Mary Alice, Actress Known for Roles on ‘A Different World’ and ‘Sparkle,’ Dies

Mary Alice (Credit: Turner Classic Movies)

Mary Alice, an Emmy Award-winning actress best known for her roles on A Different World, I’ll Fly Away and the film Sparkle, has died. Her birth year has been reported as 1936 and 1941 making her age unclear.

The actress passed away Thursday, July 28, family members told the website Love B Scott. Her death was later confirmed by Variety.

A star of the stage and screen, Mary Alice played dorm director Leticia ‘Lettie’ Bostic on NBC’s A Different World and Effie Williams in the 1976 movie musical Sparkle.

Born Mary Alice Smith in Indianola, Mississippi, she moved to New York to pursue acting.

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 Frankie Faison and Mary Alice in Heading Home. (Credit: HP Releasing)
Frankie Faison and Mary Alice in Heading Home. (Credit: HP Releasing)

She performed on Broadway and won a best actress Tony Award in 1987 for her performance in August Wilson’s “Fences.” She would later take home an Emmy Award for outstanding supporting actress in a drama series in 1993 for her role in I’ll Fly Away.

The actress also had roles in the TV miniseries The Women of Brewster Place; as well as parts on Touched by an Angel, Cosby, Good Times, Sanford and Son, and All My Children, according to her IMDb page. Her film credits included Malcolm X (1992), The Inkwell (1994), Heading Home (1994), Down in the Delta (1998) and The Matrix Revolutions (2003).

The was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 2000, and retired from acting in 2005.

Friends and fellow actors paid tribute to Mary Alice on Twitter.

Actor Frankie Faison, who co-starred with her in the film Heading Home, tweeted: “My friend and mentor….a great actress and a great woman. I’ll see her up yonder….. Rest In Peace MARY ALICE SMITH.”

Actor Tory Devon Smith added: “I always felt Mary Alice was a criminally underrated acting marvel. She filled every role she played with such raw honesty and beauty. To me, she was one of the greatest character actors of her generation. Rest in beautiful peace.”