Lynn Cohen, Magda on 'Sex and the City,' is dead at 86

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Lynn Cohen, Magda on 'Sex and the City,' is dead at 86
Jane Alexander, left, and Lynn Cohen in the Primary Stages production of Tina Howe’s play “Chasing Manet” in New York, March 23, 2009. Sara Krulwich/The New York Times.

by Julia Carmel

NEW YORK (NYT NEWS SERVICE).- Lynn Cohen, a veteran actress best known for her role as Magda on the hit HBO series “Sex and the City,” died Feb. 14 at her home in New York. She was 86.

Her death was confirmed by her son, Laurence Frazen.

Cohen was seen in numerous movies and television shows, and in both Broadway and off-Broadway stage productions. But she didn’t achieve her greatest fame until late in life, through her role as Magda, the stern Eastern European housekeeper employed by Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) on “Sex and the City.”

“I auditioned and they called me right away to do the episode, but my mother was turning 90 years old in Texas,” Cohen said in a 2018 interview with Cosmopolitan. “I said, ‘I would love to do this but I’m sorry, I have to be with my mother and she’s turning 90 and she’s sexier than anybody on the show.’ And they moved the date for me.”

Magda first appeared in the show’s third season, in 2000. Cohen was supposed to appear in only one episode, “Attack of the Five Foot Ten Woman,” in which Magda memorably replaces Miranda’s vibrator with a statue of the Virgin Mary and later tells her that she’ll need to learn to cook if she ever wants a boyfriend.

But the character returned in 12 more episodes over the following seasons and in both “Sex and the City” movies. When Miranda had a baby, Magda became her nanny.

Lynn Harriet Kay was born on Aug. 10, 1933, in Kansas City, Missouri. Her father, Louis Kay, was a salesman; her mother, Bertha (Cornsweet) Kay, worked in retail.

After spending a year at the University of Wisconsin and a year at Northwestern University, Lynn Kay moved to St. Louis. While there she played roles in regional theater productions and taught at a summer theater program.

Her marriage in 1957 to Gilbert Frazen ended in divorce in 1960. She married Ronald Cohen, an actor and writer, in 1964.

Cohen and her husband moved to New York City when she was in her mid-40s, and she made her off-Broadway debut in 1979 in “Don Juan Comes Back From the War.” Over the next decades she appeared in more than a dozen off-Broadway productions, including “Hamlet,” “The Traveling Lady,” “I Remember Mama” and “Total Eclipse.”

Cohen made her Broadway debut in 1989 in Peter Hall’s production of Tennessee Williams’ “Orpheus Descending.” Her second and last Broadway appearance was in a 1997 production of Chekhov’s “Ivanov.”

In 2013, Cohen played Mags, an 80-year-old woman who volunteers to participate in the dystopian competition in “Hunger Games: Catching Fire.” Her many other film credits include Woody Allen’s “Manhattan Murder Mystery” (1993) and Steven Spielberg’s “Munich” (2005), in which she played Golda Meir.

Among her television credits were “Law & Order,” on which she played a judge in 12 episodes from 1993 to 2006, as well as “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Blue Bloods,” “The Affair,” “Chicago Med,” “Damages” and “Nurse Jackie.”

In addition to her son, she is survived by her husband and two grandchildren.

© 2020 The New York Times Company

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