Denise Dowse, 'Insecure' and 'Beverly Hills, 90210' actor, dies at 64

A woman with blond hair wrapped into a bun with a red rose in it posing in a black suit and ruffled white shirt
Denise Dowse attends the 2022 Pan African Film and Arts Festival in Los Angeles. (Maury Phillips / Getty Images)
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Denise Dowse, a prolific performer known for roles in "Insecure" and "Beverly Hills, 90210," has died, her manager confirmed Sunday to the Los Angeles Times. She was 64.

Dowse's sister, Tracey Dowse, shared last week on social media that the character actor had fallen into a coma induced by "a virulent form of meningitis." On Saturday, Tracey Dowse paid loving tribute to Denise Dowse via her sister's Instagram page.

"It is with a very heavy heart that I inform everyone that my sister, Denise Dowse has gone forward to meet our family in eternal life," she wrote.

"Denise Yvonne Dowse was the most amazing sister, a consummate, illustrious actress, mentor and director. She was my very best friend and final family member. Denise loved all of you. I know that she is watching over us with all the love she has."

Additionally, Tracey Dowse requested privacy and "continued prayers" before adding that she would provide details about any memorial services "at a later time."

"I am so grateful for all the calls, text messages, direct messages, and silent prayers for my sister," she said. "We could not have made it so gracefully and painlessly without all of the prayer warriors around the world. Thank you for giving so selflessly."

In the hit teen drama "Beverly Hills, 90210," Denise Dowse played Mrs. Yvonne Teasley, the vice principal of West Beverly Hills High School, from 1991 to 2000. She also appeared as Judge Rebecca Damson in all three seasons of the early 2000s legal drama "The Guardian."

More recently, she portrayed Molly’s (Yvonne Orji) therapist, Dr. Rhonda Pine, in three seasons of Issa Rae’s acclaimed HBO comedy “Insecure," which ran from 2016 to 2021. Her other TV credits included "Criminal Minds," “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Good Trouble,” “Rocket Power," "Roc," "Touched by an Angel," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Law & Order," "Bones," "9-1-1," "Snowfall," "ER," "Charmed," "Imposters," "Secrets and Lies" and "Seinfeld."

On film, Dowse starred as talent manager Marlene André opposite Jamie Foxx's Ray Charles in 2004's "Ray." She also shared the big screen with Samuel L. Jackson in 2005's "Coach Carter" as Principal Garrison — inspired by a real-life educator in Richmond, Calif. Dowse's other movie projects included "Sneakers" (1992), "Bio-Dome" (1996), "Starship Troopers" (1997), "Pleasantville" (1998), "Requiem for a Dream" (2000), "Dr. Dolittle 2" (2001), "Guess Who" (2005) and "Her Best Move" (2007).

In a statement provided to The Times, Dowse's longtime manager, Sandra Siegal, said she was heartbroken by the loss of her "brilliantly talented, beautiful, elegant, eloquent and loving" friend.

"Denise's legacy and memory will live on forever for she has truly touched so many," Siegal wrote. "As we would often sign off in ending our conversations, I will continue to love you a trillion times around the earth and back."

The daughter of a United States Naval officer, Dowse was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, and began acting in third grade, according to a 2015 interview with Brownstone Radio. While frequently relocating with her family, performing remained a priority and constant in Dowse's early life. By the time she reached high school, however, Dowse had a choice to make: Would she join the Navy and follow in her father's footsteps or pursue theater and follow her heart?

"I chose me," Dowse told Brownstone Radio.

Dowse got her big break while working as a background actor on the set of the 1980s sitcom, "ALF." After the director of the episode gave Dowse a line of dialogue, Dowse was able to get union representation and an agent. Then her career started to take off.

In addition to her extensive film and TV work, Dowse directed a number of plays as part of the Amazing Grace Conservatory in Los Angeles, the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City ("Recorded in Hollywood") and the Negro Ensemble Company in New York ("Daughters of the Mock"), according to the Hollywood Reporter. For more than 18 years, Dowse served as a resident director and mentor at the Amazing Grace Conservatory, a theatrical training program for young creatives in L.A.

Earlier this year, Dowse's feature directorial debut — "Remember Me: The Mahalia Jackson Story," starring Ledisi as the legendary gospel singer — premiered at the Pan African Film and Arts Festival in L.A.

In the wake of Dowse's death, the Amazing Grace Conservatory remembered "Ms. Denise" as "a creative icon, dedicated to the uplifting and shaping of young minds through the arts."

"You are eternally loved, forever cherished and gone too soon," the AGC said Saturday in a statement.

"A masterclass and a beacon of light, you taught us ALL how you be our best, and never shrink! We are your muffins, your legacy lives on, in every student, staff, parent, technician, musician, and artist you touched, you did it ALL! Rest well Queen, your work changed lives and touched millions."

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.