Actress Katherine Helmond has passed away at age 89, Deadline reports. The actress reportedly died of Alzheimer’s complications at her home in Los Angeles on February 23. Helmond was known for her roles in Soap and Who’s The Boss?, as well as scores of other TV shows, movies, and stage productions.
Katherine Helmond rose to fame in the 1970s for her starring role as Jessica Tate on the racy, soapy primetime sitcom Soap, a role which earned her four Best Actress Emmy Award nominations and a Golden Globe win in 1981.
Starting in 1984, Helmond starred as man-crazy Mona Robinson on the long-running ABC sitcom Who’s the Boss?, for which she scored two Supporting Actress Emmy nods for her work in the series that starred Tony Danza, Judith Light, and a young Alyssa Milano. ABC filmed a pilot for a Mona spinoff, but it was not picked up.
In the 1990s, Helmond went on to recur as Doris Sherman on ABC’s Coach opposite Craig T. Nelson and Jerry Van Dyke, and she later played Lois Whelan opposite Ray Romano and Patricia Heaton on the CBS hit Everybody Loves Raymond. Helmond’s prolific television career also included guest spots on everything from Gunsmoke to The Six Million Dollar Man.
In addition to her many TV roles, Katherine Helmond appeared in three Terry Gilliam movies: Time Bandits (1981), Brazil (1985), and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998). The multi-talented actress also played Goldie Hawn’s mother in Garry Marshall’s 1987 comedy film Overboard, and later provided the voice of Lizzie, a 1923 Ford Model T, in the Disney-Pixar Cars franchise.
On the stage, Helmond received a Tony nomination for best featured actress for her work in Eugene O’Neill’s 1972 play The Great God Brown. Helmond had long said that the theater was her first love, according to The Hollywood Reporter. In fact, Katherine Helmond met her husband, David Christian, at the Hampton Playhouse Summer Stock Theater, where he worked as a set designer and she was the leading lady. They wed in 1962, according to The Wrap.
In a 2008 interview with Archive of American Television, Katherine Helmond said it was her agent who decided to switch her to more comedic roles after tiring of seeing her play battered women. Of her sitcom role on Soap, Helmond said she tried to portray “ditzy” Jessica Tate as “more child-like than stupid.”
Helmond also recalled her Who’s the Boss role as widowed Mona, a promiscuous character who moved on from her husband’s death by “throwing caution to the wind, doing whatever comes up…being a little more risqué.”
After Katherine Helmond’s death was announced, her TV granddaughter, Who’s the Boss star Alyssa Milano, posted a tribute to her on Twitter.
“Katherine Helmond has passed away,” Milano wrote. “My beautiful, kind, funny, gracious, compassionate, rock. You were an instrumental part of my life. You taught me to hold my head above the marsh! You taught me to do anything for a laugh! What an example you were! Rest In Peace, Katherine.”
Katherine Helmond is survived by her husband of 57 years, David Christian. A memorial service for family and friends to celebrate Katherine Helmond’s life is being planned for a future date.