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'Arrested Development' star Jessica Walter dies at 80

Walter earned an Emmy nomination for her performance as Lucille Bluth on "Arrested Development."
/ Source: TODAY

Jessica Walter, an actor whose career spanned theater, TV and film and who earned an Emmy nomination for her work on "Arrested Development," died in her sleep Wednesday at age 80 in New York City, a spokesperson confirmed with TODAY.

Jessica Walter at the 20th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles in 2014Ethan Miller / Getty Images

Though Walter started her career with awards and critical acclaim on Broadway, she most notably co-starred in "Arrested Development" as Lucille Bluth. Lucille was the family matriarch, an alcoholic and the person behind many of the Bluths' questionable enterprises.

Jessica Walter in "Arrested Development"Netflix

In addition, Bluth had recent roles on "American Housewife," "Archer" (voicing Malory), "Harley Quinn" and "Good Girls."

Friends and former co-stars sent their sympathies out on social media. "Arrested Development" co-star David Cross called her an "absolutely brilliant actress and amazing talent," while show director Paul Feig said:

"This is so incredibly sad. I loved Jessica so much. She was so funny and marched to the tune of her own drummer. A true original whom I had the honor of working with several times. So much love to you, Jessica. Rest In Peace."

"Arrested Development" co-star Tony Hale also tweeted:

"She was a force, and her talent and timing were unmatched. Rest In Peace Mama Bluth."

Walter in London in 1966Dove / Getty Images

Born in Brooklyn on Jan. 31, 1941, into a talented family (her father, David, was a member of the NBC Symphony Orchestra; her brother Richard is a writer), Walter began acting before she turned 20 and earned the Clarence Derwent Award for her Broadway performance in "Photo Finish." She appeared in the soaps "Love of Life" and later "One Life to Live," and bounced between film and TV series roles.

Walter in 1971's "Play Misty For Me"Courtesy Everett Collection

Walter broke through in film in 1971's "Play Misty For Me," where she gave a scary turn as a woman who just won't let co-star/director Clint Eastwood go. She had regular roles on "Love, American Style" and "90210," earning four Emmy nominations over the years for "The Streets of San Francisco" (1977), "Trapper John, M.D." (1980) and "Arrested Development" (2005), with a sole win in 1975 as the title character in the NBC Mystery Movie series "Amy Prentiss."

Walter with Richard Crenna in 1984's "The Flamingo Kid"20th Century Fox / Courtesy Everett Collection

Walter made headlines in 2018 after speaking out about harassment she faced while working with "Arrested Development" star Jeffrey Tambor. She told The New York Times it was verbal harassment, "but he did apologize."

Walter was married twice, to stage manager and director Ross Bowman from 1966-78 and to Tony-winning actor Ron Leibman from 1983 until his death in 2019.

The cast of "Arrested Development"Netflix

Daughter Brooke Bowman, who works as SVP of drama programming at Fox Entertainment, told TODAY in 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."

CORRECTION (March 25, 2021, 6:23 p.m.): An earlier version of this article misstated the name of Jessica Walter's husband. It is Ron Leibman, not Rob Leibman.