Were Jessica Walter and Jeffrey Tambor Friends When She Died?". Cheat Sheet. Retrieved March 25, 2021.
  23. ^ Jones, Isabel (May 24, 2018). "Jason Bateman Apologizes for "Mansplaining" After Defending a Co-Star Accused of Harassment". instyle. Retrieved March 25, 2021.
  24. ^ Emery, Debbie (May 23, 2018). "'Arrested Development' Men Accused of Gaslighting Jessica Walter to Defend Jeffrey Tambor". The Wrap. Retrieved June 14, 2018.
  25. ^ Fallon, Kevin (May 23, 2018). "Jessica Walter Shamed by Male 'Arrest Development' Co-Stars Over Jeffrey Tambor's 'Harassment'". The Daily Beast. Retrieved May 24, 2018.
  26. ^ "Arrested Development cancels UK visit after tearful interview". BBC. May 25, 2018. Retrieved May 25, 2018.
  27. ^ "Egg Rolls Brought Ron Leibman and Jessica Walter to the Altar and Left Them Hungry for More", People, July 16, 1984. Retrieved May 19, 2014.
  28. ^ Keck, William (September 16, 2005). "A terrific 'Development' boosts Jessica Walter's career". USA Today. Retrieved March 18, 2007.
  29. ^ Koseluk, Chris (December 6, 2019). "Ron Leibman, Actor in 'Angels in America,' 'Where's Poppa?' and 'Friends,' Dies at 82". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  30. ^ Sicha, Choire (October 26, 2008). "Her phone's still busy". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 18, 2017.
  31. ^ Tapp, Tom (March 25, 2021). "Jessica Walter Dies: Emmy-Winning 'Arrested Development', 'Archer' Actress Was 80". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved March 25, 2021.
  32. ^ "Jessica Walter, "Arrested Development" and "Archer" star, dies at 80". CBS News. Retrieved March 26, 2021.
  33. ^ France, Lisa Respers. "Jessica Walter, 'Arrested Development' and 'Archer' star, dies at 80". CNN. Retrieved March 26, 2021.
  34. ^ "Jessica Walter". Retrieved March 26, 2021.
  35. ^ a b "Jessica Walter". Retrieved March 26, 2021.
  36. ^ a b c Dagan, Carmel (March 25, 2021). "Jessica Walter, 'Arrested Development' and 'Archer' Star, Dies at 80". Variety. Archived from the original on March 25, 2021. Retrieved April 25, 2021.
  37. ^ "The 11th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards". Archived from the original on September 10, 2012. Retrieved April 25, 2021.
  38. ^ "The 12th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards". Archived from the original on September 10, 2012. Retrieved April 25, 2021.
  39. ^ "The 20th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards". Archived from the original on March 30, 2021. Retrieved April 25, 2021.

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