Veteran character actress and “Will & Grace” fan favorite Shelley Morrison, whose career spanned over 50 years, died Sunday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, her publicist Lori DeWaal confirmed to The Associated Press. Morrison, who DeWaal said died from heart failure after a short illness, was 83.
Morrison was best known for playing Rosario Salazar, the sharp-tongued Salvadoran maid in “Will & Grace,” who often exchanged verbal barbs and acerbic witticisms with Megan Mullally’s character, the brash socialite Karen Walker.
Morrison revealed recently that Rosario had been “one of my all-time favorite characters.”
“She reminds me a lot of my own mother, who loved animals and children, but she would not suffer fools,” Morrison said, per AP. “It is very significant to me that we were able to show an older, Hispanic woman who is bright and smart and can hold her own.”
Morrison’s husband of 64 years, Walter Dominguez, echoed this sentiment in a statement to People magazine. His wife’s “greatest pride as an actress was in playing the indomitable Rosario in a comedy series that furthered the cause of social equity and fairness for LGBTQ people,” he said, adding that Morrison had “believed that the best way to change hearts and minds was through comedy.”
According to her IMDb profile, Morrison appeared in more than 150 TV series over the course of her career, including “The Flying Nun,” “Murder, She Wrote” and “The Partridge Family.” She more recently voiced a character, Mrs. Portillo, on the Disney animated TV series “Handy Manny.”
Morrison also starred in films alongside some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, including “How to Save a Marriage and Ruin Your Life” with Dean Martin, “Mackenna’s Gold” with Gregory Peck and “Troop Beverly Hills” with Shelley Long.
Morrison was born Rachel Mitrani to a Jewish-Spanish family in the Bronx in New York City in 1936, AP reported. She battled a variety of health problems, IMDb said, and was a survivor of breast and lung cancer.
In social media tributes, Morrison’s “Will & Grace” co-stars Eric McCormack, Debra Messing and Sean Hayes mourned the death of their “dear Rosie.”
“Shelley was a beautiful soul & a wonderful actor. Her work as Rosario, season after season, was as nuanced and real as it was hysterical,” McCormack wrote.
Mullally also tweeted her grief at the news of Morrison’s passing.
“thank you for your friendship & partnership, shell,” she wrote.