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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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 Barbara 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.