“Arrested Development” Star Passes; Her 60+ Year Hollywood Career Started at Bucks County Playhouse

Image via Bucks County Playhouse
Walter (right) in rehearsal for a 2016 local production of Steel Magnolias

Actress Jessica Walter, who played TV matriarch Lucille Bluth on Arrested Development, passed away March 24 at age 80. Her career started gaining traction in the late 1950s, boosted by an appearance at Bucks County Playhouse, reports Mike Dougherty for KYW Newsradio. 

Walter spent much of the 1950s and 1960s playing small parts on network television, evidenced by extensive once-and-done IMDB listings for shows such as The Fugitive and Mission: Impossible. In 1971, she hit it big in the movie Play Misty for Me, a thriller in which she costarred with Clint Eastwood. 

From there, it was back to the small screen, where she worked steadily. 

In 2016, she returned to the Bucks County Playhouse to star in Steel Magnolias. Producing director Alex Fraser was there to welcome her back to her roots. 

“The first time she walked into the theater she burst into tears,” he said. 

Fraser recalled her comment at the time: “I was 17 years old.,” he quoted her as saying. “My creative life really started here.” 

Throughout the rehearsals and run of Steel Magnolias, Fraser remembered Walters as being immensely talented, a hard worker and as energetic as anyone else in the cast. 

“The whole company loved her,” he reminisced.  

Through the course of her career, Walters earned an Emmy for her early TV work and a Golden Globe nomination for Arrested Development. She appeared in the 2011 Broadway revival of the musical Anything Goes, which took her back to her local stage roots. 

For more on the Jessica Walters’ ties to Bucks County, see the KYW Newsradio story

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