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LOS ANGELES — Anyone who knows Jessica Walter as Lucille Bluth, the self-centered family matriarch who’s usually dressed to “Dynasty”-like perfection on Fox’s Emmy-winning “Arrested Development,” would be...

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LOS ANGELES — Anyone who knows Jessica Walter as Lucille Bluth, the self-centered family matriarch who’s usually dressed to “Dynasty”-like perfection on Fox’s Emmy-winning “Arrested Development,” would be surprised to see her on her days off. She strides into a Westwood restaurant wearing a youthful ensemble of dark jeans, a white T-shirt and a black blazer, her tanned face devoid of makeup.

“I’ve learned that plastic surgery isn’t the answer,” she says. “It’s wearing less makeup that makes you look younger.” Of course, Walter is also blessed with great genes and a lean, 5-foot, 8 1/2-inch frame that she maintains by swimming several miles a week at UCLA.

Though some audiences may just be discovering Walter now, the actress’ lengthy career includes Broadway plays, a Golden Globe nomination in 1971 for “Play Misty for Me” opposite Clint Eastwood, an Emmy for the 1974 series “Amy Prentiss” and supporting roles in films as disparate as “The Flamingo Kid,” “Tapeheads” and “Slums of Beverly Hills.” She’s hit another high point with the brilliantly satirical “Arrested Development,” which has won critical acclaim and two Golden Globe nominations this year, but has yet to garner the ratings it deserves.

“I’m begging everyone to watch it,” she says. “I’d rather be connected with a really outstanding show that only a million people watch than be in a huge hit that’s terrible.”

The creators of the series had a tough time casting the role of Lucille until Walter came along. “The description was very brief: Lucille Bluth, matriarch and socialite,” she recalls. “I can’t explain it, but I absolutely knew this woman. I saw her vulnerability. Down deep she has a desperation about her, which all comedy has to have.”

Lucille also has a rather caustic personality, which Walter plays to perfection, adding, “I usually play mean people — although I’m very nice.”

In the very beginning, Walter decided that her character should always be dressed to the nines with her hair perfectly coiffed even when visiting her husband, played by Jeffrey Tambor, in prison. “The show can’t really afford what I think a woman should wear, which is Armani, but our costume designer, Katie Sparks, does a great job. What people don’t realize is that you can put on a Ricki Freeman for Teri Jon suit and if it’s tailored correctly, you would think it’s Calvin Klein.”
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