LOS ANGELES - Shelley Morrison, an actress with a 50-year career who was best known for playing a memorable maid on “Will and Grace,” died Sunday, her publicist said.
Morrison died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles from heart failure after a brief illness, publicist Lori DeWaal told The Associated Press. She was 83.
Morrison played Rosario Salazar, a maid from El Salvador, in the original run of “Will and Grace” from 1999 to 2006, becoming part of a cast that won a Screen Actors Guild award for best ensemble in a comedy series.
The character, originally written for a single episode, proved so popular in her interactions with co-star Megan Mullaly that she would appear in 68 episodes during the NBC series’ eight seasons.
“Rosario is one of my all-time favorite characters,” Morrison said recently, according to a statement and biography announcing her death. “She reminds me a lot of my own mother, who loved animals and children, but she would not suffer fools. 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,”
Before “Will and Grace,” Morrison was best known for playing Sister Sixto on “The Flying Nun” alongside Sally Field from 1967 to 1970.
She guest-starred on dozens of television series starting in the early 1960s, including “The Fugitive,” “L.A. Law” and “Murder, She Wrote.” Most recently, she voiced a character, Mrs. Portillo, on the Disney animated series “Handy Manny.”
Born Rachel Mitrani to Jewish parents from Spain in the Bronx, New York, in 1936, Morrison spoke primarily Spanish as a child. She was cast primarily as Latina characters, but she played a range of ethnicities in theater, television and film.
Her movie roles put her in casts with Hollywood’s biggest stars of several eras.
She appeared with Dean Martin in 1968’s “How to Save a Marriage and Ruin Your Life,” with Barbara Streisand in “Funny Girl” the same year, with Gregory Peck in 1969’s “Mackenna’s Gold,” with Shelley Long in “Troop Beverly Hills” in 1989, and with Salma Hayek in “Fools Rush In” in 1997.
Morrison is survived by her husband of more than 40 years, Walter Dominguez.