Jan Hooks, Saturday Night Live alumna and voice of Apu’s wife Manjula on The Simpsons, died Thursday at the age of 57. According to news reports, she had been suffering from an unspecified illness.
At HitFix, TV reviewer Alan Sepinwall praises her tenure at Saturday Night Live, characterizing her as a “glue guy” who never got her due:
On a show that so often prizes big performances, preferably in characters that can be repeated over and over and over (like [Rob] Schneider’s copy machine guy), the quiet consistency of a Hooks didn’t stand out as much… [b]ut like [Phil] Hartman, she gave it her all in every sketch, whether as the straight woman or the comic centerpiece.
For just six episodes of The Simpsons, Hooks played Manjula Nahasapeemapetilon, betrothed wife of Apu and mother of their eight children (Anoop, Gheet, Nabendu, Poonam, Pria, Sandeep, Sashi, and Uma), beginning with 1997’s “The Two Mrs. Nahasapeemapetilons” and ending with 2002’s “Large Marge.” The role was taken over by regular cast member Tress MacNeille, who had originally voiced a younger Manjula in 1996’s “Much Apu About Nothing” and filled in whenever Hooks was unavailable. Manjula was not exactly a breakout character, but Hooks imbued in her a sense of quiet dignity that, like her performances on Saturday Night Live, went largely unnoticed.