Katherine Helmond, star of ‘Who’s the Boss?’ and ‘Soap,’ dies at 89

Actress Katherine Helmond

Actress Katherine Helmond has died at the age of 89, according to Variety.

The cast of “Soap:” Robert Mandan as Chester Tate, Robert Guillaume as Benson DuBois, and Richard Mulligan as Burt Campbell. Front row, Katherine Helmond as Jessica Tate and Cathryn Damon as Mary Campbell.

The actress passed away on February 23 due to complications from Alzheimer’s Disease while at home in Los Angeles.

She starred on the hit series Who’s The Boss? from 1984 until 1992 as well as roles in Coach, Everybody Loves Raymond, Overboard, Coach, Soap, Brazil, the Cars franchise and Alfred Hitchcock’s Family Plot.

Her former Who’s The Boss? co-star Alyssa Milano took to Twitter after the announcement of her passing.

Katherine Helmond was born Katherine Marie Helmond on July 5, 1929, in Galveston, Texas, the only child of Thelma (née Malone; May 13, 1910 – October 10, 1981) and Joseph P. Helmond (March 11, 1904 – January 31, 1983). She was raised by her mother and grandmother, both devout Roman Catholics. She attended a Catholic primary school and appeared in numerous school plays.

Chester Tate’s (Robert Mandan) brain surgery has him doing strange things, strange enough that even Jessica (Katherine Helmond) to notice on episode 33 of the ABC Television hit comedy series, “Soap” airing Thursday, November 9 1978 (9:30PM EST) Photo: ABC

For a semester she attended Bob Jones University in Greenville, SC and appeared in their film (Unusual Films Production) Wine of Morning.

Helmond had supporting roles in films such as Alfred Hitchcock’s Family Plot (1976) and Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (1985). She also voiced Lizzie in the three Cars films by Disney/Pixar.

After her stage debut in As You Like It, Helmond began working in New York in 1955. She later ran a summer theatre in the Catskills for three seasons and taught acting in university theatre programs. She made her television debut in 1962, but would not achieve a high profile until the 1970s. She also acted on stage, earning a Tony nomination for her performance on Broadway in Eugene O’Neill’s The Great God Brown (1973). Other Broadway productions include Private Lives, Don Juan and Mixed Emotions.

Jessica Tate (Katherine Helmond) remembers happier days with her husband Chester (Robert Mandan) and the typically sour Benson (Robert Guillaume, standing). Jessica is currently in jail wondering who really murdered Peter Campbell, and as Burt Campbell tries to accumulate evidence, Jessica’s reminisces will be telecast in a special 90-minute retrospective of the 1977 television season’s hit comedy, “Soap,” airing on the ABC Television Network Thursday, August 31 9:30PM EDT. Photo: ABC

Helmond appeared in such feature films as Family Plot (1976) and Brazil (1985), in which she played the mother of Jonathan Pryce’s character. She went on to direct four episodes of the television series Benson as well as one episode of Who’s the Boss? (1984). She picked up Emmy nominations for her role as Mona Robinson in Who’s the Boss and as Lois Whelan in Everybody Loves Raymond. She also received acclaim for her stage performance in Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues.

Katherine Marie Helmond (July 5, 1929 – February 23, 2019) was known for her starring role as ditzy matriarch Jessica Tate on the ABC prime time soap opera sitcom “Soap.”

Helmond appeared in The Legend of Lizzie Borden (1975) as Emma Borden, the title character’s sister. She appeared in an episode of the short-lived 1976 CBS adventure series, Spencer’s Pilots, starring Gene Evans. Helmond gained prominence as Jessica Tate, the ditzy matriarch of the Tate family in Soap (1977–1981) on ABC. From 1984 to 1992, she played the role of Mona Robinson on the ABC sitcom Who’s the Boss?. The show was a ratings success, running for eight seasons and finishing in the Nielsen ‘Top 10’ four straight years. In 1993, she appeared in one episode of the British version of Who’s the Boss?, The Upper Hand.

From 1995 to 1997, she starred in the ABC sitcom Coach as Doris Sherman, eccentric owner of the fictional Orlando Breakers professional football team. From 1996 to 2004, she had a recurring role on Everybody Loves Raymond as Lois Whelan (Ray Barone’s mother-in-law). On July 25, 2010, she guest-starred on A&E’s The Glades. She also guest starred as Caroline Bellefleur on HBO’s True Blood.

Award nominations

Katherine Helmond at the 41st Emmy Awards September 17, 1989. Photo by Alan Light

She was nominated for Broadway’s 1973 Tony Award as Best Supporting or Featured Actress (Dramatic) for Eugene O’Neill’s The Great God Brown. She was nominated for an Emmy for her role on Soap four times in a row (1978–1981) as Best Actress in a Comedy Series. In 1988 and 1989, she was nominated as Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her role on Who’s the Boss?. In 2002, she was nominated as Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for her role in Everybody Loves Raymond.

Personal life

In 1957, Helmond married George N. Martin. After their divorce, she married her second husband, David Christian, in 1962, and they remained married until her death, residing in Los Angeles, New York City, Long Island, and London. She and her husband had a history as students of Zen.

Helmond died February 23, 2019, from complications of Alzheimer’s disease at her home in Los Angeles. Her death was announced a week later.


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