Paula Kelly has died at the age of 76. A dancer-singer-actress with an expansive resume that spans film, television and Broadway, she’s most known for her roles in the NBC comedy series Night Court and the Oprah Winfrey-produced ABC miniseries, The Women of Brewster Place. She earned Emmy nominations for both roles. The latter performance has been hailed as one of the most groundbreaking portrayals of a Black lesbian love story in television and film.

Originally a guest performer on Sammy Davis Jr.’s Sammy and Friends and The Richard Pryor Show, one of her biggest breakthrough roles came with Bob Fosse’s Sweet Charity. On Broadway, her credits include Something More! and The Dozens. Outside of her most recognizable roles, she also appeared in guest-starring parts on Police Woman, Sanford and Son, Golden Girls and Good Times. She also had a major recurring role on the daytime soap opera, Santa Barbara, in the 1980s. Her film roles include The Spook Who Sat by the Door and Uptown Saturday Night. 

Her last on-screen appearance was in 1999, but she came out of retirement in 2009 to join the Ebony Repertory Theatre’s production of Crowns from Regina Taylor.

“Her unassuming leadership was marked by compassion, elegance and grace. She was a rare and gifted artist, whom we will cherish forever,” said Ebony Repertory Theatre producing artistic director Wren T. Brown in a statement.

She is survived by her daughter. A celebration of life will be held for Kelly in Los Angeles.



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Photo: NBC

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