Touched By an Angel star Della Reese, a singing talent who forged long and successful career paths in both music and film, has died at the age of 86. A Detroit native, she passed away at her California home Sunday evening, Variety reports.
Many fans got their first exposure to Reese’s screen work during the 1990s and early 2000s, when she starred alongside Roma Downey on the popular supernatural CBS drama. Reese played Tess, the tough-but-gentle human counterpart to Downey’s lead character, an angel named Monica who is tasked with intervening benevolently in human affairs.
In a social media post, Downey said Reese had been "a mother to me."
Reese worked steadily after Touched by an Angel ended its run in 2003. She lent her vocal talent on Disney’s CGI film Dinosaur in 2000, voicing the character of Eema, an aging dinosaur who provides comic relief and moral support for a young dinosaur named Aladar.
Reese's gospel and jazz singing career took off after she was noticed by gospel singing legend Mahalia Jackson. She recorded heavily in the 1950s and 1960s, earning a 1960 Grammy nomination for a solo album.
As her television and film career begin to ascend, Reese recorded less, but she continued to sing, and remained active in both music and film until shortly before her death.