What actors and actresses did we sadly lose in 2021? Celebrity deaths, though they happen often, frequently leave fans reeling. Who hasn’t felt the pinch of shock and pain of grief when a beloved celebrity dies?
Despite how common these feelings are, many people feel ashamed or confused about why they’re so sad about the death of someone they never even met. But, according to the experts, mourning a celebrity’s death is completely normal because, despite the distance of the relationship, it still meant something. "[In our heads], they’re never supposed to die," grief counselor Dr. Jill Gross told Well + Good. "When they die a little part of us dies, too — our innocence dies with them."
Psychologist Dr. Natalia Skritskaya also told Well + Good that, "Feelings are important, and they’re not to be ignored… Feelings are signals — if you feel sad about a loss, it’s a signal it had some meaning to you." That’s why it’s perfectly okay to grieve the loss of the lives of the actors and actresses we sadly lost in 2021.
Jahmil French from Degrassi: Next Generation died in 2021
According to People, Jahmil French from the Canadian TV show "Degrassi: Next Generation" died on March 1, 2021. He was only 28 years old. Though the cause of death wasn’t released, French’s representation and coworkers were quick to post on social media their shock and grief, as well as messages of love for the young actor. "It is with a heavy heart that I confirm the passing of a dear friend and client Jahmil French," one of French’s reps said in a statement. "He will be remembered by many for his passion for the arts, his commitment to his craft, and his vibrant personality."
Melinda Shankar, one of French’s "Degrassi" costars, posted a tribute to her friend on Instagram. "You will always hold such a special place in my heart," she wrote in the caption. "Thank you for being one of the most talented, compassionate, kindest, funniest friends I have. You were so loved."
French was also known for his work on the Netflix show "Soundtrack," in which he starred alongside Christina Milian. Milian expressed her grief over French’s death by commenting on his Instagram page, "You will be missed. Rest peacefully King."
We lost Cloris Leachman to a stroke in 2021
Actress Cloris Leachman died in January 2021 at age 94. According to People, the cause of death was a stroke, with COVID-19 a contributing factor. TMZ gave additional details, noting that she was with her daughter in her home in Encinitas, California when she died.
Leachman’s career spanned decades, beginning on the stage when she made her Broadway debut in 1947 in "John Loves Mary." The powerhouse actress then made the jump to the screen, appearing in several TV shows and movies. In 1971, she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for "The Last Picture Show."
Despite her many other successes, Leachman was best-known for her depiction of Phyllis Lindstrom on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" in the ’70s and of Maw Maw in "Raising Hope." "It’s been my privilege to work with Cloris Leachman, one of the most fearless actresses of our time," manager Juliet Green told People. "With a single look she had the ability to break your heart or make you laugh till the tears ran down your face." Green also added that the Leachman family was asking that donations in her name be made to Last Chance for Animals or PETA.
Ronald Pickup from The Crown died "peacefully" in 2021
Ronald Pickup, a British actor well-known for his work in the Netflix hit "The Crown," died February 24, 2021 at age 80. "[Ronald] passed away peacefully yesterday after a long illness surrounded by his wife and family," his agent told the BBC. "He will be deeply missed."
Though Pickup was famous for his depiction of the Archbishop of Canterbury on "The Crown" and Neville Chamberlain in the movie "The Darkest Hour," he had an awe-inspiring career on the stage and in film and TV. After working at various theaters throughout Britain, the actor got his big break when he was cast in an episode of "Doctor Who" in 1964.
According to his IMDb page, Ronald then went on to appear in a laundry list of shows including "Call the Midwife," "Downton Abbey," "Silent Witness," "Doc Martin," and "Coronation Street." Despite his massive credit list, Pickup did reveal his favorite role in 2012 (per BBC): George Orwell in the TV movie "Crystal Spirit: Orwell on Jura." As reported by Variety, Pickup is survived by his wife, Lans Traverse, and their two children.
Mira Furlan died from West Nile virus complications in 2021
Actress Mira Furlan died from complications of the West Nile Virus on Wednesday, January 20, 2021, as reported by the BBC. She was only 65 years old. "It is with great sadness that I confirm the passing of Mira Furlan," her family said in a statement. "She was a woman full of kindness, strength and compassion." The statement went on to say that Furlan "died peacefully at her home in Los Angeles, surrounded by her family."
According to her IMDb page and the BBC, Furlan was born in Zagreb, Croatia, and starred in sci-fi hit "Babylon 5" as Delenn from 1993 to 1998. She also portrayed Danielle Rousseau on "Lost." "Babylon 5" creator J Michael Straczynski tweeted his reaction to her death, writing, "It is a night of great sadness, for our friend and comrade had gone down the road where we cannot reach her… We will catch up with her in time, and I believe she will have many stories to tell us." And as her family’s statement read, "We will all continue to celebrate her life and legacy, and know she’ll always be here with us."
We sadly lost Christopher Plummer from The Sound of Music in 2021
Though his career spanned decades and mediums, from Broadway to film, Pummer is perhaps best known as Captain von Trapp from the movie adaptation of the musical "The Sound of Music." Who doesn’t love the moment when he sings "Edelweiss" with his guitar? Plummer was also an Oscar winner, taking home the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 2021 for the movie "Beginners." Additionally, many fans don’t know that, according to his IMDb page, Plummer also voiced the evil Charles Muntz in the Pixar hit "Up."
"Chris was an extraordinary man who deeply loved and respected his profession with great old fashioned manners, self deprecating humor and the music of words," Lou Pitt, Plummer’s manager, told Variety. "He was a national treasure who deeply relished his Canadian roots. Through his art and humanity, he touched all of our hearts and his legendary life will endure for all generations to come."
Tanya Roberts from That ’70s Show died in 2021
Actress Tanya Roberts, as reported by Variety, collapsed while walking her dogs on December 24, 2020. The Bond Girl was hospitalized for several days and died on the evening of Monday, January 4, 2021 from a urinary tract infection that had spread to her bloodstream and several organs. She was 65 years old.
Roberts began her time in the spotlight as a model and stage actress, but her career really took off when she played Bond Girl Stacey Sutton in the 1985 Bond flick "A View to a Kill." The bombshell then went on to warm hearts and crack smiles as Midge Pinciotti, hippie mother to Donna, on "That ’70s Show" (via IMDb).
Another Bond Girl, Britt Ekland, tweeted about Roberts’ death. "Rip Tanya Roberts, once a Bond Girl always a Bond Girl," she wrote. Don Coscarelli, who directed the "The Beastmaster," also tweeted about his grief: "I just heard the sad news that actress Tanya Roberts passed away. Tanya was a beautiful person, inside and out. I will always remember Tanya for being incredibly sweet and for her genuine love of animals."
Dustin Diamond from Saved By the Bell died of cancer in 2021
Actor Dustin Diamond of "Saved By the Bell" fame died in early February of 2021 from carcinoma; he was 44, as reported by People. "He was diagnosed with this brutal, relentless form of malignant cancer only three weeks ago. In that time, it managed to spread rapidly throughout his system; the only mercy it exhibited was its sharp and swift execution," Diamond’s reps shared. "Dustin did not suffer."
Diamond’s rep went on to mention his checkered past. "His actions, though rebukable, stemmed from loss and the lack of knowledge on how to process that pain properly," they explained. The rep was most likely referring to the actor’s stint in jail after allegedly attacking someone with a knife, his infamous sex tape that turned out not to be of him at all, and his drama-inducing tell-all book "Behind the Bell" (as per Global News). "Dustin Diamond was a character in and of himself: an unpredictable spitfire who always left us shocked, but never left us bored," the rep concluded in the statement. "We are thankful he trusted us enough to share his genuine, authentic self with our team."
We sadly lost icon Cicely Tyson in 2021
Cicely Tyson, a true acting legend, died at age 96 in January 2021, as reported by People. "It’s very exciting to know that you are, hopefully, making a roadway for someone else to follow," the powerhouse once told People in an interview — and make a roadway she did! Tyson worked in entertainment for more than 60 years, dedicating her entire life to depicting strong, inspiring Black women.
Additionally, Cicely Tyson was the first Black woman to be awarded an honorary Oscar, as well as the first Black woman to win an Emmy for a lead role. Tyson was also nominated for an Academy Award for "Sounder." Furthermore, she scored several Emmy nominations for her work in "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman," "Roots," and "King" (per IMDb). Tyson also won a Tony Award in 2013 for her work in the Broadway play "The Trip to Bountiful." "I used my career as my platform in an effort to address [race and gender]," Tyson revealed. "Every now and then when I receive an achievement award I realize… the sacrifices that I made as a result were worth it."
Peter Mark Richman from Three’s Company died in 2021
Peter Mark Richman, an actor best known for playing Reverend Snow on "Three’s Company," died at the age of 93 on Thursday, January 14, 2021, as per People. "Peter Mark’s family would like to thank all those who have been expressing their condolences and admiration for his extraordinary accomplishments," Richman’s reps said in a statement. "The love he gave — to everything he did, and everyone he knew — will live forever."
Peter Mark Richman really had some "extraordinary accomplishments!" The Philadelphia native was a pharmacist before he joined the Actors Studio in the ’50s and began an acting career that would include over 130 television credits.
Richman’s first TV appearance was in 1956 in the show "Friendly Persuasion," but he went on to have roles in such hits as "Dynasty" and "Beverly Hills, 90210" (via IMDb). He then gathered credits in movies from "The Strange One" to "Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan." Even Richman himself was aware of his amazing life, writing in his memoir "I Saw A Molten White Light," "God has been good to me, in everything" (via People).
John Reilly’s cause of death is to be determined
Actor John Reilly died at age 84 on January 10, 2021, as reported by People. Reilly’s daughter, Caitlin Reilly, posted a heart-wrenching tribute to her father on Instagram, writing, "The brightest light in the world has gone out… Imagine the best person in the world. Now imagine that person being your dad."
As per Reilly’s IMDb page, his acting career began in the ’60s when he appeared on several then-popular TV shows like "Gunsmoke," "Death Valley Days," and "Apple’s Way." However, it was his work on "General Hospital" that made Reilly famous.
John played WSB agent Sean Donely for over 11 years, but was written off of "General Hospital" when he decided not to renew his contact in 1994. Reilly did come back as Sean Donely for a brief moment when he appeared in the spinoff "General Hospital: Night Shift" for one episode in 2008, and the "General Hospital" 50th anniversary special in 2013. "I’m so grateful I got to love him," Caitlin Reilly added. "I love you forever Daddy."
Deezer D from ER may have died from a heart attack
Dearon Thompson, better known as Deezer D, died at age 55 on Thursday, January 7, 2021. According to TMZ, Deezer D’s brother found him unresponsive in his LA home. His brother also told TMZ that he believes Deezer D died of a heart attack, though as of this writing, an official cause of death hasn’t been announced. However, it would make sense that Deezer D died of heart problems, as back in 2009, he told Radar Online (via The Hollywood Reporter) that he’d gone through "over 10 episodes of heart failure in the last eight months alone." The actor added, "I have a heart valve that is leaking and the aorta had expanded to way beyond what it is supposed to be."
As per his IMDb page, Deezer D appeared in 190 episodes of the hit TV drama "ER" as nurse Malik McGrath between 1994 and 2009. In addition to his acting, Deezer D was a Christian rapper and motivational speaker. Emmery Thompson, Deezer D’s brother, wrote a tribute on Instagram: "My Big Brother! God is with you. I will miss you."
Marion Ramsey from Police Academy died in 2021
"Police Academy" actress Marion Ramsey died on Thursday, January 7, 2021 at the age of 73. According to The Hollywood Reporter, she died at home in Los Angeles of unreported causes. Ramsey’s management team from Roger Paul Inc. sent a statement to The Hollywood Reporter about the actress’s death, reading, "Marion carried with her a kindness and permeating light that instantly filled a room upon her arrival. The dimming of her light is already felt by those who knew her well. We will miss her and always love her."
Marion Ramsey’s first acting credit was one episode of "The Jeffersons" back in 1976, as per IMDb. And though she was a regular on "Cos," Bill Cosby’s sketch show, Ramsey is perhaps best known for playing Officer Laverne Hooks in six "Police Academy" movies from 1984 to 1989. She was also a voice over actress, playing characters in cartoon TV shows like "The Addams Family" and "Robot Chicken." Ramsey was also a devoted humanitarian, helping the annual "Divas Simply Singing" event raise money to fight and prevent AIDS.
We sadly lost Trisha Noble from Star Wars in 2021
As reported by the Daily Mail, actress Trisha Noble died from mesothelioma at the age of 76 in early February of 2021. Born in Sydney, Australia, Noble was originally a singer who got her start on the Australian variety show "Bandstand." Under her singing name Patsy Ann Noble, Trisha had several pop hits down under, including "Good Looking Boy" and "Busy Lips." She was even awarded the Best Female Singer of the Year Logie — similar to an Emmy — in 1961.
It wasn’t until she moved to America in 1967 that Noble became an actress. According to her IMDb profile, some of Noble’s earliest credits include TV shows like "The Rockford Files," "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "Columbo," and "Casablanca." However, it was her work in the "Star Wars" franchise that gave Noble a cult following. She played Jobal Naberrie, mother to Natalie Portman’s Padme Amidala, in "Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones" and "Episode III — Revenge of the Sith."
Helen McCrory from Harry Potter died from cancer
On April 16, 2021, the New York Post reported that actress Helen McCrory died at the age of 52. Her husband, Damian Lewis, had tweeted out the news, writing, "I’m heartbroken to announce that after a heroic battle with cancer, the beautiful and mighty woman that is Helen McCrory has died peacefully at home, surrounded by a wave of love from friends and family."
According to the New York Post, McCrory began her work in the arts when she studied at the Drama Centre in London. She won roles in various stage productions, but moved over to film and TV in 1994 when she appeared in the movie "Interview With a Vampire." Though she also appeared in many hits like "Peaky Blinders" and the James Bond flick "Skyfall," the British actress is perhaps best known for her work as Narcissa Malfoy in "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince."
"She died as she lived," her husband’s tweet finished. "Fearlessly. God we loved her and know how lucky we are to have had her in our lives. She blazed so brightly."
Sopranos star Joseph Siravo died at 66 years old
Joseph Siravo from "The Sopranos" died at the age of 66 in April of 2021. His family confirmed his death in a statement to the New York Post, saying "[The] acclaimed actor, director, and teacher died on Sunday, April 11, after a long, courageous battle with colon cancer." Though Siravo was most famous for portraying Tony Soprano’s gangster father in "The Sopranos," he was a prolific actor with a laundry list of credits. As per his IMDb page, Siravo was in hits like "Law & Order," as well as "The People vs. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story."
However, it was the New York actor’s stage work that is perhaps the most noteworthy. According to the New York Post, Siravo played more than 2,000 performances in the national tour of "Jersey Boys" and appeared in other stage productions like "Gemini," "Oslo," "Mad Forest," and "Dark Rapture."
"I was by his side when my dear father passed away this morning," Siravo’s daughter Allegra Okarmus wrote on Instagram (via BBC). "We are both so lucky to be so intensely loved. I am so immensely grateful to have had him here on earth and I know that he hasn’t gone very far."
TV and film star Barbara Shelley died at the start of the year
As reported by the The Sun, actress Barbara Shelley died at the age of 88 in early January 2021. Shelley’s agent Thomas Bowington revealed that, even though she had recently been in the hospital with a COVID-19 infection, "It wasn’t the COVID that took her, she had underlying issues." The actress, a beloved star from the 1950s and 1960s, was perhaps best known for her starring roles in several Hammer Horror movies like "Rasputin: The Mad Monk," "The Gorgon," and "Dracula: Prince of Darkness."
Barbara Shelley was also part of the famous "Doctor Who" franchise, appearing in a four-part episode titled "Planet of Fire" in 1984, and she scored roles in many other TV shows from "The Saint" and "The Borgias" to "Crown Court" and "EastEnders" (via IMDb). Despite her long career, it is her horror days that make her name so recognizable. "She really was Hammer’s number one leading lady and the Technicolor queen of Hammer," her agent shared (via The Sun). "On-screen she could be quietly evil. She goes from statuesque beauty to just animalistic wildness."
DMX, rapper and actor from Romeo Must Die, was reported dead after an overdose
Actor and rapper DMX, who’s real name was Earl Simmons, died on April 9, 2021, after a drug overdose and subsequent coma, as per Page Six. He was only 50 years old. His family released a statement to the publication, writing, "We are deeply saddened to announce today that our loved one … passed away at 50 years old at White Plains Hospital with his family by his side after being placed on life support for the past few days."
As noted by Page Six, DMX took the rap world by storm with his 1998 release "It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot," a rap album that topped the charts and went platinum nearly five times. He went on to release more rap albums and earn two Grammy nominations. DMX was also an actor with almost 60 credits in shorts, movies, and TV shows, including "Belly," "Romeo Must Die," and "Fast and Fierce: Death Race" (via IMDb).
"Earl was a warrior who fought till the very end," his family’s statement read. "He loved his family with all of his heart and we cherish the times we spent with him. Earl’s music inspired countless fans across the world and his iconic legacy will live on forever."
Harry Potter and Chernobyl actor Paul Ritter died in April at 54
Paul Ritter, a British character actor, died in early April 2021 from a brain tumor at the age of 54, as reported by The Guardian. Ritter’s agent confirmed his death and revealed that Ritter was with his family in his home when he died. With a long list of credits ranging from stage productions and sitcoms to famous mini series and movies, Ritter and his talents will surely be missed.
Ritter was most recently in the sitcom "Friday Night Dinner" and also appeared in other famous TV shows like "Catherine the Great" and the award-winning series "Chernobyl," as well as many hit movies like the James Bond flick "Quantum of Solace" and "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" (via IMDb). In addition to his screen work, Ritter was also an accomplished stage actor, snagging nominations for an Olivier award and a Tony award, as per The Guardian. "Devastated at this terribly sad news," Robert Popper, the creator of "Friday Night Dinner," tweeted. "Paul was a lovely, wonderful human being. Kind, funny, super caring and the greatest actor I ever worked with."
Actor Richard Gilliland left behind ‘scores of loving, devastated friends’
As reported by Page Six, 71-year-old actor Richard Gilliland died on March 18, 2021. According to a statement from his representatives, he was briefly ill before he died. An accomplished character actor, Gilliland had been working in TV and film since 1974, as per his IMDb page. He had roles in popular series like "The Waltons," "Party of Five," "24," "Desperate Housewives," and "The Imposters." He was also known for his work in "Operation Petticoat," "The Love Boat," and more.
Some might argue that Gilliland’s favorite role was that of husband and father. According to an interview his wife, Jean Smart, did with Northwest Prime Time, the pair met in when "he was kissing someone else" while filming for "Designing Women," on which she starred. They married in 1987, and, as per Page Six, had two children together: Connor, age 31, and Bonnie, age 11. In addition to his wife and children, Gilliland also left behind two sisters, a brother, and "scores of loving, devastated friends" (Page Six).
Arrested Development fans lost an icon when Jessica Walter died
Deadline confirmed that Jessica Walter from "Arrested Development" died in her sleep on March 24, 2021. Walter’s daughter, Brooke Bowman, released a statement, sharing, "A working actor for over six decades, her greatest pleasure was bringing joy to others through her storytelling both on screen and off. While her legacy will live on through her body of work, she will also be remembered by many for her wit, class and overall joie de vivre."
Walter did have a prolific career. In addition to her portrayal of Lucille Bluth in "Arrested Development," she won hearts in big movies like "Play Misty for Me," "The Flamingo Kid," and "Grand Prix," and memorably voiced Mallory Archer in "Archer," as per her IMDb page. Walter also won awards, scoring two Golden Globe nominations, three SAG nominations, three Emmy nominations, and one Emmy win for the lead role in "Amy Prentiss."
Her "Arrested Development" co-star Jason Bateman tweeted, "What an incredible career, filled with amazing performances. I will forever remember my time with her, watching her bring Lucille Bluth to life. She was one of a kind."
George Segal from The Goldbergs died at age 87
As reported by the New York Post, actor George Segal died at the age of 87 on March 23, 2021. His wife, Sonia Segal, confirmed he died from "complications from bypass surgery." While Segal had a long, long career on both stage and screen, he is best known for playing Nick in the movie version of "Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?," a role that would win him an Oscar nomination. The talented man was also nominated for three Golden Globes and took home two Golden Globe wins, one for "A Touch of Class" and another for "The New Interns."
More recently, Segal brought Albert "Pops" Solomon to life on the hit ABC sitcom "The Goldbergs." Adam F. Goldberg, the series creator, tweeted his despair over the loss, writing, "Today we lost a legend. It was a true honor being a small part of George Segal’s amazing legacy. By pure fate, I ended up casting the perfect person to play Pops. Just like my grandfather, George was a kid at heart with a magical spark."