Mary Alice, A Different World and Sparkle Actress, Dead at 85: ‘A Shoulder We All Stood On’

The actress’s death was also confirmed by “one of her close friends,” according to Philip Lewis of HuffPost, who announced the news on his Twitter Thursday.

Vinnie Zuffante/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty
Vinnie Zuffante/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

Mary Alice, the actress best known for her roles in A Different World and Sparkle, has died. She was 85.

Alice died on Wednesday at her home in Manhattan, a spokesperson for the NYPD confirms to PEOPLE. A cause of death was not provided.

The actress’s death was also confirmed by “one of her close friends,” according to Philip Lewis of HuffPost, who announced the news on his Twitter Thursday.

“Mary Alice, known for her roles as ‘Lettie’ on A Different World and Effie Williams in Sparkle, has died, one of her close friends tells me,” Lewis wrote.

“‘We are all very sad at the loss,'” he shared from the source’s statement.

Lewis also posted two photos of Alice — the first of her at the 45th Emmy Award Governor’s Ball in 1993 with her award in hand, and the second of her in character.

Alice is best known for portraying Leticia “Lettie” Bostic on NBC’s A Different World and Effie Williams in the 1976 original version of Sparkle, which told the story of how The Supremes achieved fame.

She also played The Oracle in The Matrix Revolutions and Marguerite Peck in I’ll Fly Away, for which she received the Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. In 1987, she won a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play for her role in August Wilson’s Fences.

Her other film credits include Spike Lee’s Malcolm XAwakenings opposite Robin Williams and Robert De Niro, Clint Eastwood’s A Perfect World and Maya Angelou’s Down in the Delta.

Along with television appearances in shows like Oz and Law & Order, she also starred in a production of The Tragedy of Richard III beside Denzel Washington at Central Park’s Delacorte Theater.

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