Jessica Walter, ‘Arrested Development’ Matriarch, Dies at 80


In recent years, she became a cult figure, beloved for her poisonous put-downs and side-eyed glances as the fabulously wealthy and diabolical mother Lucille Bluth on “Arrested Development.” The zany, self-referential sitcom about a narcissistic family was critically adored when it debuted in 2003, and it introduced Ms. Walter to a new generation. She said she could hardly get on a subway car or a bus without being stopped by a fan.

“You know, you look a lot like that woman that plays Lucille Bluth,” they would tell her.

“I say, ‘You know, I’ve heard that,’” she told The New York Times in 2018. “You know, Lucille is in my DNA now.”

The show was also the source of some anguish for Ms. Walter. In 2018, she revealed that she had been verbally harassed on the set by Jeffrey Tambor, who played her husband and who had been fired that year from the Amazon show “Transparent” amid allegations of sexual harassment and verbal abuse. He denied the allegations of sexual misconduct but admitted that his temper had been an issue, and he conceded that he had blown up at Ms. Walter.

“I have to let go of being angry at him,” Ms. Walter said through tears in the 2018 interview with The Times, as Mr. Tambor sat a few feet away. In “almost 60 years of working,” she said, “I’ve never had anybody yell at me like that on a set and it’s hard to deal with, but I’m over it now.”

During the interview, another star of the show, Jason Bateman, painted Mr. Tambor’s behavior as typical. His comments drew a blistering reaction online, and Mr. Bateman later apologized, saying he was “incredibly embarrassed and deeply sorry to have done that to Jessica.”

Jessica Walter was born in New York City on Jan. 31, 1941. Her father, David Walter, was a musician and a member of the NBC Symphony Orchestra and the New York City Ballet Orchestra. Her mother, Esther Groisser, was a teacher. Ms. Walter attended the High School of Performing Arts.


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