Beloved actress Kathryn Joosten – widely known for her roles on Desperate Housewives and The West Wing, among others – died of lung cancer on June 2. The former psychiatric nurse, who also served as a governor of the Television Academy, headed to Hollywood in her forties to pursue her acting dreams, ultimately winning two Primetime Emmys.
Kathryn Joosten, a two-time Primetime Emmy-winning actress, died June 2, 2012, in Los Angeles. Joosten, also a longtime governor of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Performers Peer Group, was 72. The cause was lung cancer.
Although she was a familiar face in films and on television for more than a decade, Joosten did not pursue a professional acting career until age 42 — and arrived in Hollywood just 15 years ago.
For the role of Karen McCluskey on ABC's Desperate Housewives, Joosten received three Primetime Emmy Awards as outstanding guest actress in a comedy series, and won twice — in 2005 and 2008.
She was also known for her portrayal of Mrs. Landingham, secretary to President Josiah Bartlet, played by Martin Sheen, on the NBC drama The West Wing.
She also created dozens of other memorable television characters, including one of the recurring “Gods” on Joan of Arcadia and the role of Claire on Dharma & Greg.
Joosten also starred on General Hospital and had guest roles on such series as Grey’s Anatomy, Scrubs, Everwood, Yes, Dear, Life with Bonnie, Will & Grace, Less Than Perfect, The King of Queens, My Name Is Earl, Monk, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Judging Amy, Father of the Pride, Becker, Arli$$, Family Matters, Roseanne, NYPD Blue, Ally McBeal, Providence and more than 20 others.
Joosten also appeared in many television commercials, including a familiar series of spots for Fiber One and V8. Her feature film credits included Wedding Crashers, Hostage and Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel.
Born December 20 1939, in Eustis, Florida, Joosten spent much of her life in Illinois, where she worked for many years as a psychiatric nurse. The mother of two decided to pursue her dream of becoming a performer after her marriage ended. She studied at the renowned Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, and worked in community theater prior to moving to Los Angeles in the mid-1990s.
In addition to her career as a performer, Joosten was active in the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, where she served multiple terms as a governor of the Performers Peer Group and served on various committees.
After being diagnosed with lung cancer, Joosten sought to raise awareness about the disease. She encouraged Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry to have her character, Mrs. McCluskey, battle the disease in order to call attention to it.
In addition, she was named the national spokesperson for the Lung Cancer Profiles campaign on behalf of Pfizer.
In 2010 she became the National Spokesperson for Christmas Seals.
Kathryn Joosten had the distinction of being interviewed by the Television Academy Foundation’s Archive of American Television. During the nearly three-hour interview, conducted in Westlake Village on May 9, 2012, by Nancy Harrington, Joosten described her start in acting at age 42.
She outlined her first career, as a psychiatric nurse, and how she decided to pursue her love of acting when her marriage ended.
Joosten also recalled studying and performing at the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, and moving to Los Angeles in the mid-1990s. She then recounted her guest roles on several shows, including Family Matters, Murphy Brown, Dharma & Greg and Scrubs.
In addition, she detailed the two roles for which she best known — Mrs. Landingham on The West Wing and Karen McCluskey on Desperate Housewives.
Joosten also spoke of her longtime involvement with the Television Academy, serving as governor of the Performers Peer Group. She talked of her two Primetime Emmy wins — both for her role on Desperate Housewives — and openly discussed her battle with lung cancer.
The interview is available online here.