Warner Bros.

The Closer viewers felt immense heartache when Brenda Leigh Johnson's mom passed away. Both parents are important to the starring character, but we get the chance to see a strong bond between the mother and daughter throughout the series.

Willie Rae Johnson, some might argue, was the one who taught Brenda to give herself some grace. Brenda often found herself working too hard, and it was her mother who would gently remind her, "Honey, you can't keep this pace forever. It'll catch up with you."

Brenda's response would acknowledge that her mother was right, but we all know that once there was a fire, she wouldn't stop until it was out. Frances Sternhagen played Willie Rae Johnson, and although the role was a great one, it only played a minor part in her extensive career. In fact, the role that gave her prominence was a classic mid-'80s to early '90s show.

Do you remember Cheers? In the show, Sternhagen played Esther Clavin, the mother of Cliff Clavin, the know-it-all mail carrier. She lived with her son, adding a touch of familial humor to the series.

The role was recurring, and Sternhagen gained Primetime Emmy nominations for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series in 1991 and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series in 1992.

Sternhagen could be seen in seven episodes throughout the series, starting with her debut in the season five episode "Money Dearest."


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