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'Sex and the City,' 'Cheers' actor Frances Sternhagen dies at 93

The two-time Tony Award winner played Charlotte's first mother-in-law, Bunny, on "SATC" and Cliff Clavin's mom, Esther, on "Cheers."
/ Source: TODAY

Frances Sternhagen, a Tony Award-winning actor who played eccentric maternal characters in the TV shows "Sex and the City" and "Cheers," has died at 93.

Sternhagen's death was announced by her children in a statement to NBC News on Nov. 29.

"It is with great sadness that we share the news that our dear mother, actress Frances Sternhagen, died peacefully of natural causes in New Rochelle, NY, on November 27th, 2023 at the age of 93," the statement read in part.

When she wasn’t racking up Tony Award nominations for her Broadway performances, Sternhagen had a knack for turning small TV roles into gold.

Frances Sternhagen.
Frances Sternhagen played eccentric maternal characters on screen in the TV shows "Sex and the City" and "Cheers."Carley Margolis / FilmMagic

She’s best remembered for playing Bunny MacDougal, the blue-blooded mother of Charlotte York’s first husband, Trey, on “Sex and the City,” and Esther Clavin, the domineering mom of postal worker Cliff Clavin, on “Cheers.”

Sternhagen received three Emmy Award nominations for those roles, two for “Cheers” and one for “SATC.”

Kristin Davis, who portrayed Charlotte York on “SATC,” wrote in her Instagram stories on Nov. 29, “Just heard that glorious Frances Sternhagen has passed away. She lived a wonderful, full life and was a joy to work with. Thinking of her family.”

Co-star Sarah Jessica Parker posted a photo of Sternhagen on Instagram on Nov. 30 and wrote, "Class. It was a privilege to know and work with you. All who did, I know feel the same. You were a beautiful human and actor. RIP Frances Sternhagen and Godspeed."

Frances Sternhagen on "Cheers."
Frances Sternhagen as Esther Clavin with John Ratzenberger as Cliff Clavin in a scene from "Cheers." NBC / NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Sternhagen also had a recurring role as Millicent Carter, the wealthy grandmother of Dr. John Carter, on “ER,” and played Willie Rae Johnson, the mom of Kyra Sedgwick’s CIA-trained interrogator character Brenda Johnson, on “The Closer.”

Her greatest acting success came on Broadway, where she earned her first Tony Award in 1974 for featured actress in a play for Neil Simon’s “The Good Doctor,” and a second in 1995 for featured actress in a play for a revival of “The Heiress."

She was nominated for five additional Tonys for her performances in Lorraine Hansberry’s “The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window" (1972), “Equus” (1975), “Angel” (1978), “On Golden Pond" (1979) and Paul Osborn’s “Morning’s at Seven" (2002).

She also appeared in the feature films "Outland," "Misery," "Julie & Julia," “Starting Over,” 1983's “Independence Day” and “Doc Hollywood," among others.

Sternhagen was married to fellow actor Thomas Carlin from 1956 until his death in 1991. She is survived by six children, nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.