While Debbie Reynolds’ most important legacy will be the great Hollywood musicals, including “Singin’ in the Rain” and “Unsinkable Molly Brown,” the actress never stopped working over her six-decade career — making her the rare star who was a titan of classic Hollywood, but almost just as familiar to later generations.
In one of her final live-action roles, Reynolds made an impression as Bobbi Adler, mother to Debra Messing’s character, on “Will & Grace.” And her last, a memorable turn as Liberace’s domineering mom in Steven Soderbergh’s “Behind the Candelabra,” aged and un-glammed for the role, was said to echo her own relationship with Carrie Fisher.
One of her earlier voice roles, as the titular spider in “Charlotte’s Web,” was also remembered by a generation of kids who watched and rewatched the bittersweet tale on video and television.
To millennials, she was the kindly grandma Aggie in the “Halloweentown” series of Disney Channel original movies — as well as Nana Possible from the 2000s cartoon series “Kim Possible.” In several “Rugrats” episodes and feature films, Reynolds was the voice of Lulu Pickles — Stu and Drew’s step-mother and step-grandmother to Angelica, Tommy, and Dil.
Some of her “Rugrats” collaborators remembered her kindness and animated personality.
“Kim Possible” co-creator Bob Schooley remembered working with Reynolds on the Disney Channel show that ran from 2003 to 2007, “She was an absolute delight,” he said. “It’s not every day that you get to work with someone who started in the business under an MGM contract. As Kim Possible’s Nana, her character was a scrappy fighter like Kim in her youth, and when the script called for some martial arts grunts, she acted out the moves in the booth, and still looked classy doing it.
“I remember mentioning my mother was planning on seeing her touring show in Philadelphia and she instantly set her up with great tickets and a backstage meet and greet,” Schooley said. I also remember her saying she told Cary Grant that she named her daughter after him, and then with a wink added, ‘Of course it was a lie.’ It was a privilege to work with such a consummate pro and legend.”
Co-creator Mark McCorkle recalled, “When Debbie Reynolds agreed to play the role of Kim Possible’s grandmother, we were understandably nervous about working with a legend. She instantly put us at ease and blew us away with her talent. She came prepared and did an amazing job, treating our cartoon as if it was as important as any work she had ever done. She regaled us with stories, autographed our scripts, and gave us a career highlight. It might sound like an exaggeration, but she did light up the recording booth with her spirit and enthusiasm.”