Desperate Housewives' Kathryn Joosten Dies at 72, Following Battle With Cancer

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Kathryn Joosten DeadEmmy winner Kathryn Joosten, whose emotional death scene as Karen McCluskey gave Desperate Housewives‘ recent series finale its biggest emotional punch, died on Friday of lung cancer in Westlake Village, CA. She was 72.

Joosten won her Emmys in 2005 and 2008 in the Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy for her portrayal of Wisteria Lane’s crankiest (but still loveable) resident.

RELATED | Desperate Housewives Series Finale Recap: A Trial, Then Tribulations

Prior to her Housewives success, Joosten was best known for playing Mrs. Landingham, secretary to Martin Sheen’s President Bartlet, on The West Wing.

She also had roles on such shows as Scrubs, My Name Is Earl, Joan of Arcadia, and Dharma & Greg.

Joosten, who didn’t begin her acting career until she was 42, famously told interviewers through the years that Housewives‘ creator Marc Cherry had promised never to kill off Mrs. McCluskey, seeing how many of her prior characters hadn’t survived to their shows’ series finales.

According to her rep, Joosten was surrounded by family at the time of her death.

UPDATE: As news spread of Joosten’s passing, castmates recent and from the past, as well as peers, shared condolences via Twitter. Among them:

Marcia Cross (Desperate Housewives): “Thank you Kathryn. For your courage, your humor, your fight and your talent. We were so lucky to have you.”

Felicity Huffman (Desperate Housewives): “All my prayers and love to Kathryn Joosten’s family. Rest in peace, she was an amazing woman and a wonderful actress.”

Rob Lowe (The West Wing, now of Parks and Recreation): “Goodbye Kathryn; our beloved Mrs Landingham. You will never truly be gone, film is forever. Tell Leo [played by the late John Spencer] I love him.”

Dule Hill (The West Wing, now of Psych): “Saddened about the passing of Kathryn Joosten. It was an honor to work with you and an even greater honor knowing you, Kathryn.”

Tim Matheson (The West Wing, now of Hart of Dixie): “Goodnight Mrs. Landingham, wherever you are . . . . Kathryn Joosten enriched all who knew her!”

Emmy Rossum (Shameless): “So sad to read that actress Kathryn Joosten passed away. Mrs. Landingham from The West Wing is one of my all time favorite TV characters.”

Yvette Nicole Brown (Community): “I am heartbroken by the loss of my friend. … Kathryn Joosten taught me SO much about the business. She was funny, fun & TOUGH and I loved her to pieces!”

Bill Prady (The Big Bang Theory creator): “Kathryn Joosten recurred on Dharma & Greg when I worked there. She was a truly lovely lady.”

Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy creator): “Very sad about the death of Kathryn Joosten. She was on [Grey's] in Season 1, but she’ll always be Mrs. Landingham on West Wing for me.”




Comments (119)

  • She was great as Mrs McCluskey, but she’ll always be Mrs Landingham to me, she was excellent in The West Wing. RIP

    Comment by Martina – June 2, 2012 11:07 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Agreed 100%. RIP, Mrs. Landingham.

      Comment by uh huh – June 2, 2012 11:20 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • She will always be Mrs. Landingham. Loved watching her.

      Comment by Olivia – June 2, 2012 11:54 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • ditto mrs. landingham couldn’t be replaced.. not even by lily tomlin

      Comment by koolsage – June 2, 2012 03:52 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Same here. We’ve lost a gem.

      Comment by My – June 2, 2012 08:33 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • She will always be Mrs Landingham to me as well, but I appreciate her even more for being Mrs. McCluskey…she was the only saving grace of that show for the last 4 seasons of its run. I wonder if her final scenes on DH were in preparation for the inevitable in her own life.

      Comment by MIchael – June 3, 2012 06:02 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Mrs. Landingham was a wonderful character, and Kathryn Joosten portrayed her perfectly. TV has lost another great actor. She will be missed. RIP.

      Comment by Tiff – June 4, 2012 10:07 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Ugh, lame! Loved her.

    Comment by aleksa – June 2, 2012 11:07 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • This is NOT how I want art to reflect life.

    Comment by Paul Rose Jr – June 2, 2012 11:08 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • My sentiments exactly. Rest is peace.

      Comment by Reva – June 2, 2012 11:34 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • I agree. Loved her. May she rest in peace.

      Comment by CAM – June 2, 2012 02:28 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Agree , I can honestly say that unlike the passing of most actors her death for me is deeply sad.
      To have just seen her in the last episode of Desperate Housewives and now dead from cancer is more then a little shocking ,
      Wishing her family and close friends the best in this time.

      Comment by Joseph Angelo – June 2, 2012 07:21 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
      • I know. I am tearing up reading these postings. I didn’t bat an eye when Whitney Houston died.

        Comment by Snsetblaze – June 4, 2012 08:26 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
        • Amen & bless her and her family and fans.

          Comment by Peggy – June 4, 2012 02:39 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • awwww, awesome chick

    Comment by Andrew – June 2, 2012 11:08 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I’m glad she got to finish out the run of the show on her terms. Really enjoyed her work. Rest in peace, Ms. Joosten.

    Comment by Bobbi – June 2, 2012 11:08 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • Loved her in DHW, she fit her character

      Comment by Rose – August 4, 2012 03:19 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Wow. Art imitating life. RIP Ms. Mclusky

    Comment by Chad Cookler – June 2, 2012 11:08 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • OMG!!! she will be missed!!

    Comment by Eduardo – June 2, 2012 11:09 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • She was such a great actress. I loved how she managed to portray a character that was both obnoxiously rude and charminly loveable at the same time. Few would have been able to do it like her.

    Comment by nicky – June 2, 2012 11:10 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • So true. She will be missed.

      Comment by tvfan – June 2, 2012 02:10 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I know she was a great character actor in a variety of things but I agree she will always be Mrs. Landingham. My condolences to her family. Such a great story of a woman who began acting later in life.

    Comment by Natalie – June 2, 2012 11:10 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • RIP Mrs Landingham

    Comment by Leigheden – June 2, 2012 11:11 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • i am very sad! Rip Ms. Mclusky!

    Comment by liliana – June 2, 2012 11:11 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I’ll always remember her as Old Lady God from Joan of Arcadia. This is so sad.

    Comment by Megan – June 2, 2012 11:13 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I am so stunned! Last I heard she was doing pretty well against it … I am so heartbroken. Loved her, in everything she ever did. Rest in peace, sweet lady.

    Comment by Annie – June 2, 2012 11:14 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • So sad to hear about this :((

    Comment by Lil – June 2, 2012 11:15 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I loved her many well known roles but her role in possibly one of the best episodes of Scrubs reflects on me at this moment, she brought such believeability to facing death knowing you’ve lived life to its fullest hopefully that reflects her own life. RIP.

    Comment by Seb – June 2, 2012 11:15 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
    • That was an excellent episode, she was so great in it. It’s also amazing that a few years later, working in the health care field myself, I’ve met people like her character on Scrubs, it’s truly amazing. RIP Kathryn.

      Comment by Sal – June 2, 2012 12:36 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • She always made me smile on Joan of Arcadia. Old Lady God was the best. May she rest peacefully.

    Comment by Lauren – June 2, 2012 11:20 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I am so sorry to hear this news. I thought that she was winning the war. RIP

    Comment by Columbus – June 2, 2012 11:21 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Nooo, this is so sad, this is horrible I will miss her. R.I.P.

    Comment by Juan – June 2, 2012 11:22 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I am gonna miss her legendary eye rolling as Mrs McKluskey! She was sublime! Love her! RIP

    Comment by Josh Hayden (@JoshHaydenJH) – June 2, 2012 11:23 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • That’s so sad. I thought she was one of DH’s absolute highlights, despite not being part of the “core cast”. I hope she wasn’t in too much pain before she passed.

    Comment by Mitholas – June 2, 2012 11:25 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • RIP Mrs Landingham. You will be missed.

    Comment by Lana – June 2, 2012 11:27 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Condolences to her family

    Comment by Evan – June 2, 2012 11:27 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I loved her so much on the West Wing, and her character is one I will never forget. Her episode of Scrubs is where I really fell in love with the show. Such an incredibly moving episode which showed the depth and heart of the show, without losing its comedic edge. She was a wonderful lady and will be missed.

    Comment by CJ – June 2, 2012 11:28 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • R.I.P karen mcklusky x

    Comment by Cheryl – June 2, 2012 11:29 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • How ironic, in view of her storyline toward the finale … and very sad.

    Comment by quinn – June 2, 2012 11:35 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • RIP!

    Comment by Linda – June 2, 2012 11:43 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Oh… I truly liked her role in DH, Scrubs and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She was a great actress.
    R.I.P.

    Comment by Camilla – June 2, 2012 11:44 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • So sad to hear about this. RIP Kathryn. :(

    Comment by greysfan – June 2, 2012 11:45 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I met her on the set of DH- she was so very nice and friendly. A classy lady and wonderful and talented actress.

    Comment by Judy – June 2, 2012 11:45 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • May her soul rest in eternal peace.

    Comment by stalim – June 2, 2012 11:51 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I loved her to bits in ‘Housewives’. RIP Mrs. McKluskey. You’ll forever be remembered and you’re the only one who could handle those Scavo kids!

    Comment by Samunto – June 2, 2012 11:51 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Wow, I am shocked and saddened

    Comment by Jake – June 2, 2012 11:59 AM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • My heart breaks for her family. I lost both my parents to Lung Cancer (3 months apart) and it is a horrible awful way to go :(

    Comment by WSPB – June 2, 2012 12:00 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • RIP Mrs. Landingham. <3

    Comment by kate – June 2, 2012 12:13 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • So sorry to hear this. Was a fine lady I think

    Comment by pat1944 (@pat1944) – June 2, 2012 12:15 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • WOW I had no idea she had cancer in real life. That’s so unfortunate….she was always great on DH…may her soul R.I.P

    Comment by llws88 – June 2, 2012 12:22 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • She was that no-nonsense woman I knew and shall ever be Mckluskey from DH.. My condolence to her fam:):):)

    Comment by Khadijah Muye – June 2, 2012 12:26 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Wonderful actress. One of my favorites on Desperate Housewives. May this sweet soul rest in peace. She is a treasure.

    Comment by Jason – June 2, 2012 12:31 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Kathryn Joosten Rest In Peace, enjoyed your body of work, my condolences to her family.

    Comment by Greg – June 2, 2012 12:51 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Man, I didnt even know she actually had cancer. What a shame. RIP.

    Comment by Pat D. – June 2, 2012 01:09 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • A class act and a very special human being, Kathryn was loved and admired, not just for the roles she played on TV. She was outrageously funny, 100% authentic, and completely wonderful. An inspirational woman, who will be greatly missed.

    Comment by JR – June 2, 2012 01:25 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I’m very sad, she was a sweet, sweet old lady, i adored her!!! Plase God have her by ur side.
    Rest in peace.

    Comment by Topy – June 2, 2012 01:27 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Gosh,am really sad,she played out her death scene dat was to be real,always wil b mrs mckluskey,she spiced up dh.rip karen

    Comment by suchet.frm nigeria – June 2, 2012 02:05 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Very sad news. Thank you, Kathryn for bringing fans years of joy.

    Comment by Rolfe – June 2, 2012 02:07 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • I absolutely loved her as Mrs. Landingham. RIP.

    Comment by Mikaylah – June 2, 2012 02:07 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • Sad to hear of actress Kathryn Joosten’s passing today. But I had a hysterically funny experience with her as a guest on Mr. Media in October 2010 as we talked about her career on Desperate Housewives, The West Wing and, oh yeah, Helen Mirren’s exposed breasts in New York magazine. Please enjoy and remember this delightful lady! http://www.mrmedia.com/?p=935

    Comment by Bob Andelman/MrMedia (@andelman) – June 2, 2012 02:32 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • May ur soul R.I .P:(

    Comment by @pn9400 – June 2, 2012 02:44 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • May ur soul R.I.P:(

    Comment by @pn9400 – June 2, 2012 02:45 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • May she rest in peace! I enjoyed her when she guest starred on Gilmore Girls as Maisy, on “Written in the Stars”.

    Comment by Allyson – June 2, 2012 03:05 PM PDT  Reply To This Post
  • WOW can’t believe she is gone she was a great actress an will be missed dearly…thanks for the great memories on desperate housewives r.i.p

    Comment by Irma – June 2, 2012 03:09 PM PDT  Reply To This Post

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