Shelley Morrison, best known for her portrayal of feisty maid Rosario Salazar during the initial eight-season run of the NBC comedy “Will & Grace,” died Sunday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center from heart failure after a brief illness, her publicist, Lori De Waal said. She was 83.
Morrison was cast to play the previously unseen maid of socialite Karen Walker (Megan Mullally) in 1999, on the first season finale of “Will & Grace.” She appeared in eight episodes in the second season, then became a cast member in the third season, remaining with the series for the remainder of its original eight-season run.
“Rosario is one of my all-time favorite characters,” Morrison once said. “She reminds me a lot of my own mother, who loved animals and children, but she would not suffer fools.”
Morrison and her castmates received Screen Actors Guild Award nominations for outstanding performance by an ensemble in a comedy series in 2002 and 2004, losing to HBO’s “Sex and the City” both times.
Morrison declined an offer to be part of the cast when “Will & Grace” was revived by NBC in 2017, deciding to remain retired from acting. A 2017 episode dealt with her character’s death.
“Shelley was a beautiful soul & a wonderful actor,” Eric McCormack, who starred as gay attorney Will Truman on “Will & Grace,” tweeted. “Her work as Rosario, season after season, was as nuanced and real as it was hysterical.”
Morrison first became known to television viewers through her role as Sister Sixto on the 1967-70 ABC comedy, “The Flying Nun.”
“She was not too smart, but daffy and always sweet,” Morrison said. “I modeled much of her quirky and lovable ways on my dear aunties.”
Morrison was born and raised in the Bronx, a borough of New York City. She attended Los Angeles City College, where her classmates included James Coburn and Robert Vaughn.
After appearing in the national road company production of Tennessee Williams’ “Orpheus Descending,” Morrison made her television debut in a 1961 episode of the ABC drama, “Adventures in Paradise.”
Morrison’s other early television credits included “The Fugitive,” “Gunsmoke,” “Dr. Kildare,” “My Favorite Martian” and “Occasional Wife.” She portrayed wily and brilliant gang leader Linda Little Trees on four episodes of the 1965-67 NBC western “Laredo,” in what she called one of her favorite television roles.
Morrison was put under contract by Columbia Pictures later in the 1960s, appearing in such films as “Divorce American Style,” “Funny Girl” and “MacKenna’s Gold.”
After marrying Walter Dominguez, whom she met in 1973 while both were working on a feature film, Morrison said she “decided to stop and smell the roses a little bit,” putting work as an actress secondary to her new family.
When Morrison turned 50 in 1986, she decided to rekindle her acting career, appearing on “Murder She Wrote,” “L.A. Law,” “Home Improvement,” “Columbo” and “Sisters” and such films as “Troop Beverly Hills,” “Max Dugan Returns” and “Fools Rush In.”
After “Will & Grace” ended its original run in 2006, Morrison appeared in a ”My Name Is Earl” episode later that year and supplied the voice of Mrs. Portillo on the Disney Channel animated series ”Handy Manny” from 2006-12.
Morrison is survived by her filmmaker husband, three sons, three daughters and what her publicist described as “a large extended family of grandkids, nephews and nieces.”
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