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Shelley Morrison, who played the beloved Rosario on Will & Grace, died Sunday morning at age 83, EW has confirmed. She was admitted to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles for heart failure after a brief illness. AP first reported her passing.
Morrison starred as Rosario Salazar, Karen Walker’s (Megan Mullally) maid on the first run of Will & Grace. Hailing from El Salvador, Rosario (known as Rosie) had a contentious yet loving relationship with Karen. The popular character appeared in 68 episodes of the comedy but was not featured in the revival, with Morrison declining to return after retiring from acting.
“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,” her publicist, Lori DeWaal, told EW. “She also took pride in portraying a strong, loving yet feisty Latina character. She believed that the best way to change hearts and minds was through comedy.”
“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.”
Debra Messing and Eric McCormack, who starred as Grace Adler and Will Truman, respectively, on the show offered their condolences on social media Sunday. “Oh, Shelley… what a loss,” Messing wrote on Instagram. “Our dear Rosario has passed on. Shelley had a career that spanned decades, but she will always be our dear Rosie. All my love to Walter and the entire family.”
Oh, Shelley... what a loss. Our dear Rosario has passed on. Shelley had a career that spanned decades, but she will always be our dear Rosie. She was a kind soul with a huge heart and always had a smile on her face. All my love to Walter and the entire family. #shelleymorrison 😢
A post shared by Debra Messing (@therealdebramessing) on Dec 1, 2019 at 7:32pm PST
McCormack posted on Twitter, writing, “Shelley was a beautiful soul & a wonderful actor. Her work as Rosario, season after season, was as nuanced and real as it was hysterical. She will be missed by everyone at #WillandGrace, she’s a huge part of it. Sending so much love to Walter and Shelley’s whole family.”
Shelley was a beautiful soul & a wonderful actor. Her work as Rosario, season after season, was as nuanced and real as it was hysterical. She will be missed by everyone at #WillandGrace, she’s a huge part of it. Sending so much love to Walter and Shelley’s whole family. #Rosario https://t.co/C1vkDTU6Qk
— Eric McCormack (@EricMcCormack) December 2, 2019
Sean Hayes, who starred as Jack McFarland on the sitcom, wrote, “Such sad news. Our beloved Shelley Morrison passed away today. She was absolutely hilarious and had the biggest heart. She was a part of our Will and Grace family and will be greatly missed. My heart goes out to her husband, Walter and her entire family.”
Such sad news. Our beloved Shelley Morrison passed away today. She was absolutely hilarious and had the biggest heart. She was a part of our Will and Grace family and will be greatly missed. My heart goes out to her husband, Walter and her entire family. ❤️ P.S. On behalf of everyone at W&G, thank you for all the kind words. You guys are the best. xo
A post shared by Sean Hayes (@seanhayes) on Dec 1, 2019 at 6:37pm PST
Mullally also paid tribute on Twitter, writing, “My heart is heavy. Putting Shelley, her beloved husband Walter & their children in the light. Thank you for your friendship & partnership, Shell. You accomplished wonderful things in this world. you will be missed.” Mullally shared similar sentiments on Instagram, ending that post with “te amo, mami,” which is what Mullally’s character Karen says to Rosario after her death in a 2017 episode.
just got a bulletin on my phone that shelley morrison has passed. my heart is heavy. putting shelley, her beloved husband walter & their children in the light. thank you for your friendship & partnership, shell. you accomplished wonderful things in this world. you will be missed. pic.twitter.com/WeLGrWlRye
— Megan Mullally (@MeganMullally) December 2, 2019
Shelley Morrison has passed. she was such an integral and important part of my experience at Will & Grace, and became a friend in the intervening years. she was loving, strong, supportive, and kind. she and her husband Walter Dominguez had a wonderful, loving, and inspiring 46-year marriage. he was always by her side. please put him and their children and grandchildren in your thoughts. i will miss you, Shelley. thank you for the years of partnership and for your friendship and support. te amo, mami.
A post shared by Megan Mullally (@meganomullally) on Dec 1, 2019 at 8:46pm PST
And in a tribute shared to the Will & Grace official social media account, Morrison was remembered for the “unique, razor-sharp wit, intelligence, and humanity” that she brought each week to the series. “Shelley gave us her very best, and our show – and our lives – were better for her,” the post continued.
“All of us in the “Will & Grace” family are feeling the tremendous loss of our friend, Shelley Morrison. Shelley was an essential and beloved part of our lives. Every week, she brought her unique, razor-sharp wit, intelligence, and humanity to her work, making Rosario Salazar the fierce and feisty fan favorite that she was. But Shelley brought those same qualities and more to everything she did offscreen as well. She was exceedingly generous and compassionate and good-humored with all of us who worked side by side with her and to her fans who adored her. Shelley gave us her very best, and our show - and our lives - were better for her. We send our heartfelt sympathies to her husband, Walter, and her family.” - From David Kohan, Max Mutchnick and James Burrows
A post shared by Will & Grace (@nbcwillandgrace) on Dec 2, 2019 at 1:27pm PST
Apart from Will & Grace, Morrison had a long and successful career on television. She appeared in numerous episodes of The Flying Nun as Sister Sixto, as well as The Rookies, Laredo, Courthouse, and more.
On the big screen, Morrison was featured in films like Three Guns for Texas, Funny Girl with Barbra Streisand, Troop Beverly Hills with Shelley Long, and the 1997 romcom Fools Rush In, starring Salma Hayek and Matthew Perry.
Born Rachel Mitrani in New York City’s Bronx borough in 1936, Morrison’s first language was Spanish. She often portrayed Latina characters on screen but was featured in roles of various backgrounds.