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‘Will & Grace’ Star Shelley Morrison is Dead at 83

Spanish actress Shelley Morrison — best known for her role as Salvadoran maid Rosario Salazar on Will & Grace died at on Sunday Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles from heart failure after a brief illness, her publicist, Lori DeWaal, told The Associated Press.

Morrison was born Rachel Mitrani in the South Bronx to Spanish Jewish parents and her first language was Spanish. In a 2004 interview, she explained that her stage name was inspired by her nickname in college and her father’s first name (Morris) so as to not be limited to ethnic roles.

Morrison played the beloved, wisecracking maid to Grace’s assistant, Karen Walker (Megan Mullally) from 1999-2006, and she later married Karen’s gay friend Jack McFarland (Sean Hayes)  in order to get a green card to stay in the country. She was a part of a cast that won a Screen Actors Guild award for best ensemble in a comedy series.

“Rosario is one of my all-time favorite characters,” Morrison said recently, according to the AP. “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.”

Rosario was originally set to appear in just one episode of the hit NBC series but she had such a great dynamic with Mullally that her character went on to appear in 68 episodes. Co-creator Max Mutchnick said that she’d been asked to reprise her role for the revival of Will & Grace but she had retired from acting according to The Hollywood Reporter. The reboot dedicated an episode to the character in 2017.

“Shelley’s greatest pride as an actress was in playing the indomitable Rosario, in a comedy series that furthered the cause of social equity and fairness for LGBTQ people. … She believed that the best way to change hearts and minds was through comedy,” her husband of 64 years, Walter Dominguez said in a statement according to the AP.

In addition to playing Rosario, she also played Puerto Rican Sister Sixto alongside Sally Field on the comedy The Flying Nun in the late ’60s and recently, she voiced Mrs. Portillo on the Disney Channel animated series Handy Manny. She guest-starred on dozens of television series starting in the early 1960s, including The Fugitive, LA Law and Murder, She Wrote. She was also in films alongside major Hollywood stars including How to Save a Marriage and Ruin Your Life with Dean Martin, Funny Girl with Barbra Streisand, and in Fools Rush In with Salma Hayek in 1997.

Following the report of her death, all four cast members including Debra Messing and Eric McCormack posted on social media remembering the character and the actress with Messing writing, “Our dear Rosario has passed on. Shelley had a career that spanned decades, but she will always be our dear Rosie.”

Morrison’s role as Rosario remains significant when Latinx representation in Hollywood remains limited and her role was not only of a fierce, blunt Central American woman but also an undocumented Latina. She’ll remain one of the most beloved supporting characters from a TV series and one of the best known Latina characters.