For 12 seasons, from 1984 to 1996, Murder, She Wrote was one of the most watched shows on television for it’s beloved cast and clever storylines. The whodunit followed the adventures of Jessica Fletcher, a retired English teacher who finds fame as a mystery writer. She uses her knack for sleuthing to solve real-life murders in her small town of Cabot Cove, Maine.
And there were plenty of murders for her to solve. According to some calculations, if the fictional Cabot Cove had been a real town, its murder rate may have been the world’s highest!
When the show premiered, it was unlike anything else on television. Despite the murder-mystery premise, it wasn’t a typical action-packed crime caper. Although the character of Jessica was sharp-witted, it wasn’t a laugh-out loud sitcom either. And at 58 years old, Angela Lansbury wasn’t the typical Hollywood leading lady.
But Murder, She Wrote became one of the longest-running shows in history. It inspired four TV movies, two video games, an ongoing series of mystery books, and an upcoming movie reboot. In honor of Jessica Fletcher and her trusty sidekicks, we did some detective work. We dug up these interesting facts about the Murder, She Wrote cast.
Angela Lansbury as Jessica Fletcher
Born in London in 1925, Angela Lansbury moved to the U.S. with her mother during World War II. She studied acting in New York City before moving to Hollywood. There, she landed her debut role as a maid in MGM’s Gaslight — and received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
She went on to receive two more Oscar nods for supporting roles in The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945) and The Manchurian Candidate (1962). Lansbury also carved out a successful career on the stage. She won five Tony Awards along with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2022.
In the late 1960s, Lansbury faced challenges in her home life. Her two teenagers had gotten involved with drugs, and her daughter was associating with members of the Manson cult. When their Malibu home burned down in 1970, Lansbury made the decision to relocate her family to Ireland. There they were able to reconnect and get back on track.
Lansbury in Murder, She Wrote
After her children were grown and Lansbury had returned to the States, she landed the role of Jessica Fletcher. Lansbury was the only member of the Murder, She Wrote cast who appeared in every single episode of the show. She earned 12 consecutive Emmy nominations for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. Lansbury became the show’s executive producer in 1992.
Lansbury continued to work in movies and theater, with notable roles in Beauty and the Beast, Nanny McPhee, and Mr. Popper’s Penguins. In 2014, she was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. That earned her the title of Dame Angela Lansbury. She passed away on October 11, 2022 — five days before her 97th birthday.
Did You Know?
The role of Jessica Fletcher was originally offered to actress Jean Stapleton. Stapleton was best known as Edith Bunker on All in the Family. When Stapleton turned it down, the role was offered to Lansbury. However, Lansbury had also been offered a role in a new sitcom, which her agents advised her to take. Luckily, she ultimately chose the role of Jessica!
William Windom as Dr. Seth Hazlitt
After serving in the U.S. Army as a paratrooper during World War II, William Windom enrolled at an American University in Biarritz, France, where he got involved with the theater program. After returning to the U.S., he built a career as a prolific character actor, with guest roles on shows like The Twilight Zone, Star Trek, Bonanza, Columbo, The Partridge Family, Knight Rider, and more. A lot more, in fact — his IMDB listing has more than 250 entries across seven decades.
In 1962, he landed a prominent role in To Kill a Mockingbird as Horace Gilmer, the contemptuous prosecutor who opposes Atticus Finch. And in 1970, he won an Emmy for his leading role on the short-lived sitcom My World and Welcome to It. But he was best known for his recurring role on Murder, She Wrote as a Cabot Cove doctor and one of Jessica’s best friends.
After the show ended, Windom continued to make appearances in shows like Murphy Brown, Ally McBeal, and Boy Meets World, and he also voiced the character of Uncle Chuck in the Sonic the Hedgehog TV series. Windom passed away at home on August 16, 2012, at the age of 88.
Did You Know?
Windom was a tournament chess player and a lifetime member of the United States Chess Federation. He reportedly loved challenging fellow actors to a game — including John Wayne.
Tom Bosley as Sheriff Amos Tupper
Born and raised in Chicago, Tom Bosley served in the U.S. Navy during World War II before pursuing an acting career that included celebrated roles in movies, television, and theater.
In 1960, Bosley won a Tony Award for originating the role of NYC mayor Fiorello La Guardia in the Broadway musical Fiorello! He went on to make guest appearances in television shows like Bonanza, Get Smart, Bewitched, and more before landing the role of family patriarch Howard Cunningham — a.k.a. “Mr. C” — on Happy Days.
The role earned Bosley an Emmy nomination and made him a household name, which Bosley didn’t mind at all. Five years after the show ended, he acknowledged in an interview that he’d “always be Howard Cunningham to most people, but I’m proud of that character.”
After Happy Days ended, Bosley joined the Murder, She Wrote cast as Amos Tupper, the Cabot Cove sheriff who (sometimes begrudgingly) accepts Jessica Fletcher’s help with solving cases. Bosley left after four seasons to star in Father Dowling Mysteries as a Chicago priest who solves crimes in his parish. After that show ended, he continued to make appearances in movies, TV shows, and theater throughout the 1990s and 2000s. He passed away after a brief battle with lung cancer in 2010.
Did you know?
Tom Bosley and Angela Lansbury share a Beauty and the Beast connection. Lansbury voiced the teapot Mrs. Potts in the 1991 Disney animated movie, and Bosley originated the role of Belle’s father Maurice in the Broadway adaptation in 1994.
Ron Masak as Sheriff Mort Metzger
Raised on the South Side of Chicago, Ron Masak got his start in acting at Chicago City College. While serving as a military policeman in the U.S. Army, he traveled the world entertaining the troops with an all-Army musical variety show called Rolling Along.
After making his TV debut as an Elvis impersonator on The Spade Cooley Show in 1957, Masak spent the next three decades working as a character actor. Along with guest appearances on shows like The Monkees, The Flying Nun, and I Dream of Jeannie, Masak also had recurring roles on Police Story, Bewitched, and Webster.
When Tom Bosley left the Murder, She Wrote cast in 1988, show co-creator Peter Fischer tapped Masak to play the new sheriff in town — a former NYPD officer who came to Cabot Cove foolishly expecting a “sleepy” town with minimal crimes to solve.
Masak’s career continued after the show ended. Along with roles in movies and TV shows, he was nicknamed the “King of Commercials” for his appearances in ads for Rice-a-Roni, Glad bags, Ford, and as the voice of the spokes-stork for Vlasic pickles. Masak passed away from natural causes on October 20, 2022, just nine days after Angela Lansbury.
Did you know?
Louis Herthum as Deputy Andy Broom
Although Louis Herthum began his acting career in 1978, he spent more than a decade as an unknown actor, appearing in local theater productions and regional TV commercials. In the late 1980s, he had bit parts in two episodes of Murder, She Wrote — but his big breakthrough finally came in 1991, when he landed the recurring role of Deputy Andy Broom.
Herthum was part of the Murder, She Wrote cast through its final season in 1996. The role kick-started a long and successful career as a character actor, which is still going strong today. Herthum has appeared in movies like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, 12 Rounds, The Last Exorcism, and The Possession of Hannah Grace, along with TV shows like JAG, Breaking Bad, and CSI.
He’s also found a new fanbase with his role as the werewolf in True Blood. He was also the robot Peter Abernathy on the dystopian sci-fi series Westworld. Plus, he’s landed recurring rolls in the thriller miniseries What/If. He also was in the mystery series Home Before Dark, and the sci-fi series Peripheral.
Did you know?
Louis Herthum’s uncle, Harold G. Herthum, was also an actor. After working for years as a small Business owner in Baton Rouge, Harold was in his late 60s when he landed roles in movies like JFK, Forrest Gump, and Tin Cup.
The scoop on the Murder, She Wrote movie reboot
Murder mysteries and true crime podcasts have seen a meteoric rise in popularity in recent years — so it’s no surprise that audiences have been clamoring for a reappearance of their favorite amateur sleuth.
In a 2011 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Lansbury expressed interest in the idea of a Murder, She Wrote remake. An NBC reboot was teased two years later, with Octavia Spencer announced as the lead. But as more details rolled out, it became clear that the new show would bear little resemblance to the original.
Lansbury publicly expressed her dismay, telling Variety that Spencer was “absolutely wonderful, a lovely actress” but it would be a “mistake” to call the show Murder, She Wrote. By January 2014, the reboot had officially been scrapped, and Spencer later told E! News, “That would not have been the right fit for me.”
But Fletcher fans can take heart. It was announced in September 2023 that a Murder, She Wrote movie is in the works! Dumb Money writers Lauren Schuker Blum and Rebecca Angelo are attached, although the project was initially paused due to the WGA strike for writers. Likewise, no casting announcements have been made due to the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike for actors. But Schuker Blum and Angelo did confirm one exciting tidbit: The new movie will definitely feature Jessica Fletcher as the main character.
Read on for more classic 80s TV facts!