Kathryn Joosten (1939 – 2012)

The great character actor Kathryn Joosten passed away Friday at 72.

Joosten popped up all over the place and I never saw her hit a wrong note or mail it in. She’s probably best-known for Desperate Housewives — for which she won two Emmys — and for playing Mrs. Landingham on The West Wing, in which she was terrific.

But the two things she did that I most remember were a cheerfully filthy Funny Or Die sketch (“The Committee Ep. 1: Bad Dog,” very, very NSFW) and her recurring role on Joan of Arcadia as God.

Lots of actors appeared on that show as God. She was my favorite.

This is the only YouTube clip I could find of her on that show, which is a shame because it’s a scene in which God explains things to Joan, and the show worked best when God didn’t explain things. So I’m not bowled over by the platitudes God offers in this scene, and I don’t think making a teenage break-up the basis for a discussion of theodicy quite works.

But turn off the sound and just watch the scene. The young girl is us. The old woman is God:

That’ll preach.

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  • Purplemoonshoes

    I had completely forgotten about her in Joan of Arcadia! Perfect casting. And thank you for that Funny or Die series! How had I not seen that? Reminded me of Joosten guest starring as a filthy nun on a plane in Ally McBeal. Geez, what wasn’t she in?

  • I don’t think making a teenage break-up the basis for a discussion of theodicy quite works.

    Don’t underestimate the pain and importance of a “teenage break-up.” A break-up when I was 20 destroyed me utterly. I had to rebuild my entire personality and world outlook because of it. 

  • Jurgan

    She had a one episode appearance on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  It wasn’t a good episode (it was the one where Buffy and Riley are forced to have sex non-stop), but she gave a great performance as a creepy sex-obsessed conservative.

  • This makes me sad. I really liked her Mrs. Landingham character on The West Wing, and I was genuinely sad when she was killed. I never understood why they killed her off.

  • LL

    I did enjoy “Joan of Arcadia” and Joosten’s portrayal of God. I had totally forgotten about that (Joosten in that show), thanks for the reminder. 

  • Newbiedoobiedoo


    I liked her in JOA too.

  • Tricksterson

    Yeah, she was good as God but Little Girl God was my favorite.

  • Lori

    I liked Little Girl God and had a soft spot for Goth God (reminded me of a high school classmate), but I think Mrs LandingGod was my fav.

  • We Must Dissent

    I never understood why they killed her off.

    Neither did President Bartlett.

    Haec credam a deo pio? A deo justo? A deo scito

  • Lori

     Bartlett understood just fine. God is a vindictive SOB with a bad sense of humor.


  • Dan Audy

    Sad to hear.  I always got a little thrill when she showed up in a show because her characters were universally awesome.  

  • Mau de Katt

     Plot-wise, I think it was Mrs. Landingham’s influence on him, which he remembers throughout the episode, that helped him to decide to run for a second term, even though he was facing a Congressional inquiry and public scandal for having hid his MS during his first election.  (I’m not sure what role her death played in that decision, though; would her presence have not influenced him as strongly as her absence?  It’s been a while since I last watched it, and I’ve never read any in-depth analysis of that episode by the show’s creators.)

    That said, though, my first reaction when reading the title of this post was, “Wait, she
    was still alive?”  I never saw Desperate
    , and she was a great God in JoA, but for me Kathryn
    Joosten was always Mrs. Landingham, so much did I love her in that
    role.  When that character died in West Wing, my mind
    somehow flagged it as the actress dying as well.

    The West Wing was a truly fantastic show; I’ve
    watched it through twice now in its entirety in the past year, and there
    are still so many parts of it that amaze me; this episode, Two
    , was one of them.  I don’t know if Mrs. Landingham
    was killed off as part of a necessary plot development, or because
    Kathryn Joosten wanted to leave the show, or what
    But I can really resonate with Pres. Bartlett’s rage/hurt/brokenness in
    that scene clip, and the ending
    of that episode
    (which takes place after
    the funeral) still gives me shivers. 

    (Though in my opinion, it’s best appreciated as the culmination of
    everything that’s happened in that episode and the plot developments
    that led up to it, rather than as an 8-min separate clip.)