Kellie Waymire, a popular young actress who earned critical praise for her performance as a dog in A.R. Gurney’s offbeat play “Sylvia” and appeared frequently on television series from “Friends” to “Six Feet Under,” has died. She was 36.
Waymire died Nov. 13 at her home in Venice, apparently of an undiagnosed medical problem, said her agent, Billy Miller. He said an autopsy would determine the cause of death.
A familiar face on television for the last decade, Waymire came into her own critically in 1996 when she became the lovable dog Sylvia -- a part handled by the better-known Sarah Jessica Parker when the Gurney play made its debut off-Broadway a year earlier -- at San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre.
The role won Waymire a Drama-Logue Award for outstanding performance.
“Sylvia is the dog of the moment,” wrote Times theater critic Laurie Winer when the play opened that September, “as played by the utterly irresistible Kellie Waymire. When Waymire sits at attention, every muscle in her body tensed in excitement as she awaits her master’s word, you will want to adopt her and never let her go.
“Gurney has written a play-stealing role for an actress,” Winer added. “With a natural ebullience (and wearing kneepads), Waymire indeed steals every scene. She evokes a dog in all its doggy aspects, not literally, by walking on all fours, but figuratively. She quivers with the desire to be loved.”
In Winer’s 1996 year-end theater roundup a few months later, the critic praised Waymire’s “Sylvia” anew for “what stands out as the most comically endearing performance of the year.”
When the play moved from San Diego to San Francisco’s Marines Memorial Theatre, the San Francisco Examiner critic praised Waymire as “a cute, cuddly and often hilariously canine Sylvia,” and the Chronicle critic concluded that “Waymire romps off with the evening.”
The actress appeared in a revival of Noel Coward’s “Present Laughter” at the Pasadena Playhouse in 1998, again winning critical praise.
Winer noted: “Kellie Waymire, so delightful playing a dog in ‘Sylvia’ at the Old Globe two years ago, is equally delightful playing a debutante who uses her Breck Girl blond hair and round-faced beauty in a futile attempt to snare a famous man.”
Waymire also appeared at Los Angeles theaters in recent years in “On the Jump” and Arthur Miller’s “The Man Who Had All the Luck.”
In addition, she was a regular in respected regional theaters around the country -- not only the Old Globe and Pasadena Playhouse, but also South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa, La Jolla Playhouse, Circle X Theatre and Antaeus Company in Los Angeles, Seattle Repertory Theater, Milwaukee Repertory and the Rogue Theatre in New York City.
Born July 27, 1967, in Columbus, Ohio, Waymire graduated from Southern Methodist University, where she won the Greer Garson Award. She then earned a master of fine arts degree from UC San Diego.
She began her career in New York on the soap opera “One Life to Live.”
After moving to Los Angeles, she appeared in episodes of “Seinfeld,” “Ally McBeal,” “The Practice,” “Judging Amy,” “The X-Files,” “Wolf Lake,” “Star Trek: Voyager” and “Star Trek: Enterprise.”
Most recently, she was on a “Friends” episode telecast Oct. 3 and was the spunky wife opposite Dylan Baker on Fox’s sitcom “The Pitts.” She also appeared last year in the recurring role of Melissa the prostitute in the cable series about undertaking, “Six Feet Under.”
Her motion picture credits include “Playing by Heart,” starring Sean Connery and Gena Rowlands.
The actress is survived by her parents, Jack Waymire and Vicki Currant; a brother, Tony Currant; a sister, Rebecca Cornwell; and partner Gary Judson Smoot.
A public memorial is scheduled for 8 p.m. Dec. 8 at UCLA’s Macgowan Hall.
The family has asked that any donations be sent to the Kellie Waymire Scholarship Fund, UC San Diego Foundation, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093.