Jessica Walter

Active - 1964 - 2020  |   Born - Jan 31, 1941 in New York, New York, United States  |   Died - Mar 24, 2021   |   Genres - Drama, Mystery, Comedy, Thriller, Crime

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Learning the ropes at the Bucks County Playhouse and New York's Neighborhood Playhouse, Jessica Walter, born January 31st, 1949, made her Broadway debut in 1961's Advise and Consent. The raven-haired leading lady was then seen on a regular basis in several Manhattan-based TV programs, including the daytimer Love of Life and the 1965 nighttime series For the People. In films from 1964, Jessica was one of eight young female "newcomers" (Candice Bergen, Elizabeth Hartman, Joanna Pettet et. al.) who went on to greater things after appearing en masse in Sidney Lumet's The Group (1966). Her flashiest screen role was as the dangerously possessive "number one fan" Evelyn Draper in Clint Eastwood's Play Misty for Me (1971). Of her many weekly-TV assignments, Walter's title role in the mid-'70s cop series Amy Prentiss garnered her the most attention; that is, until recently, when Walter found late-career acclaim on the award-winning sitcom Arrested Development. As the insensitive, materialistic matriarch of the Bluth family, Walter garnered a plum comedic role, and Emmy attention to boot. Walter continued to remain active in television appearances following the cancellation of Arrested Development, and joined the cast of the Broadway revival of Anything Goes in 2011.

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Factsheet

  • Her father played double bass in the New York City Ballet Orchestra.
  • As a teen, lied about her age to work as a chorus girl at the Copacabana in New York City.
  • Made Broadway debut in 1961 in Advise and Consent.
  • Was a classmate of Walter Koenig (Chekov on Star Trek) at New York's Neighborhood Playhouse.
  • First TV work was on the soap Love of Life from 1962-65.
  • Introduced to husband Ron Leibman by mutual friend Brenda Vaccaro while he was starring in 1983's Romantic Comedy. The pair have acted together several times, including roles in a 1995 episode of Law & Order and the 2002 film Dummy.
  • In 2011, reunited with actor George Segal (she played his ex-wife on Just Shoot Me) for the TV Land series Retired at 35.
  • Shares a birthday with her Arrested Development costar Portia de Rossi.