14 October 2020 18:31
But Ferrell, who was born in Loudendale, West Virginia, and died on Monday at the age of 77, had another idea. "I went into the room, and I said, 'I know that you're looking for, like, a Russian or a Polish accent, and I've got a pretty good Russian. However, I bring my own ethnicity to this, and I've worked this material. It works better in Trailer Park than it does in anything else,'" Ferrell recalled in a 2014 interview. Producer Chuck Lorre was enamored, and the rest is television history: Ferrell landed the part, and what was supposed to be a two-episode appearance turned into more than 200 episodes and two Emmy nominations. For an actress who acted on stage and as a guest star on dozens of popular television series in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, it was a crowning achievement. "She's that person I wish I could be, and someone I think all of us kind of wish we could be," Ferrell said in 2014 of her character. "Someone who can just say what's on her mind and not worry about it." Ferrell's death was confirmed by her daughter. According to the New York Times, Ferrell battled health problems since December, when she hospitalized with a kidney infection. She later suffered a heart attack in May and had been living in a long-term care facility. Ferrell began acting on stage in the 1973 off-Broadway play The Hot I Baltimore. Norman Lear had seen the show, she remembered, and it led to her first television credit: a guest role opposite Bea Arthur on Maude. Consistent work throughout the decade and acclaim soon followed, and basically never stopped. Ferrell won a number of awards for her performance in the off-Broadway show The Sea Horse, appeared opposite Faye Dunaway in Network, and guest-starred on series such as Good Times, B.J. and the Bear, One Day at a Time, and The Rockford Files. That high-profile work continued into the 1980s and 1990s, with roles on series like Who's The Boss? and film appearances in Edward Scissorhands and Mystic Pizza. Ferrell also earned awards acclaim for her recurring role on L.A. Law, which netted her an Emmy nomination at the 1992 ceremony. In addition to Two and a Half Men, modern audiences might best remember Ferrell for her appearance opposite Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich. "Lovely, brilliant Chatti. I'm weeping," actress Melanie Lynskey, who starred with Ferrell on Two and a Half Men, wrote on Twitter. "She was the warmest, most gracious lady. Her husband Arnie [Anderson] came to every single taping of Two And A Half Men and sat in the audience, beaming with pride. Her sweet daughter Samantha was often there too. Oh, she was loved. She will be missed." The sentiment was echoed by both Sheen and fellow Two and a Half Men star Jon Cryer. "An absolute sweetheart, a consummate pro, a genuine friend, a shocking and painful loss," Sheen wrote on Twitter. "She was a beautiful human," wrote Cryer in his own tribute. "Berta's gruff exterior was an invention of the writers. Chatty's warmth and vulnerability were her real strengths. I'm crying for the woman I'll miss, and the joy she brought so many." More Great Stories From Vanity Fair — November Cover Star Gal Gadot Is in a League of Her Own — A First Look at Diana and Margaret Thatcher in The Crown Season Four — Celebs Roast Trump in Rhyme for John Lithgow's Trumpty Dumpty Book — Brace Yourself for George Clooney's Apocalyptic Movie The Midnight Sky — The Best Shows and Movies Streaming This October — Inside Netflix's Latest Binge-able Escape, Emily in Paris — The Crown's Young Stars on Prince Charles and Princess Di — From the Archive: How Hollywood Sharks, Mafia Kingpins, and Cinematic Geniuses Shaped The Godfather — Not a subscriber? Join Vanity Fair to receive full access to VF.com and the complete online archive now.