Production on CBS' The District shut down Thursday as producers, cast and crew mourned the unexpected death of costar Lynne Thigpen.
Thigpen, who played the tough-talking Ella Farmer on the D.C. crime drama, "died suddenly last night at her home in Los Angeles," CBS announced in a statement. She was 54. Thigpen had been in good health and the cause of death was not immediately known, according to the show publicist.
"I'm in shock. She was a wonderful actress and a friend," said District star Craig T. Nelson.
"As a person, Lynne possessed an incredible dignity, intelligence and wisdom that informed all of her performances," said District executive producer Denise Di Novi. "She elevated anything she was involved with and we were blessed to have her as a part of our family."
CBS immediately suspended production on The District for Thursday and is weighing whether to cancel Friday's shoot, too.
Thigpen was one of the show's lead actresses, playing a statistics clerk brought in by Nelson's police chief character to run the briefing room where he meets with cops.
The cast and crew had been working on the 20th of 22 episodes. Producers have not yet decided how to address Thigpen's death.
The District, which airs Saturdays at 9 p.m., currently ranks 62nd among all shows this season, averaging about 10 million viewers.
A stage and screen vet with credits dating back to the 1970s, Thigpen won a Tony Award for the drama An American Daughter and scored another nomination for Tintypes. Her stage work also earned her two Obie Awards for the off-Broadway productions Jar the Floor and Boesman and Lena and an L.A. Drama Critics Award for August Wilson's Fences.
She also appeared in such films as Tootsie, Bob Roberts, The Insider, Bicentennial Man and the 2000 remake of Shaft. One of her final film roles is as the judge who sentences Adam Sandler to live with Jack Nicholson in Anger Management, due out April 11.
Thigpen also proved a durable TV presence. She had recurring roles in Gimme a Break!, thirtysomething, L.A. Law and Law & Order, and had stints as two different characters on All My Children, playing Flora Baxter in the 1983 season and then returning as Grace Keefer from 1993 to 2000, when she landed her District gig. She was the Chief on PBS' two Carmen Sandiego series and popped up in several made-for-TV flicks, including The Boys Next Door, A Mother's Instinct, Chance of a Lifetime and Night Ride Home.
Thigpen was born Lynne Richmond in Joliet, Illinois. She split her time between shooting in Los Angeles and her home in New York.
Information on survivors and funeral arrangements was not immediately available.