Shelley Morrison, the actor best-known for playing maid Rosario Salazar on Will & Grace, has died aged 83.

Her publicist Lori DeWaal said she died from heart failure on Sunday 1 December at the Cedars-Sinai medical centre in Los Angeles. 

Morrison starred in Will & Grace as the no-nonsense Salvadoran maid of socialite Karen Walker (Megan Mullally) in the original run of the series from 1999 - 2006. 

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In a biography, Morrison referred to Rosario as one of her "all-time favourite characters" and said she reminded her of her own mother, "who loved animals and children, but she would not suffer fools".

“It is very significant to me that we were able to show an older, Hispanic woman who is bright and smart and can hold her own,” she added.

Born Rachel Mitrani on 26 October, 1936 in the Bronx, Morrison enjoyed an acting career that spanned more than six decades and guest-starred in more than 150 TV series. 

Another of her most memorable roles was as Sister Sixto on The Flying Nun opposite Sally Field in the Sixties. 

In 1973, she met writer Walter Dominguez, whom she married. Together they adopted six children through a traditional Native American ceremony. She is survived by Dominguez, their children and grandchildren. 

“Shelley's greatest pride as an actress was in playing the indomitable Rosario, in a comedy series that furthered the cause of social equity and fairness for LGBTQ people," DeWaal's statement read.

"She also took pride in portraying a strong, loving yet feisty Latina character. She believed that the best way to change hearts and minds was through comedy.”

Mullally shared a tribute to her former co-star upon hearing the news, tweeting: "Just got a bulletin on my phone that Shelley Morrison has passed. My heart is heavy. Putting Shelley, her beloved husband Walter and their children in the light. 

"Thank you for your friendship and partnership. You accomplished wonderful things in this world. You will be missed."

Debra Messing, who starred as Grace Adler in the show, shared a throwback clip of a scene she filmed with Morrison, writing: "Oh Shelley.... what a loss. Our dear Rosario has passed on. Shelley had a career that spanned decades, but she will always be our dear Rosie. All my love to Walter and the entire family."

Eric McCormack, who played Will Truman, wrote: "Shelley was a beautiful soul and wonderful actor. Her work as Rosario, season after season, was as nuanced and real as it was hysterical."

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