The Matrix Revolutions

‘A Different World’ Actress, Mary Alice, Dead at 85

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Actress Mary Alice, the beloved actress best known for her iconic roles in “A Different World” and the blockbuster movie “Sparkle,” has died. 

A close friend of the late star confirmed the news to Philip Lewis of HuffPost

“Mary Alice, known for her roles as ‘Lettie’ on A Different World and Effie Williams in Sparkle, has died, one of her close friends tells me,” Lewis tweeted. “‘We are all very sad at a loss.'”

Alice died in her home in New York City on Wednesday, per the NYPD. She was 85.

Mary Alice Smith was born in Indianola, Mississippi, on December 3, 1941 (although there are several different records of her date and year of birth.) One of five children, she was raised in Chicago by her father, who worked in a laundromat, and her mother, who worked in a factory. Her love of acting came early, but after college, she took a job as a social security secretary before becoming an elementary school teacher.

Alice eventually moved to New York during the late 1960s where she worked in stage productions in Manhattan through the early 1970s, when she would make the transition to onscreen roles.

In 1987, Alice nabbed a Tony Award for her performance as Rose Maxson in the original Broadway production of August Wilson’s “Fences.” Alice played The Oracle in the 2003 Hollywood smash, “The Matrix Revolutions.” The film grossed an incredible $427 million globally. In 1993, she was nominated for and won an Emmy for outstanding supporting actress in a drama series in her role as Marguerite Peck in “I’ll Fly Away.”

Two years later, she was nominated for a Tony once again for her stellar portrayal of Bessie Delany in “Having Our Say.”

Alice appeared in a slew of popular television shows and movies, including “All My Children,” “Soul Food,” “Oz, “Malcolm X” and “Down in the Delta.”

In 2000, Alice was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame. In 2005, she retired from acting.

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