R.I.P. Jessica Walter, the 'Arrested Development' star with six decades of TV credits

She worked with everyone from Ron Howard and William Shatner to Wonder Woman and Mannix.

The Everett Collection

Television fans of all ages will know Jessica Walter — and have a different reason for loving her. Millennials and Gen-Z will know her best as Mallory Archer, the animated character in 119 episodes of the comedic cartoon Archer. Or, of course, there is her brilliant work as the snobby, cocktail-sipping matriarch Lucille Bluth on Arrested Development.

Those 21st-century hits were merely the tip of the iceberg for a career that dates back to 1960. In the black-and-white era, she kickstarted her career with guest spots on hip series like Naked City, Route 66 and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. In 1965, she landed her first major recurring role, playing the wife of William Shatner on the legal drama For the People. Her character was violin player, which must have clicked with Walter, whose father, David, was a member of the NBC Symphony Orchestra.

Following that short-run series — the failure of which freed Shatner for Star Trek — led to a string of small roles on several classic series. Walter popped up in Mission: Impossible, MannixMarcus Welby, M.D., Medical Center, The Magician, McCloud, McMillan & Wife… and that's just the M's. Speaking of which, MeTV fans will remember her in "Mind Over Mayhem," a 1974 Columbo mystery.

In 1975, the New York native won the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series for her work in Amy Prentiss, about a woman who becomes Chief of Police. The miniseries reunited her with William Shatner.

She also boarded The Love Boat eight times. She also has a link to the M*A*S*H universe, as she played Melanie Townsend McIntyre, the ex-wife of Trapper John, on Trapper John, M.D.

In 1983, Walter scored another regular role, on the short-lived perfume-industry soap Bare Essence. In the Eighties, she continued to hop for show to show, yet they singled seasons — forgotten titles like Wildfire and Aaron's Way.

Her biggest hit to date finally arrived in 1991 but kept her face hidden. She was the voice of the wife, Fran, on the Disney / Jim Henson sitcom Dinosaurs.

Arrested Development, the cutting comedy from executive producer-narrator Ron Howard, gave Walter the chance to show off her comedy chops to a new generation. It was the perfect cap to long and underrated career on the small screen. On March 24, Walter passed away at her home in New York, according to The Hollywood Reporter. She was 80 years old.

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MikeIhrig 38 months ago
How does a supposedly respected media outlet not mewntion PLAY MISTY FOR ME.One of Eastwood's first return to Hollywoods cinema success
MaryHelen MikeIhrig 34 months ago
yep i was going to say that excitedly!!
Reginia 38 months ago
She also played in one episode of Big Bang Theory where she played a rich benefactor and Leonard was her love interest. Leonard and Sheldon were trying to get a scholarship for research. Hilarious episode.
Greg 38 months ago
Beautiful lady, great talent, she will be missed. I loved Jessica Walter in the 70s shows like Mannix, Columbo, and I think one of her finest roles was as SFPD Chief of Detectives Amy Prentiss. Amazing how she starred with William Shatner on 2 shows, Prentiss/Ironside and For the People, and crazy that the day she passed (3/24) was right in between Shatner’s 90th and what would have been Nimoy’s birthdays (3/22 and 3/26 respectively...Nimoy and Walter were on separate Columbo episodes). Not sure if she did anything with LN but her connection to Shatner is enough for me.
SueClark Greg 29 months ago
Being an Ironside fan, I was one of a few that appreciated her playing a woman chief-of-police at a time when there were none. "Amy Prentiss" didn't last long. Maybe too far ahead of it's time. But it did make an impression on me.
Donnajean 38 months ago
I remember seeing Jessica Walters over the years in many different shows.... but does anyone else besides me remember her role along side Clint Eastwood in
“PLAY MISTY FOR ME” ?? I think it was sometime in the 70’s. I can also remember not sleeping very well after watching it, because it scared me to death!!.... Lol
Jazzzydon Donnajean 38 months ago
I do. I went to see it as a teenager when it was new in the theaters, 1971 if I remember correctly....
Donnajean Jazzzydon 38 months ago
Thanks Jazzzydon! I’m glad you remember it too! I was beginning to doubt my 40+ yo memory!! 😅
Reginia Donnajean 38 months ago
Yes, she was really good in Play Misty for me but they didn’t mention it for some reason.
CLos75 38 months ago
You forgot she was in ARCHER, too.
Bubba77511 CLos75 38 months ago
Millennials and Gen-Z will know her best as Mallory Archer, the animated character in 119 episodes of the comedic cartoon

it was literally in the first paragragh
UTZAAKE 38 months ago
Jessica Walter appeared on Route 66 as the leader of a St. Louis-based all-women jazz quintet stranded in Toronto and looking for a gig to finance their trip back home. The five had met Tod and Linc at the old Exhibition Stadium grandstand (the structure beyond the left field fence when the Blue Jays called it home) after the protagonists had spotted them while on a helicopter tour over the city. Should've watch more Amy Prentiss episodes, but that would've been asking for too much from a then-8-year-old. Lucille Bluth was one of the daffiest characters I've ever seen. Walter was a pleasure to watch.
TheDavBow3 38 months ago
Beautiful lady. Loved her in Mannix. She truly had a tremendous "Wow!" factor in "Play Misty For Me". So talented. Rest In Peace.
JamesCavender TheDavBow3 38 months ago
I agree she was always good in detective shows. So pretty and talented, she will be missed. Bless Jessica.
JustGeri 38 months ago
One of those actresses who always brought the A Game...never phoning in any part. She could play, smart, sassy, snippy, smarmy, sweet (though not often given roles calling for), snobby, sexy, ... whatever the character was to be...yet even in the tough roles, she could show vulnerabIlity.. These “lesser” known actors always made shows better...I wish they could all be mentioned in News cycles.
jacko3 38 months ago
Jessica Walter a beautiful and able actress - GOD Be with her - Amen - Alleluia!
denny 38 months ago
Jessica passed on one day after George Segal. She played his ex-wife in Just Shoot Me, and his wife in Retired at 30, a funny show the 1st season.

" Could you play Misty for me?"
Stoney 38 months ago
She was also in a really good movie called "Play Misty for Me" with Clint Eastwood
Sally Stoney 38 months ago
I was suprised that wasn't mentioned. It was actually the first big part I saw her in.
Sway 38 months ago
Fine, classy, actress. Recognizable in anything she was in.
WhiteRook 38 months ago
Jessica Walter was a talented actress, her big screen work on the 1966 race film "Grand Prix" was excellent. She is gone but not forgotten.
Dajj 38 months ago
She was also great in a Big Bang episode; hittin on Leonard. She was scary in Play Misty for me!! She will defenitely be missed.
retired2019 38 months ago
All the older actors and actresses are dropping like flies. Not too many good ones left. All the youngins have no style and finesse.
CaptainDunsel 38 months ago
I remember her as Morgan LeFay from the 1979 TV movie, "Dr. Strange".
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