Veteran character actress Carol Ann Susi, best known for her role as the bellowing, never-seen Mrs. Wolowitz on CBS’ The Big Bang Theory, has died after a brief battle with cancer. She was 62. Susi’s cancer was discovered when she went in for a medical procedure a week and a half ago, and her condition rapidly deteriorated.
Susi’s origins as a spunky Italian gal from Brooklyn were in full display in her Brooklyn-accented voice work as Howard Wolowitz’s overbearing mother who has become one of the signature characters on broadcast television’s top series. Everyone on the set of Big Bang was devastated yesterday when they got the news of her death.
“The Big Bang Theory family has lost a beloved member today with the passing of Carol Ann Susi, who hilariously and memorably voiced the role of Mrs. Wolowitz,” CBS, Warner Bros. Television and The Big Bang Theory executive producers Chuck Lorre, Steven Molaro and Bill Prady said in a statement. “Unseen by viewers, the Mrs. Wolowitz character became a bit of a mystery throughout the show’s eight seasons. What was not a mystery, however, was Carol Ann’s immense talent and comedic timing, which were on display during each unforgettable appearance. In addition to her talent, Carol Ann was a constant source of joy and kindness to all. Our thoughts and deepest condolences are with her family during this time, and we will miss her greatly.”
It is way too soon for the producers to even think about the future of the Mrs. Wolowitz — finding a replacement for Susi or killing off the character — though they will have to face the issue soon as Howard’s larger-than-life mother has become a staple on the show, featured in a slew of episodes every season.
Susi, who used to call herself “the one and only,” studied acting at the HB Studio in New York and came to Los Angeles in the 1970s. She was discovered by the casting department at Universal Studios, and soon after, she was cast as Kolchak’s secretary, Monique Marmelstein, in the hit ABC series Kolchak: The Night Stalker. Dozens of TV guest appearances followed, including Cheers; Doogie Howser, M.D.; ER; Mad About You; Just Shoot Me; The King Of Queens; and Six Feet Under.
Among her most familiar roles was in “The Boyfriend,” the classic two-part episode from Seinfeld‘s third season. When George is at the unemployment office trying to sweet-talk his way into a benefits extension, he notices a photo on the desk of his case officer. Turns out it’s the woman’s very-available daughter (Susi) — and George sees an opportunity. The mother arranges a date between the two, which goes predictably poorly.
Susi also was active on stage, appearing in such productions as Justin Tanner’s Heartbreak Help and Coyote Women, and was in the original cast of Ladies’ Room, by Robin Schiff. Here is a compilation of Mrs. Wolowitz’s scenes from the first four seasons of Big Bang: