TV has a long history of beloved characters who are never seen, like Norm’s wife from Cheers, or private eye boss Charles Townsend from Charlie’s Angels. But in the last couple of years, if you made a list of favorite TV characters that don’t have a face, or at least a face you’ve never seen, than Debbie Wolowitz of The Big Bang Theory would have to be near, or at the top of that list. The voice belonged to character actress Carol Ann Susi, and although she didn’t bank the huge pay checks of the regular cast, it would be wrong to say that Susi did not leave an indelible mark on the series and its fans. Sadly, it was announced that last night that Susi passed away, and though you may not have recognize her face, or her name, chances are that this woman provided you much hilarity over the years.
For fans and co-workers, Susi’s sudden death comes as quite a shock as she was only 62 years old. She entered the hospital last week for a medical procedure during the course of which it was discovered that she had cancer. Her condition rapidly deteriorated, according to sources, until she passed away yesterday.
The Brooklyn-born Susi began her career in a nerdy way, played Monique Marmelstein, secretary for the supernaturally imperiled journalist in the 70s cult TV series Kolchak: The Night Stalker. Susi had a long and varied career appearing in several different TV shows and movies, crisscrossing genres seamlessly from comedies like Seinfeld, Night Court, and Married With Children, to drama like Grey’s Anatomy, NYPD Blue and ER. In recent years, she’s taken her talent for voice work to the video game world, lending her distinctive accent to games like Mafia II and the CSI: NY game. Undoubtedly though, Susi will be best known for being Howard’s overbearing, micro-managing, and occasionally crude matriarch on Big Bang, currently network TV’s biggest show.
“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 joint 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.”
Obviously, there’s been no discussion yet as to the fate of Susi’s off-screen/on-screen persona Mrs. Wolowitz, IMDb lists her last Big Bang credit as last week’s episode “The Prom Equivalency,” so unless the site is missing an update, that could end up being Debbie’s (and Susi’s) swan song on the show. Since Susi never appeared in the flesh it could be conceivable that someone else could take on the voice presence of Mrs Wolowitz, but I think it’s far more likely, and dramatically punctuating, for Mrs. Wolowitz to go to that big sitcom set in the sky. It would be a great chance to showcase Howard’s growth as a man, and as a character, to deal with the passing of the woman who’s been equally the source of so much annoyance and so much joy in his life. Maybe it’s even a chance to introduce Howard’s never before seen dad, who abandoned the family when Howard was a boy.
Undoubtedly, whatever the writers fo Big Bang decide to do with Mrs. Wolowitz on the show, Carol Ann Susi will be missed by cast mates, crew and fans alike. In tribute, let’s roll one of my favorite bits involving Susi from the show, when Howard realizes that his mom and his future wife Bernadette may have more in common than he hoped (feared?)
Rest in Peace, Carol Ann Susi.