Actress Shelley Morrison, best known for playing a maid on NBC's hit sitcom Will & Grace, died Sunday, her publicist told The Associated Press. She was 83 years old. Morrison's career stretched back to the 1960s, but she called her role as Rosario Salazar one of her favorite characters. Morrison died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles from heart failure after a short illness, publicist Lori DeWaal told the AP.
The actress' career began in the early 1960s, and scored her first major role as Sister Sixto in The Flying Nun, opposite Sally Field, from 1967 to 1970. After the show wrapped, she found parts in episodes of The Partridge Family, The Rookies, Once an Eagle, Soap, Murder, She Wrote, Sisters and L.A. Law. She also had a recurring role on General Hospital.
In 1999, she was cast as Rosario Salazar, a maid from El Salvador who worked for Megan Mullally's character, Karen Walker. Rosario was only supposed to be a one-and-done character, but the chemistry between the two actresses was undeniable and Morrison wound up playing the part in 68 episodes.
"Rosario is one of my all-time favorite characters," Morrison said recently, according to a statement released on Sunday. "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."
Morrison was born Rachel Mitrani in the Bronx, New York in 1936 to Jewish parents who immigrated from Spain. She grew up speaking Spanish and often played Latina characters in television shows and movies.
Some of her film credits include the romantic comedy How to Save a Marriage and Ruin Your Life with Dean Martin, MacKenna's Gold with Gregory Peck, Funny Girl with Barbra Streisand, Troop Beverly Hills and Fools Rush In.
Morrison is survived by her husband, Walter Dominguez, whom she married in 1973.
Since Morrison's death was announced, fans of her work took to Twitter to mourn her.
"So sad to hear about the passing of Shelley Morrison. She took a 1 episode cameo as Rosario and turned it into a 68 episode run, stealing the show every time," one fan wrote.
"Thanks for the laughs, Shelley Morrison. You’ll be missed," another wrote.
"Aw. RIP to a lady who put in 52 years (!) of TV work and always did the job and then some," author Mark Harris wrote.
Photo credit: Chris Haston/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images