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

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 are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. rika says:

    Een geweldig actrice is niet meer.

  2. ChrisBollardMancEngland says:

    Love Dh Because of my late girlfriend Emma, rest in peace Kathryn, you were a tough cookie in life I expect , with all the charm to boot!! Just as your character , much love from here to the sky. Farewell till one day.. X

  3. louise says:

    i always enjoyed her, may she rest in peace, so sorry to the family

  4. Danielle Z says:

    Sad new about Kathryn Joosten. May she rest in peace. Mrs. McKluskey was always entertaining. Loved her. I’m happy the show ended the way it did in the finale with Bree staying behind on Wisteria Lane to take care of her.

  5. Jim Cullen says:

    A star who came up thru the ranks of bit parts and small roles but trudging along enjoying her craft. She gave us her gift of an interesting character portrayal each and every time.

  6. Linn says:

    I hope they play “Wonderful, Wonderful” at her funeral.

  7. Juan says:

    She will truly be remembered.

  8. BTM says:

    Not Mrs. Landingod! This sucks!

  9. Sam says:

    So, so sad to hear this. Loved her in DH. May she RIP.

  10. JC says:

    This is so shocking anyway I hope she finds peace she was so great as Ms. McKluskey

  11. Angela says:

    How eerie. I loved her as McKluskey, she was such an entertaining character on “Desperate Housewives”. What a shame, I’m so sorry to hear this news. Rest in peace, Mrs. Joosten.

  12. Chrispy says:

    A wonderful and memorable performer. Sorry to hear of her passing, but I’m grateful that she was able to finish out her run on “Desperate Housewives” and get the sendoff she so richly deserved.

  13. foodiepop says:

    Will always remember her appearance in Scrubs’ first season episode four ‘My Old Lady’. One of the few times I have been moved by a TV comedy.

  14. Bower says:

    This is a very sad news. I loved Mrs. McCluskey on Desperate Housewives.

  15. april-ann says:

    Aww, RIP talented Sweetheart. From the above article prior to its updating, there was mention of Marc Cherry promising that her character would never be killed off, yet Mrs. McKluskey was indeed killed off in the DH series finale. Can we read that as a testament of that man’s true character?

    • Marc A. says:

      I met this lovely lady once at an AIDS fundraising event. She was in remission at the time. Though I have no great fondness for Marc Cherry I’d like to think that since she came out of remission last year Marc (with her permission) played out Mrs. McCluskey’s dying (bravely and on her own terms) did this as a tribute to Kathryn.

      • april-ann says:

        It may have added something quite moving to the finale, but in my opinion to kill off a character before its dying portrayer has passed is in bad taste. And apparently he made the promise to HER, not just a spoken generality. A promise is a promise, should be anyway. So I guess my issue with Marc Cherry’s “tribute” is two-fold.

  16. aleksa says:

    “Tell Leo I love him.”

    …And now I’m crying….

  17. sean says:

    She was on General Hospital as well, but of course It’s overlooked.

  18. Lauren says:

    Tragic news. She always popped up on the shows I watched, I loved all of her characters, although I never watched the West Wing.
    Rest in peace, Kathryn.

  19. JC says:

    I usually don’t comment too much on these sites, but wanted to express my condolences. Kathryn was an exceptional actress and was a joy to watch in anything. She will be missed.

  20. Some more comments from her cast mates…

    Kevin Rahm ‏
    RIP Kathryn Joosten. My thoughts go out to her family. She will be missed.

    Charlie Carver
    I’m so sorry to hear that @kathrynjoosten has passed. She was a grandmother to me with her salty kindness and generosity of spirit. RIP.

    Shawn Pyfrom
    I’m so broken up about Kathy Joosten. Just the best woman. I miss you…

    Brenda Strong
    To the memory of an extraordinary woman, actress and friend. Rest in Peace Kathryn Joosten.Wisteria Lane won’t be the same without you.

  21. Daniel says:

    Very weird reading this after watching her death scene a few weeks ago on Desperate Housewives. R.I.P. Kathryn Joosten – a great character actress and I will never forget her as Mrs.Landingham. I first remember seeing her on Monk and still remember her scenes to this day.

  22. Barbie says:

    You forgot the sweet tweet from Madison De La Garza, (@maddielovesyou1) aka Juanita Solis, saying she couldn’t believe and she loved her so much :'(

  23. Having wept copiously at the loss of Mrs. Landingham, and then again at the loss of Karen McCluskey, I will choose to remember this lovely and talented actress in her role on Joan of Arcadia, God, who (Nietzsche notwithstanding) will never die. ((I understand that the scripts referred to her character as “God (Mrs. Landingham)”.)) We love you, in all your incarnations!

  24. alé says:

    This woman was awesome!

  25. bobby says:

    The West Wing was never the same after she left. Very sad news.

  26. Henry says:

    May her soul rest in peace!

  27. Scott says:

    This is sad news, I loved seeing her in all the shows through the years. She made everything she was in that much better.

  28. Erika says:

    RIP <3

  29. tvdiva says:

    Rest in piece. You leave behind an incredible body of work in television with guest appearances and character arcs on hundreds of shows. You will be missed, but your talent lives on in reruns.

  30. Line says:

    SO sad to hear that, she was an amazing actress!!

  31. Yutaka says:

    Oh no! Sad! Loved her acting on “Desperate Housewives”! R.I.P!!!

  32. Keenan says:

    I’ve read heartfelt comments about her passing form but 1 housewife.
    Wanna guess which one?

  33. Rain says:

    Song is “Johnny Mathis – Wonderful Wonderful”

  34. May says:

    Oh, God. I can’t believe this. She was incredible. Rest in Peace, Kathryn.

  35. Sarabi says:

    I’m going to start watching The West Wing in her honor.
    Rest in peace, Kathryn Joosten.

  36. jaybastien says:

    Kathryn joosten was funny not just that5 she was a gremmy wi8ntoer we are going to miss you link…. may bock

  37. susan says:

    So sad,4 a raregem like her to go dat way.RIP.u wil always be remembered.

  38. Judy Sweet says:

    What a wonderful lady who was so willing to describe everything so candidly. She was such a fighter for lung cancer awareness and I will never forget having dinner with her in Dallas with other lung cancer advocates. When a bug flew into my wine glass, she said, “Oh, for God’s sake, drink it; it’s protein!”

  39. pearl says:

    well we will all die someday, but she was one graceful lady i always love to see on desperate housewives. my condolence to her family..RIP.

  40. Matt says:

    Uh ho…..President Bartlet is going to be pissed!!

    (RIP Mrs. Landingham)

  41. rubytu says:

    She was wonderful!

  42. Ahmadu Wachuku Jr. says:

    Yes Lung Cancer is a serious Killer,hopefully now people will start to understand that every cigarette could be your last,it’s a practice that you can’t do forever,there’s no such thing as a little smoke or whatever slang people use these days to advocate smoking,it’s not social, it’s very,very dangerous and these cigarette companies need to go out of business for everybody’s sake,enough is enough already,I’m pretty sure you can find other ways to make a dollar.

  43. Annie says:


  44. Jab says:

    I loved her as Vals mah on knots. great lady

  45. Melly says:

    Thank you Kathryn for many years of entertainment. You will be missed. RIP :(

  46. Roberta Bassin says:

    I am so sad & sorry at Kathryn’s passing. She followed her dream, an inspiration to all. I first met her when she started herLA career & she stayed true to herself & the advice she shared with me & others.

  47. says:

    I am deeply saddened to have lost you. God Bless You Kathryn. You were a real treasure !

  48. Aaron Tily says:

    Just found out about this. She will always live on as one of my favorite actresses. Her and Betty White are the best out there. RIP Mrs. Joosten

  49. jessica says:


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