Liz Sheridan, the stalwart actress best known for playing Jerry’s mother on Seinfeld and the Mrs. Ochmonek on Alf, died Friday, April 15. She was 93.
Sheridan’s friend and representative, Amanda Hendon, confirmed the news, saying the actress died in her sleep of natural causes. “Liz’s worldwide fan base will continue to enjoy her extensive body of work for years to come,” Hendon said. “She was always very grateful to her fans and felt blessed to have enjoyed decades of work in the entertainment business.”
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Jerry Seinfeld paid tribute to Sheridan on Twitter, writing, “Liz was always the sweetest, nicest TV mom a son could wish for. Every time she came on our show it was the coziest feeling for me. So lucky to have known her.”
Sheridan began her career as a dancer and nightclub performer in the Caribbean and New York City throughout much of the Fifties and Sixties. In the early Fifties, while living in New York, she struck up a whirlwind romance with James Dean, a tale she relayed in her 2000 memoir, Dizzy and Jimmy (per Hendon, the book is currently in development as a feature film).
In the Seventies, Sheridan established herself as a Broadway regular, appearing in 12 shows, including a successful 1977 revival of the Kurt Weil/Bertold Brecht musical Happy End, which also featured Meryl Streep and Christopher Lloyd. That same year, she made her television debut in an episode of Kojak, and she’d largely spend the next three decades as a busy character actress in an array of films and TV shows.
In 1986, Sheridan was cast on the sci-fi sitcom Alf, paired with John La Motta as the nosy neighbors of the Tanner family, who take in the stranded “Alien Life Form” Gordan “ALF” Shumway. Sheridan appeared in 34 episodes of Alf across four seasons.
Her next big role, and probably her most memorable, came when she was cast as Jerry’s overly doting mother Helen in Seinfeld. Sheridan made her first appearance on the show’s second episode, “The Stake Out,” and was the only performer, outside the core four cast, to appear in all nine seasons of the series.
Helen also clocked in at an impressive Number 19 in Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 best Seinfeld characters, with Rob Sheffield writing, “Helen Seinfeld has a salty tongue for the gossip-loving seniors of Del Boca Vista, but she stands up loyally for Jerry, making her one of the show’s truly beloved characters.”
Sheridan continued acting well into the new millennium, and her Eighties, scoring a notable role alongside Andy Griffith in the 2009 romantic comedy, Play the Game (the film was memorable for not only being Griffith’s final film credit, but it featured some exceedingly rare octogenarian sex scenes between Griffith and Sheridan). Sheridan also regularly performed her own one-woman show, Mrs. Seinfeld Sings.
Sheridan is the second notable Seinfeld cast member to die this month, following the death of Estelle Harris, who played George Costanza’s mother on the sitcom, also at the age of 93.
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