After getting her start on Broadway more than 50 years ago, she carved a notable career as a dramatic actress in films such as
But for the last decade, she's been the queen of comedy.
Walter's career took a 180-degree turn in 2003 when she was cast as the deliciously caustic Lucille Bluth, the vodka-swilling mother from hell in the Emmy Award-winning comedy series "
"Arrested Development" led to her being cast as the equally toxic mom Malory Archer on FX's irreverent animated spy comedy series,
"Oh, my God, those parts are the best," purred Walter, 73, in her "Jennifer Falls" trailer in Santa Clarita, catching a late lunch after finishing her last scene of the day. "We don't want to be Miss Vanilla Ice Cream."
The tall, whippet-slender Walter is the anthesis of her recent on-screen characters — sweet and funny, with a kind word for everyone. She's been married to actor
"Arrested Development," which aired on Fox from 2003 to '06 and returned for one season last year on
"We are so grateful for that show. I knew it was really funny, but I never thought it would become this sort of cult favorite."
The producers of "Archer" were such "Arrested Development" fans that they told talent agents they wanted a Jessica Walter "type" for the part of the belligerent, alcoholic CEO of the spy agency and the mother of not-so-ace spy Sterling Archer.
"We didn't think she would do our little cartoon show," said Matt Thompson, an executive producer on the series. But when her agent sent her the script, Walter quickly accepted and is currently recording the sixth season of the series.
Though Lucille and Malory may be cut from the same maternal cloth, they aren't carbon copies. "I don't think Lucille would ever pick up a gun and murder a man," Thompson said, laughing. "Our Jessica frequently commits murder and orders people to commit murder."
Walter sees differences — and similarities — in the characters.
"Lucille would never let her hair go gray like Malory," Walter noted. "But in many ways they are the same — they both love their children. Malory loves Sterling. Lucille loved most of her children."
Meanwhile, Maggie, a psychotherapist, is perhaps guilty of loving her children a bit too much in "Jennifer Falls."
"She has boundary issues," said Walter. "But there's nothing hateful about Maggie. She's trying hard."
The comedy, which premiered last month, stars
"Jessica's character has this crazy air about her," said Pressly. "She doesn't listen and she can be frustrating but in a funny way."
The two, noted Pressly, quickly developed a "really great energy and a bond where we can look at each other and kind of know what each other is thinking. It comes through on screen. When Jessica and I do our scenes together, it's magic."
It was her performance in the ensemble drama "The Group" that caught Eastwood's eye for the role of the obsessed stalker in "Play Misty for Me."
"He called me in," said Walter. "No audition. We had a talk, and he offered me a carrot juice. The next day my agent called and said, 'You have the part.'"
Walter saw Eastwood at an awards show a few years ago and took her daughter over to meet him. "I said 'Clint, this is my daughter.' He said, 'How do you do? I threw your mother off a cliff.' He has a great sense of humor. I adore him."