Liz Sheridan, the veteran actress best known for playing Jerry Seinfeld’s mother on Seinfeld and also recurred on ALF and appeared in several Broadway shows, died today in New York City. She was 93.
Her longtime friend and rep Amanda Hendon told Deadline that Sheridan died overnight in her sleep of natural causes.
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Sheridan already was a veteran TV and film actress when she was cast as the grumpy neighbor Raquel Ochmonek on NBC’s ALF, appearing in about three dozen episodes from 1986-90. Soon after that, she landed the role of Helen Seinfeld, the adoring, protective and occasionally bemused mother of Jerry. She appeared in about 20 episodes ranging from “The Stakeout” early in Season 2 to the 1998 finale.
Sheridan also provided the voice of Mrs. Sheridan in the 1994-98 animated sictom Life with Louie, starring Louie Anderson.
She also appeared on Broadway, including opposite Christopher Lloyd and a young Meryl Streep in the 1977 musical Happy End.
Sheridan wrote a book about her romantic relationship with James Dean in the 1950s. Publushed in 2000, Dizzy and Jimmy chronicled their love affair from when the NYC dancer met the 21-year-old Indiana farm boy who had come to New York via Hollywood.
Born on April 10, 1929 in Rye, NY, Sheridan began her screen career with guest shots on such series as Kojak, The White Shadow and Gimme a Break! and had small roles in the features Star 80 and Jekyll & Hyde: Together Again. She continued to guest on TV through the 1980s on popular shows including One Day at a Time, Three’s a Crowd, Scarecrow and Mrs. King, Three’s a Crowd, The A-Team, Newhart, Remington Steele and Moonlighting before landing her recurring gig as the eccentric and spy-happy Raquel on ALF.
All that would lead to her signature role on Seinfeld, which became the most popular sitcom of the 1990s and remains popular in reruns. Her Helen Seinfeld character was the prototype adoring mom, and when she heard that “Crazy” Joe Devola was “after” her beloved son in the 1992 episode “The Wallet,” she was incredulous that there was anyone who didn’t like Jerry.
“Ma, I know this may be hard for you to understand but I am sure there are many people who do not like me,” Jerry told her. Helen’s reply was: “No, it’s not true. You’re a wonderful, wonderful boy. Everybody likes you. It’s impossible not to like you. Impossible!”
Seinfeld debuted on NBC as a summer replacement titled The Seinfeld Chronicles in July 1989, when stand-up comedy was hot and comics were landing sitcoms. From there, the “show about nothing” had an uphill climb but landed the plum post-Cheers 9:30 Thursday slot the following spring. The show’s popularity increased with each ensuing season, finally breaking into the postseason Top 25 in the Neilsen rankings in 1992-93 after Cheers wrapped.
Seinfeld took over Cheers’ 9 p.m. slot for the 1993-94 season and ended it ranked No. 3 among all primetime shows. It would rank No. 1 or No. 2 overall for the rest of its eight-season run, wrapping in 1998.
Sheridan was the last surviving “parent” from Seinfeld. Estelle Parsons, who played George Costanza’s mother Estelle, died just last week, and Jerry Stiller, who played Frank Costanza, died in 2020. Barney Martin, who played Sheridan’s onscreen husband Morty Seinfeld, died in 2005.
Sheridan would continue to work in film and TV through the 2000s, with roles in films including Now You Know, Closing the Deal and Play the Game and guest shots on TV series including Numbers and American Dad!
Sheridan is survived by her daughter and son-in-law.
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