Best known for playing sexually liberated grandmother Mona on the hit ’80s sitcom “Who’s the Boss?”, actress Katherine Helmond has passed away at age 89.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the seven-time Emmy nominee died of complications from Alzheimer’s on Saturday, Feb. 23, with her talent agency APA confirming the sad news.
Prior to her success on “Who’s the Boss?”, Helmond starred in “Soap” as ditzy Jessica Tate on all seasons of the groundbreaking sitcom, which ran from 1977 to 1981.
Other television appearances included an Emmy-nominated recurring role as the mother of Patricia Heaton’s character on “Everybody Loves Raymond”, the widowed team owner of a fictional NFL team on “Coach” and Caroline Bellefleur in HBO’s “True Blood”.
On the big screen, Helmond appeared in three Terry Gilliam films: “Time Bandits”, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” and “Brazil”, in which she delivered a scene-stealing performance as a plastic surgery-obsessed socialite. She also appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Family Plot” and provided the voice of Lizzie in three animated “Cars” features.
Born in Galveston, Texas, Helmond made her way to New York City as a young woman, where she worked primarily in theatre, later running a summer theatre in the Catskills.
Her talent eventually took her to Broadway, where she earned a 1973 Tony nomination for her performance in Eugene O’Neill’s “The Great God Brown”.
Helmond’s screen daughter, Judith Light gave the following statement to ET Canada: “Katherine Helmond was a remarkable human being and an extraordinary artist; generous, gracious, charming and profoundly funny. She taught me so much about life and inspired me indelibly by watching her work. Katherine was a gift to our business and to the world, and will be deeply missed.”
“Who’s the Boss?” star Tony Danza spoke to ET Canada about his memories of Helmond. “I was in love with her,” he said. “She was such an influence on me. From being a single guy with a hit show in Hollywood, though my marriage and having kids — she was with me. No matter what problem I had, I could go to her. Very few people could match her.”
Danza recalled his initial excitement when he first learned Helmond had been cast as Mona: “We luckily got Jessica from ‘Soap’. Oh my God, we hit the lottery. She was a consummate professional — never made a mistake and always got the laugh. She was the sexy older lady who could keep up with the young people. She just had a way about her.”
Helmond’s “Who’s the Boss?” co-stars Alyssa Milano and Tony Danza took to Twitter to pay tribute to the late actress.
In this interview for the Television Academy Foundation, Helmond discusses why she thinks “Who’s the Boss?” was such an enduring favourite with viewers: