Olympia Dukakis of 'Tales of the City,' 'Moonstruck' Fame, Dead at 89

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Saturday May 1, 2021

 In this June 26, 2011 file photo, Actress Olympia Dukakis, a celebrity Grand Marshall for the 41st annual Gay Pride parade, waves to the crowd while being driven past them in San Francisco.
In this June 26, 2011 file photo, Actress Olympia Dukakis, a celebrity Grand Marshall for the 41st annual Gay Pride parade, waves to the crowd while being driven past them in San Francisco.  (Source:Associated Press)

Olympia Dukakis, famed for her starring role in four "Tales of the City" miniseries as transgender landlady Anna Madrigal, and also iconic for her Oscar-winning role in "Moonstruck" and her co-starring role in "Steel Magnolias," has died at the age of 89, Variety reports.

Dukakis was a Massachusetts native, born in Lowell in 1931. Her cousin, Michael Dukakis, was governor of Massachusetts for three terms; he was also the Democratic presidential candidate in 1988, losing to George H.W. Bush.

Olympia Dukakis' brother, Apollo, posted about the actress' passing on Facebook, Variety said.

Wrote Apollo Dukakis: "My beloved sister, Olympia Dukakis, passed away this morning in New York City. After many months of failing health she is finally at peace and with her Louis."

Dukakis' husband, Louis Zorich, also an actor, died in 2018, noted Indiewire.

"The actress was 56 when she came to prominence overnight thanks to her Oscar-winning turn in 'Moonstruck,' " Variety recalled, "in which she played, with an extraordinary comic ethnic gusto characteristic of the movie as a whole, the mother of Cher's character."

Dukakis was also an acclaimed stage actor, winning the Obie Award for her role in the Bertolt Brecht play "Man Equals Man" in 1963. Dukakis herself recounted to the Associated Press that she and appeared in "Eugene O'Neill's 'Long Day's Journey Into Night' three or four times, Bertolt Brecht's 'Mother Courage and Her Children' four times, Tennessee Williams' 'The Rose Tattoo' five times, Euripides' 'Hecuba' three times, and several Chekhov plays 'a bunch of times.' "

Dukakis was a favorite of gay audiences, in part for having originated the role of Anna Madrigal in the 1993 miniseries "Tales of the City." She returned to the character for "More Tales of the City in 1998, for which she was nominated for an Emmy. Dukakis returned to the role again for "Further Tales of the City" in 2001. The miniseries were based on the popular novels by Armistead Maupin.

Dukakis played Anna Madrigal for the final time in 2019 in "Tales of the City" on Netflix, which served as a sequel to the other three series and departed from the novels to tell an original tale.

Dukakis also played the role of Stella, one half of a lesbian couple, in the 2011 film "Cloudburst," and appeared in the 2005 film "Three Needles," an anthology of three short films each dealing with HIV/AIDS.

Variety noted that Dukakis "is survived by daughter Christina Zorich, an actress; and sons Peter and Stefan Zorich."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.