Jessica Walter, the beloved actor whose decade-spanning career never slowed down, has died at age 80. The Emmy winner and four-time nominee passed in her sleep.
In recent years, Walter has offered side-splittingly sardonic performances in both Arrested Development, in which she played the sharp-tongued Bluth matriarch Lucille, and Archer, in which she voiced the titular spy’s delightfully impossible mother, Malory.
Arrested Development was nothing less than a star-making machine. Almost every person involved in the series has gone on to new heights. It made movie stars out of Jason Bateman and Michael Cera. and launched the career of Alia Shawkat, now leading the cult comedy Search Party. Even the show’s longtime directors, the Russo Brothers, ended up making the biggest film of all time.
Lucille was moneyed and out of touch, with no identifiable soft edges. Yet, it was still possible to identify with her. Lucille was, arguably, the heart of the show. Even more so than Bateman’s Michael, the everyman caught in the middle of his awful warring relatives, Lucille held things together. A parental figure who was always present, consistent, and fully in charge.
Whenever any of her adult children looked as if they might be edging for the door, she would deploy an arsenal of psychological tactics – bullying, guilt-tripping, reverse psychology, flattery – to keep them in place. There’s no question that Lucille Bluth is a staggeringly bad parent. But you can’t deny that she knows her children well. She smothers Buster (“He’s become too much of a big shot to brush mother’s hair”).
She attacks Lindsay with barely veiled criticisms about her weight (“You want your belt to buckle, not your chair”). She “doesn’t care” for Gob. She knows exactly which buttons to push to do the most damage, which at least means she is observant. Lucille is why the Bluths are the Bluths. There would be no Arrested Development without her.
In honor of her passing, we honor our favorite Jessica Walter character and the comedic genius that she was, Jessica Walter as Lucille Bluth with this compilation video of Lucille’s best moments.