Paula Kelly Dies: ‘Night Court’ and ‘Women of Brewster Place’ Actress Was 77

Paula Kelly (Courtesy: Ebony Repertory Theatre)

Paula Kelly, a stage, film and television actress who received Emmy nominations for her performances in the NBC sitcom Night Court and the ABC miniseries The Women of Brewster Place, has died. She was 77.

Kelly passed away in Whittier, California from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease on Saturday, Feb. 8, Broadway World reported this week.

Kelly was born in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1943. Her family moved to Harlem in New York when she was six years old. She attended the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art, and later graduated from Julliard.

The multi-talented actress, dancer, choreographer and singer made her Broadway debut in the 1964 musical Something More! She would later share the stage with Morgan Freeman on Broadway in The Dozens. She also played  Helene on stage in Sweet Charity, and reprised the role in Bob Fosse’s 1969 feature film version.

Kelly received her first Emmy nomination in 1984 for portraying public defender Liz Williams on the first season of Night Court. Her second nod would come in 1989 for playing a lesbian on The Women of Brewster Place alongside Oprah Winfrey, Robin Givens, Cicely Tyson, Lynn Whitfield, Jackée Harry, and Larenz Tate.

Her other television credits included Santa Barbara, Mission: Impossible, Kojak, South Central and The Golden Girls.

Among her numerous film credits were Soylent Green (1973), The Andromeda Strain (1971), Uptown Saturday Night (1974) and Once Upon A Time When We Were Colored (1995).

Kelly is survived by her longtime companion George Parkington; her niece Dina McCarthy; her nephew Lehman Brockett, and a host of family and friends.

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