IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Jessica Walter, star of 'Arrested Development' and 'Archer,' dies at 80

Walter earned acclaim in recent years for playing Lucille Bluth, the matriarch with zero maternal instincts, in the sitcom "Arrested Development."
Jessica Walter in a season five episode of \"Arrested Development.\"
Jessica Walter in a season five episode of "Arrested Development."Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

Jessica Walter, the veteran actor who played comically self-involved matriarchs in both "Arrested Development" and "Archer," has died, her family said Thursday.

The 80-year-old Walter passed away in her sleep in New York City on Wednesday, a representative for the actor said.

Jessica Walter in a promotional portrait from director John Frankenheimer's 1966 film "Grand Prix."Getty Images

“It is with a heavy heart that I confirm the passing of my beloved mom Jessica," daughter Brooke Bowman said in statement.

"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.”

Younger fans of Walter will know her best for playing Lucille Bluth, who regularly stole scenes with absurdly cruel and cutting comments about her on-screen children in the critically acclaimed sitcom "Arrested Development."

Walter said she reveled in playing unsympathetic characters.

"I love watching movies with people that I hate. I love those old movies with Bette Davis where she's the evil one," she told IndieWire in 2013.

"Because we all have that in us, and we can't really act on it as the audience, but we can watch the actor act on it and it sort of releases those feelings in us."

"She was a force, and her talent and timing were unmatched," said "Arrested" co-star Tony Hale, who played her son, Buster Bluth. "Rest In Peace Mama Bluth."

David Cross, who played Lucille Bluth's son-in-law Tobias Fünke, called Walter "an absolutely brilliant actress and amazing talent."

"I consider myself privileged and very lucky to have been able to work with her," Cross said. "Lucille Bluth is one of TV's greatest characters."

Walter also gained acclaim with contemporary audiences for her wry voiceover work in the animated FXX series, "Archer," playing Malory Archer, the hard-drinking mother of super spy Sterling Archer.

Walter was "kind, classy, incredibly talented, generous with love," said "Archer" co-star Aisha Tyler, who played another super spy on the show, Lana Kane.

"Sweet flight to you, dear Jessica," Tyler added. "You were so loved, and we were so lucky to know you."

Walter was born on Jan. 31, 1941 in Brooklyn, the daughter of musician David Warshawsky, whose parents had immigrated to America from Russia, and Russian immigrant Esther Groisser.

Her father, who played the double bass, changed his last name to Walter several years before his daughter's birth and became a member of the NBC Symphony.

Jessica Walter, like many New York City-raised performers, got her start on Broadway. She won acclaim for in 1963 for her work in the play "Photo Finish."

Her big breakthrough came in 1971 with the psychological thriller "Play Misty for Me," starring alongside Clint Eastwood and Donna Mills, earning a Golden Globe nomination for best actress in a motion picture.

Walter rarely sat on the Hollywood sidelines and regularly found work throughout the 1970s, '80s and '90s.

She won an Emmy in 1975 for playing a police detective on NBC's "Amy Prentiss" and was nominated for Emmys in 1977 and 1980 for he work on ABC's "The Streets of San Francisco" and CBS's "Trapper John, M.D.," respectively.