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Jessica Walter: A life in review

Jessica Walter, an actress most known for her roles as Lucille Bluth on “Arrested Development” and Malory Archer on “Archer,” passed away on March 24, 2021 at 80 years old.

Walter grew up in a family that was familiar with the performing arts. Her father was a member of the NBC Symphony Orchestra and the New York City Ballet Orchestra, and her brother is a screenwriter. She attended a performing arts high school before starting her career on stage.

In 1963, she won a Clarence Derwent Award for Outstanding Debut Broadway Performance in “Photo Finish.” After conquering the stage, she moved on to television shows, becoming a regular cast member on “Love of Life” and taking roles on a handful of other shows where she would play characters with minor arcs.

Walter’s first major role on the silver screen was in the 1971 film “Play Misty for Me,” which led to a Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture Actress – Drama. While she did not win, it did help her continue her film career.

In the 1970s, she picked up recurring roles on television shows such as “Columbo.” She even won a Primetime Emmy Award for her work on “Amy Prentiss,” a spinoff of the popular crime drama “Ironside.” After playing Ava Michelle in NBC’s 1980s primetime soap opera “Bare Essence,” her focus shifted to television and theatre.

While she began work in voice acting during the 1990s, the 2000s saw Walter take on arguably her most known role.

From 2003 to 2006 and in the 2018 reboot, Walter played Lucille Bluth on “Arrested Development.” Bluth is an alcoholic socialite that schemes and tricks her children, focusing on always having the upper hand. For her performance, Walter received a nomination for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress – Comedy Series.

When asked about her character for Entertainment Weekly, Walter explained, “I am nothing like Lucille. Nothing. My daughter will tell you. I’m really a very nice, boring person.”

Outside of that role, she guest-starred on popular television shows like “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and “Rules of Engagement” before landing the role as Malory Archer on “Archer.”

Her role as a voice actress on “Archer” was not much different than her role on “Arrested Development.” There are two key differences: animation versus real-life and running a shamed intelligence agency versus running a shamed family.

She continued her work on Broadway as well, starring in the 2011 revival of “Anything Goes.”
Over the course of her career, she appeared in over 170 productions. Along with the above Golden Globe nominations, she was also nominated for three Screen Actors Guild Awards.

“Arrested Development” co-star Will Arnett tweeted, “Jessica Walter was a deeply talented person. We first met on a pilot in ‘96 and I was instantly blown away. I’m fortunate to have had a front row seat to her brilliance for 25 years. My thoughts are with her daughter Brooke and grandson Micah today. ”

From the stage to the screen, Jessica Walter never disappointed. She will be missed dearly.

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