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Class Act

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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On the show, Walter also appears in Tahari, Ellen Tracy and Anne Klein, which she calls “clothes a real woman can wear.” It’s a look that carried over to the Emmys, where she wore a pale blue custom-made Anne Klein suit, which was criticized on the red carpet. “The women on E said, ‘Oh come on, get more dressed up!’ I thought I was very dressed up, I just wasn’t hanging out of my clothes and sparkling because that’s not me.” Of course, when Walter won her Emmy 32 years ago, she was seven months pregnant and donned an unfashionable black sack.

“I burned all those clothes,” she adds.

A Queens native, Walter graduated from the High School for the Performing Arts in the Fifties (she’s now 63) and began acting professionally when she was 17. She got her first taste of show business at 16, when she lied about her age to work as a chorus girl at the Copacabana. “I went to watch a friend audition, but they made me walk across the stage and I got the job instead. She never spoke to me again.”

Walter, who is married to Tony-winning actor Rob Leibman, maintains a brownstone on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and a house in Pound Ridge, N.Y. But in L.A., she leads a more temporary life. Apart from working, swimming and spending time with her daughter and brother who live here, Walter likes to keep it simple. “I don’t even own a computer because I’m not interested in any more information than I already have.”

She’s never seen her extensive bio on the Internet Movie Database, which claims that she holds two black belts in martial arts.

“Not true,” she tsks, slipping into her character’s acerbic, deadpan humor. “But I do have black belts from Ralph Lauren.”
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