Actor Jose Wilker, one of the most respected actors of Brazilian telenovelas, died Saturday at his home in Rio de Janeiro, the Globo television channel said. He was 66.

Wilker, who died of natural causes, began his artistic career as a member of the Popular Cultural Movement of the Recife Communist Party in the northeastern state of Pernambuco, where he directed shows and filmed documentaries about popular culture.

The actor gained fame in telenovelas like "Roque Santeiro" (1985), but became known internationally for his role as Vadinho, the husband who returns from the dead to torment Sonia Braga in the movie "Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands" (1976).

In 2012, he accompanied the return of "Gabriela" to the small screen in Brazil, coinciding with the centenary of its creator, Jorge Amado, who passed away in 2001, and recently played Dr. Herbert in the highly rated novela "Amor a Vida."

He acted in dozens of telenovelas and more than 40 movies including "Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands," "Xica da Silva" and "O Homem da Capa Preta" (The Man in the Black Cape). He also worked as a director, announcer, host and movie critic.

The artist died Saturday while with his girlfriend, journalist Claudia Montenegro, at his home in Rio de Janeiro.

No official information has yet been forthcoming about the cause of his death, though according to Brazilian media it was due to a sudden heart attack. EFE