Katherine Helmond, best-known as the man-crazy mother Mona on ’80s sitcom Who’s the Boss? and the socialite sister Jessica Tate on TV comedy Soap, has died at the age of 89.
Helmond was a seven-time Emmy nominee, and aside from Who’s the Boss and Soap, starred on Everybody Loves Raymond as Lois Whelan, on Coach as the widowed owner of an NFL team, and most recently on vampire drama True Blood as Caroline Bellefleur.
She won two Golden Globes, both for Best Supporting Actress. She won for Soap in 1981 and for Who’s the Boss in 1989.
She wasn’t only a star on TV; she appeared in many movies as well, including three Terry Gilliam films — 1981’s Time Bandits, 1985’s Brazil and 1998’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
Helmond even ventured into the world of theatre, earning her a Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actress in 1973 play The Great God Brown. The Hollywood Reporter quotes Helmond as saying theatre was “her first love.”
According to her talent agency, APA, Helmond died at home on Feb. 23 following complications from Alzheimer’s disease.
Friends, former costars and fans posted their condolences on social media.
Born Katherine Marie Helmond in Galveston, Texas, on July 5, 1929, she was the oldest of three daughters.
From her earliest days she sought to be an actor, and eventually moved to where the action was in New York City. After having a tough time finding consistent work, reports say she and a small group of friends purchased a theatre in upstate New York where she performed for 10 years before landing her first role in 1971 movie The Hospital.
After moving to Los Angeles, she was cast in a recurring guest-star role on Gunsmoke a year later.
From 1977 until 1981, Helmond starred in Soap, for which she earned four of her Emmy nominations.
Helmond said that her character, Jessica, “floated through life; it was like music playing all the time.”
Her Who’s the Boss character, Mona — who she played from 1984 until 1992 — was a wise-cracking mother and grandmother who would bring a different man home every night. Helmond’s portrayal of the character was both warm and comedic, and she was a fan favourite.
There were reports of a rumoured Mona spinoff, but it never saw the light of day.
Helmond is survived by her husband of 57 years, David Christian. The pair had no children.