Frances Cuka, known for playing ‘nice grandma’, Nelly Buller in Channel 4 sitcom Friday Night Dinner, has died aged 83.
The English actress died on February 16, 2020, reports The Guardian. Cause of death has not been specified, but previously she had suffered a stroke and was diagnosed with cancer.
Cuka got her start on stage with visionary director Joan Littlewood at Stratford East and George Devine at the Royal Court, starring in Shelagh Delaney’s A Taste of Honey (1958) and John Arden’s Live Like Pigs (1958).
She later transitioned into television, playing Constance Povey/Constance Baines in 1964’s The Old Wives Tale, and Dr. Lucy Newton in Emergency-Ward 10 in 1966. She also had recurring roles in the soap operas Crossroads and Coronation Street.
Cuka was the second actress to play Peggy Mitchell in the BBC soap EastEnders, when the character was first introduced in 1991 and had filmed several scenes before being fired and her scenes scrapped. She was replaced by Jo Warne.
Also appearing as Doll Tearsheet in Henry IV, part two in the BBC Shakespeare series, and as homeless Mrs. Bassey in Casualty, her last television appearance came in Channel 4’s sitcom Friday Night Dinner (from 2011 to 2017) as grandma, Nelly Buller, the mother of Jackie Goodman (Tamsin Greig).
Cuka had a limited movie resume, which included The Watcher in the Woods (1980), a supernatural thriller with Bette Davis and Carroll Baker; Bob Rafelson’s Mountains of the Moon (1990); a Gothic horror twist on Snow White (1997) with Sigourney Weaver as the wicked stepmother; Roman Polanski’s Oliver Twist (2005) with Ben Kingsley as Fagin; and Closer to the Moon (2014) a bizarre Romanian heist comedy starring Mark Strong.
Robert Popper, creator of Friday Night Dinner, led the way with tributes, writing: “Terribly sad that our wonderful Friday Night Dinner Grandma, Frances Cuka, has passed away.”
Sanjeev Bhaskar wrote: “Sad to hear of the passing of #FrancesCuka always such a welcome, warm and hilarious presence in #Fridaynightdinner#ripnicegrandma”
— Sanjeev Bhaskar (@TVSanjeev) February 20, 2020
“Cannot believe #FrancesCuka has passed away gutted absolutely loved her as Nelly in #FridayNightDinner,” one fan wrote.
Another added: “So just found out the actor who plays nelly in #FridayNightDinner has passed away frances Cuka god bless her soul she was amazing in the program.”
— Leona Kate Laird (@leonakate93) February 20, 2020
So just found out the actor who plays nelly in #FridayNightDinner has passed away frances Cuka god bless her soul she was amazing in the program ????❤️❤️❤️
— RyanHunt_Hazza768 (@RyanHun68284588) February 20, 2020
“OMG I’m so sad to hear that #francescuka has died @robertpopper. She was the best friday night dinner character. She will always be remembered #fridaynightdinner,” a third said.
— Name… (@JamieScrivinYT) February 20, 2020