Frances Cuka: Friday Night Dinner star dies aged 83

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Frances Cuka, who starred in the Channel 4 comedy Friday Night Dinner, has died aged 83.

The actress was known for playing the much-loved grandma Nelly Buller on the show.

She died on Sunday, her agent told BBC News, though her cause of death was not confirmed.

In a career spanning 50 years, Cuka also appeared in Coronation Street and Crossroads as well as on the West End stage.

In Friday Night Dinner, she portrayed Eleanor “Nelly” Buller, the mother of Tamsin Greig’s character Jackie Goodman, who would come over to take a seat at the Goodman family table.

Nelly made viewers laugh with her lust for life, love and dancing, as well as her brutal honesty. She even faked a heart attack at her own wedding in front of the whole fictional British-Jewish family, in order to avoid marrying her male friend Mr Morris.

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Channel 4

Image caption

The Goodman family with grandma

The show, which also starred Simon Bird of Inbetweeners fame, has been running since 2011, with a new series due later this year. The show has previously been nominated for several Bafta TV Awards.

Fellow comic actor Sanjeev Bhaskar led the tributes, describing Cuka as “a welcome, warm and hilarious presence” on screen.

Born in London, Cuka trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and her acting break came aged 19, when she played Josephine in the original 1958 production of Shelagh Delaney’s kitchen sink drama, A Taste of Honey, directed by Joan Littlewood.

The play was referenced by The Smiths singer Morrissey as a major influence on his everyday lyrics.

In 1976, she appeared opposite Michael Crawford in Bernard Slade’s Same Time, Next Year, a comedy about two people who enjoy an annual nightly affair.

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Moving into television, she portrayed Doll Tearsheet in the BBC TV adaptation of Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part Two, and she was also cast as Peggy Mitchell in the soap EastEnders, but her scenes never made it to air.

The character, later made famous by Barbara Windsor, was first introduced in 1991.

Cuka filmed several scenes as her, which were scrapped before she was replaced by Jo Warne.

She also played recurring characters in Coronation Street, Crossroads, and also Casualty; as the homeless Mrs Bassey, who died after an explosion in a shopping mall.

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Image caption

Frances Cuka as Mrs Allwit, in a scene from the Jacobean comedy A Chaste Maid in Cheapside at the Royal Court Theatre, in 1966


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