Versatile TV actor Frances Sternhagen, known for 'Cheers' and 'Sex and the City', dies

 December 2, 2023

The memorable television actor Frances Sternhagen, known for her comedic roles in Cheers and Sex and the City, has died. She was 93.

Her family confirmed that she died peacefully at her home in New Rochelle, New York.

“Frannie, as she was known to her family, friends, and colleagues was a hardworking, award-winning, beloved and celebrated actress for over 60 years. Her foundation was the theater, but she was known for roles in film, television, and spoken arts. She was versatile – adept at comedy as well as drama, character roles and leading ladies,” her family said in a statement.

'Cheers' actor dies

Over the decades, Sternhagen became known to different generations of TV viewers.

One of her most recognizable characters was Esther Clavin, the overbearing mother of mail carrier and local know-it-all Cliff Clavin in Cheers. She received two Emmy nominations for the role.

In Sex and the City, she played Bunny MacDougal, the blue-blood mother of the handsome, WASP cardiologist Trey MacDougal (Kyle MacLachlan.) In a memorable scene, Bunny walks in on her son while he is making love with his new wife, Charlotte York (Kristin Davis.)

MacLachlan paid tribute to his former colleague in a social media post.

"We made a great comedy duo on #SexAndTheCity. I learned so much watching you, silently taking notes. As Trey said, 'Mother knows best,' and you truly were a master, #FrancesSternhagen. Your effervescent energy and professionalism on and off screen will be deeply missed," MacLachlan wrote.

Versatile actor

While known to many from TV, Sternhagen got her start on the stage.

She won Tony Awards for The Good Doctor, a Neil Simon comedy, and a revival of The Heiress, a Henry James-inspired drama.

Sternhagen received seven Tony nominations for roles in plays like Equus and On Golden Pond, in which she originated the role of Ethel Thayer, played by Katherine Hepburn in the movie version.

Sternhagen's movie roles included Misery and Outland. Her other notable TV roles include hospital drama ER and police drama The Closer.

“I must say it’s fun to play these snobby older ladies. It’s always more fun to be obnoxious,” Sternhagen said in a 2002 interview with the Los Angeles Times. “I have known women like that, and I can imitate them, I guess.”

She was predeceased by her husband, actor Thomas Carlin, with whom she had six children.

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