Novella Nelson, an actress who spent nearly six decades in the business, has died.
The Broadway star passed away at age 77 Friday, Sept. 1, according to Broadway World, which did not disclose a cause of death.
Nelson had a lengthy stage career beginning in 1961 with producing, directing and performance credits — including one as a lead in “Purlie” and another as a stand-in on “Hello Dolly!” on Broadway — before venturing into the big and small screen. The star had a small role in the 1977 movie “An Unmarried Woman” and her TV debut came a year later with “Watch Your Mouth.” Nelson continued to make appearances on the tube with later roles on “New York Undercover,” “The West Wing,” “Law & Order: SVU” and “Damages.”
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However, Nelson is perhaps best known for her role as Mrs. Tate, the abusive adoptive mother in 2002’s Denzel Washington-directed “Antwone Fisher.”
Still, the stage is where Nelson’s heart resided and she continued to perform well into her 70s.
“When I came off the stage, someone had to hold me for a second because it was so extraordinary,” she told the Hartford Courant in 2011 of her experience in a college stage play. “It still touches me to this day to talk about it. That day changed my life. I said, ‘This is what I am going to do.'”