Katherine Helmond, a character actress who rose to fame in the 1970s with roles on the sitcoms “Soap” and “Who’s the Boss?,” has died at age 89.
Her agency APA told TheWrap that Helmond passed away on Feb. 23 of Alzheimer’s complications in her home in Los Angeles.
Across her five decades on TV, Helmond is perhaps best known for playing the ditzy matriarch Jessica Tate opposite Billy Crystal and Robert Guillaume on ABC’s soap opera sitcom “Soap.” She was nominated for four Emmys for the part and won a Golden Globe in 1981.
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She also played the sexy and wise Mona Robinson opposite Tony Danza on “Who’s the Boss?,” which earned her two more Emmy nominations. She was most recently Emmy nominated for a guest spot on “Everybody Loves Raymond” in 2002. Her other TV credits included ABC’s “Coach,” A&E’s “The Glades” and HBO’s “True Blood.”
In film, Helmond was a frequent collaborator of Terry Gilliam, starring in his “Time Bandits,” “Brazil” and “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” She more recently provided a voice in Pixar’s trilogy of “Cars” films,” and she also starred in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Family Plot” and Garry Marshall’s “Overboard.”
Helmond also had a lucrative career on stage, and she was nominated for a Best Supporting or Featured Actress Tony Award for her Broadway performance in Eugene O’Neill’s “The Great God Brown.” Her other Broadway productions included “Private Lives,” “Don Juan” and “Mixed Emotions.” She also received critical acclaim for her stage performance in Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues.”
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Born Katherine Marie Helmond on July 5, 1929, in Galveston, Texas, Helmond’s first love was always the theater, where she would continue to work throughout her life. Helmond was the only child of Thelma and Joseph P. Helmond. She was raised by her mother and grandmother and attended a Catholic primary school, where she appeared in numerous school plays before making her stage debut in “As You Like It” in 1955.
Helmond would spend seven years performing at the Hartford Stage Company and Trinity Repertory Theater. After winning the Drama Critics Award for her Off-Broadway performance in the Pulitzer Prize-winning play, “The House of Blue Leaves” by John Guare, Helmond followed the production to Los Angeles, where she was eventually discovered by talent scouts and landed her first television role guest-starring in an episode of “Gunsmoke.”
Helmond met her husband of 57 years, David Christian, at The Hampton Playhouse Summer Stock Theater, where he was the set designer and she was the leading lady. They wed in 1962 and remained happily married until her death.
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In a 2011 interview with The Philadelphia Inquirer, Helmond attributed her long, continuous and successful career to her childhood.
“I went to Catholic school. Do as you’re told; don’t ask questions and you will be illuminated,” she said. “I listened; I paid attention, and I sat quietly in my chair until they pointed at me. Then I got up and did what I was expected to do. When I got to be an old girl, I was still a good little girl.”
A memorial for family and friends to celebrate her extraordinary life and career is currently being planned for the near future.
Helmond is survived by her husband David Christian.
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