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

Mary Alice, the Tony- and Emmy-winning actress who starred in the original Broadway production of Fences and The Matrix Revolutions, has died at 85.

Several members of the Hollywood community took to social media to pay their respects. "A shoulder we all stood on. A round of applause for Mary Alice. Thank you legend. Rest Easy," wrote Domingo.

She was born Mary Alice Smith in 1936 in Indianola, Miss., and spent several years as a schoolteacher in Chicago before moving to New York to pursue acting full time.

In a career that spanned more than three decades, Alice performed on stage and screen, in comedies and dramas. 

She won an Obie Award in 1979 for her performance as Portia in Joseph Papp's Off-Broadway production of Julius Caesar. Her TV credits included Police Woman, Cosby and Sanford & Son.

In 1991, she won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress for I'll Fly Away. In A Different World Alice played the delightfully eccentric, soft-spoken Leticia "Lettie" Bostic.

Her final onscreen credit came with a 2005 episode of the rebooted Kojak, starring Ving Rhames.