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Tuesday 14th July 2020

Casualty and Friday Night Dinner star Frances Cuka dies at the age of 83

She also starred in Holby City and The Bill

Actress Frances Cuka has died at the age of 83, after a varied career spanning more than 50 years in showbusiness - including roles in Casualty and Holby City.

The actress was most recently known for playing the much-loved grandma Nelly Buller in the Channel 4 comedy Friday Night Dinner.

Frances as "nice Grandma" in Friday Night Dinner, opposite Tamsin Grieg (Credit: C4)

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Frances died on Sunday (February 16), her agent confirmed, although her cause of death was not revealed.

Terribly sad that our wonderful Friday Night Dinner Grandma, Frances Cuka, has passed away.

Frances began her TV career in 1961 appearing in Over the Odds, before going on to appear in Crossroads, Sense and Sensibility, The Ruth Rendell Mysteries, Wycliffe, The Bill and Doctors.

She appeared as grumpy homeless person Mrs Bassey in BBC medical drama Casualty between 2006 and 2009, who died after an explosion in a shopping mall.

Frances played homeless Mrs Bassey in Casualty (Credit: BBC/YouTube)

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Holby fans will recognise the actress as Sacha Levy's mum Esther.

In Friday Night Dinner, from 2011 to 2018, Frances portrayed Eleanor 'Nelly' Buller, the mother of Tamsin Greig's character Jackie Goodman, who would come over to take a seat at the Goodman family table.

Nelly became popular with the viewers because of her lust for life, love and dancing, as well as her brutal honesty.

The character even faked a heart attack at her own wedding in front of the whole fictional British-Jewish family, in order to avoid marrying her male friend Mr Morris.

Frances, far right, as Sacha's mum Esther in Holby (Credit: BBC)

A new series of the C4 comedy is due later this year.

Comedian Sanjeev Bhaskar led the tributes to the actress, describing Frances as "a welcome, warm and hilarious presence" on screen.

Friday Night Dinner creator, Robert Popper, also tweeted: "Terribly sad that our wonderful Friday Night Dinner Grandma, Frances Cuka, has passed away."

Frances was born in London and started her career at a very young age, appearing on BBC radio for Children’s Hour.

She also had a very successful stage career.

Frances was cast as Peggy Mitchell in EastEnders and filmed several scenes. However, Frances was replaced in the role by Jo Warne and later Barbara Windsor.

As of the time of writing, the cause of Frances' death is not known to the public, but she suffered a stroke a few years ago and was later diagnosed with cancer.

Rest in peace "nice Grandma".

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