Actress and singer Nell Carter, best known for her role as the matronly housekeeper in the 1980s television sitcom "Gimme a Break," died on Thursday, January 23, of natural causes at the age of 54, her publicist said.
Carter was found in the early morning at her Beverly Hills home by one of her adopted sons, spokesman Roger Lane said.
The cause of death has not been established yet but Lane noted that Carter suffered from diabetes and she was very open and spoke often about her weight problems and her battle with substance abuse.
"Obviously she was overweight and with diabetes that is always a concern," Lane said. "It can put a strain on the heart. We are waiting to hear the exact cause."
The actress also underwent brain surgery twice in 1992 to repair an aneurysm.
The tiny, 4-foot, 11-inch actress began her showbusiness career as a nightclub performer, won both a Tony and Obie award in 1978 for her role in the Broadway musical "Ain't Misbehavin,"' and gained a widespread audience with her starring role in the six-year-long sitcom "Gimme a Break," for which she also sang the title song.
She proudly headlined a multiracial production of "Hello Dolly" on the West Coast in 1991 and played the evil Miss Hannigan in a 1996-97 20th anniversary touring revival of the stage musical "Annie," about which she said "I want this show to run for at least three years with me in it, then I want to take a week off".
Her many film credits included such films as "The Grass Harp" (1995), "Perfect Fit" (1999), and "Hair" (1979).
Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Carter was the fifth of nine children. She converted to Judaism before marrying her first husband, businessman Georg Krynicki. The marriage ended in divorce in 1992. Carters second marriage to Canadian record producer Roger Larocque also ended in divorce.
Carter leaves a daughter and two adopted teenage sons.