In an industry notoriously hostile to older women, ageing into your greatest roles is a remarkable achievement.
Jessica Walter, who died in her sleep at the age of 80, enjoyed steady work throughout her six-decade career in film and television. But it wasn’t until she stepped into the tasteful kitten heels of Lucille Bluth on Arrested Development all'età di 62 that her talents as a comedic actor became widely celebrated.
Through her ability to embody upperclass notions of graceful ageing – and then viciously undercut them with a single eye-roll or series of subtle winks – she transformed herself into an icon, and one of the internet’s favourite avatars.
Even if you’ve never seen an episode of Arrested Development – or the animated series Archer, where she plays a similarly stiff WASP mother with ice-cold martinis running through her veins – it was impossible to be ignorant of her work.
All it took was a few scrolls on Twitter, or a glance at a gif-peppered listicle, and there she was, wondering about the price of bananas (“What could it cost? $10?"), heading to the hospital bar (and on hearing there isn’t one: “This is why people hate hospitals”) or ordering family-restaurant Klimpy’s (“I don’t understand the question, and I won’t respond to it”).
Through Walter’s work, people found a way to express everything from joy to nihilism. She became a way of clapping back, shutting down and even celebrating.
A series of short, looping videos may not be considered a conventional legacy, but to convey so much in so little time is a mark of exceptional talent.