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R.I.P. Helen Slayton-Hughes, Ethel Beavers from Parks And Rec

A veteran actor of both stage and screen, Slayton-Hughes was a hilarious and stand-out member of the Parks And Rec ensemble

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Helen Slayton-Hughes
Helen Slayton-Hughes
Photo: Jerod Harris/Getty Images for Netflix

Helen Slayton-Hughes has died. A veteran actor of both stage and screen, Slayton-Hughes was best known to modern audiences for her numerous appearances on NBC’s Parks And Recreation, where she played Ethel Beavers, Pawnee’s resident court stenographer/hard-drinking, hard-parying agent of chaos. According to Yahoo! Entertainment, Slayton-Hughes was a long-time stage actor, with more than 200 roles to her name. Her death was reported earlier today, via her Facebook page. Slayton-Hughes was 92.

Although she began working in film and TV in the 1980s—scoring one or two-episode appearances in shows ranging from Nash Bridges to Power Rangers to Arrested Development—Slayton-Hughes got her first big exposure in 2011, when Parks And Rec cast her as Ethel in a small part in a third-season episode. A fairly standard riff on the “blunt, funny old lady” type, the character was quite obviously elevated by Slayton-Hughes’ performance, impressing all involved enough to bring her back for a much more regular role the next season, as the court stenographer for the ethics trial of Amy Poehler’s Leslie Knope. All told, Slayton-Hughes appeared in 11 episodes of the series, including a memorable moment in which she kissed a surprise-cameo Bill Murray on the forehead.

The Best of Ethel Beavers - Parks and Recreation

Slayton-Hughes also appeared in a number of other projects from Parks-affiliated performers, including Brooklyn Nine-Nine, an appearance in Adam Scott’s enormously silly The Greatest Event In Television History, as well as—a personal favorite of ours—a regular role on Ken Marino’s reality dating parody Burning Love. Although Slayton-Hughes noted at times that she was more comfortable as a dramatic actor, she had a deft hand for comedy, imbuing ostensibly exhausted characters with both a quick wit and a sharp tongue. The official Parks And Rec Twitter account, as well as series star Aubrey Plaza (whose character April was so impressed by Ethel Beavers that she adopted her as her grandmother) both issued tributes to her today.

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Slayton-Hughes reportedly died last night. Her final public appearance was back in October, when she attended the premiere of her recent Netflix film The Curse Of Bridge Hollow.