Shelley Morrison, Rosario the Maid on 'Will & Grace,' Dies at 83

Shelley Morrison - Getty - H 2019
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Years earlier, she starred opposite Sally Field on 'The Flying Nun' and played a Native American on 'Loredo.'

Shelley Morrison, who played the cranky El Salvadoran maid Rosario Salazar on Will & Grace, died Sunday. She was 83.

Morrison died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles from heart failure after a brief illness, publicist Lori DeWaal told the Associated Press.

Morrison also portrayed the earnest Puerto Rican Sister Sixto, who drew laughs for her attempts to grasp the English language, on three seasons of the 1967-70 ABC comedy The Flying Nun, starring Sally Field.

Originally signed for just one episode of Will & Grace — the NBC comedy's first-season finale — Morrison stuck around for 67 more installments and remained with the show until its conclusion in May 2006.

Her Rosario never suffered fools and had many memorable sparring sessions with her spoiled socialite employer, Karen Walker (Megan Mullally), and in one story arc, she married Jack McFarland (Sean Hayes) to avoid being deported.

"Rosario gave me this wonderful opportunity to just be spontaneous and out there," she said in a 2014 interview. "You just didn't know if she was going to love you or hate you or put you down or hug you. People responded to that."

Will & Grace co-creator Max Mutchnick said in August 2017 that Morrison was asked to come back for the series' return in 2017 but had declined, telling him that she had retired. The reboot dedicated an episode to the character in 2017.

Eric McCormack, who plays Will on the sitcom, recalled Morrison on Twitter as a "beautiful soul" and wonderful actor. "Her work as Rosario, season after season, was as nuanced and real as it was hysterical," he wrote.

Co-star Debra Messing also tweeted: "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."

Megan Mullally, who was Morrison's most frequent scene partner, took to Twitter to share a picture of her late co-star. "Just got a bulletin on my phone that Shelley Morrison has passed," she wrote. "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."

Sean Hayes added in his own tribute on Instagram, "She was absolutely hilarious and had the biggest heart. She was a part of our Will and Grace family and will be greatly missed."

She was born Rachel Mitrani on Oct. 26, 1936, in the South Bronx. Her parents were Spanish Jews — her first language was Spanish — and her father was a clothing manufacturer.

After the family moved west in 1946, she studied acting at Los Angeles City College, where her classmates included James Coburn and Robert Vaughn, and appeared on stage in Tennessee Williams' Orpheus Descending and Sweet Bird of Youth.

Morrison — she changed her name in the mid-'50s so she wouldn't be limited to ethnic roles — made her onscreen debut in 1961 on the ABC series Adventures in Paradise, then appeared on such shows as Dr. Kildare, The Farmer's Daughter, The Fugitive and My Favorite Martian.

She played a housekeeper in the low-budget Castle of Evil (1966), the wily Linda Little Trees on Laredo, an NBC Western, and a work friend of Stella Stevens' in How to Save a Marriage and Ruin Your Life (1968).

Her film résumé also included Divorce American Style (1967), Funny Girl (1969), Mackenna's Gold (1969), Blume in Love (1973), Rabbit Test (1978), Max Dugan Returns (1983), Troop Beverly Hills (1989), Fools Rush In (1997) and Shark Tale (2004).

More recently, Morrison had voice roles on the Disney Channel animated series Handy Manny (as Mrs. Portello) and in the 2012 film Foodfight!

Survivors include her husband, writer-director Walter Dominguez (Weaving the Past: Journey of Discovery), whom she married in 1973. They followed the Native American traditions of the Lakota Sioux and lived for decades in the same L.A. apartment building that she and her parents moved into (and then owned) when she was a child.