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Phylicia Rashad

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Title: Phylicia Rashad  
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Subject: Cosby, NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special, Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play, NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series, Mickey's 60th Birthday
Collection: 1948 Births, 20Th-Century American Actresses, 21St-Century American Actresses, Actresses from Houston, Texas, African-American Actresses, African-American Female Singers, American Film Actresses, American Soap Opera Actresses, American Stage Actresses, American Television Actresses, American Voice Actresses, Drama Desk Award Winners, Howard University Alumni, Living People, Tony Award Winners
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Phylicia Rashad

Phylicia Rashad
At the 2007 Red Dress Collection for The Heart Truth Foundation
Born Phylicia Ayers-Allen
(1948-06-19) June 19, 1948
Houston, Texas, United States
Occupation Actress, singer
Years active 1972–present

Phylicia Rashad (born Phylicia Ayers-Allen; June 19, 1948) is an American actress, singer and stage director, best known for her role as Clair Huxtable on the long-running NBC sitcom The Cosby Show. She was nominated for an Emmy Award for this part in 1985 and 1986.

In 2004, Rashad became the first African-American actress to win the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play, which she won for her role in the revival of A Raisin in the Sun.[1][2] She resumed the role in the 2008 television adaptation of A Raisin in the Sun, which earned her the 2009 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special. Rashad was dubbed "The Mother" of the African-American community at the 42nd NAACP Image Awards.


  • Early life 1
  • Theatre 2
  • Film and television 3
  • Personal life 4
  • Filmography 5
    • Television 5.1
    • Film 5.2
  • Awards and honors 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Early life

Rashad was born Phylicia Ayers-Allen in Houston, Texas. Her mother, Vivian Ayers, was a Pulitzer Prize nominated artist, poet, playwright, scholar, and publisher. Her father, Andrew Arthur Allen, of Cherokee descent (d. 1984), was an orthodontist.[3][4] Rashad's siblings are jazz-musician brother Tex (Andrew Arthur Allen, Jr., born 1945), sister Debbie Allen (born 1950), an actress, choreographer, and director, and brother Hugh Allen (a real estate banker in North Carolina). While Rashad was growing up, her family moved to Mexico, and as a result, Rashad speaks Spanish fluently.

Rashad studied at Howard University, graduating magna cum laude in 1970 with a Bachelor's degree in Fine Arts. She is also a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. She was initiated into the Alpha chapter during her tenure at Howard University.[5]


Rashad first became known for her stage work with a string of Broadway credits, including Deena Jones in Dreamgirls (she was Sheryl Lee Ralph's understudy until leaving the show in 1982 after being passed over as Ralph's full-time replacement) and playing a Munchkin in The Wiz for three and a half years. In 1978, she released the album Josephine Superstar, a disco Concept album telling the life story of Josephine Baker. The album was mainly written and produced by Jacques Morali and Rashad's second husband Victor Willis, original lead singer and lyricist of the Village People. She met Willis while they were both cast in The Wiz.

Other Broadway credits include Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. and the Huntington Theatre in Boston.

Rashad was the first African-American actress to win the Best Actress (Play) Tony Award, which she won for her 2004 performance as Lena Younger in a revival of the play A Raisin in the Sun by playwright Lorraine Hansberry. She was nominated for the same award the following year, for Gem of the Ocean. Several Black women have won in the Best Actress (Musical) category, including the late Virginia Capers, who won in 1973 for her portrayal of Lena in the musical adaptation of Hansberry's play, entitled "Raisin.". Rashad also won the 2004 Drama Desk award for Best Actress in a play for A Raisin in the Sun by tying (split award) with Viola Davis for the play "Intimate Apparel".

In 2007, Rashad made her directorial debut with the Seattle Repertory Theatre's production of August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean.[6] More recently, in early 2014 Rashad directed a revival of Fences, also by Wilson, at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ, which ran to generally positive reviews, and continued an ongoing focus on Wilson's work.[7]

Film and television

Rashad received a career boost when she joined the cast of the ABC soap opera One Life to Live to play publicist Courtney Wright in 1983. She is best known for another television role, that of attorney Clair Huxtable on the NBC sitcom The Cosby Show. The show, which ran from 1984 to 1992, starred Bill Cosby as obstetrician Heathcliff "Cliff" Huxtable, and focused on their life with their five children.

When Cosby returned to TV comedy in 1996 with CBS's Cosby, he called on Rashad to play Ruth Lucas, his character's wife. The pilot episode had been shot with Telma Hopkins, but Cosby then fired the executive producer and replaced Hopkins with Rashad.[8] The sitcom ran from 1996 to 2000.[9] That year, Cosby asked Rashad to work on his animated television series Little Bill, in which the actress voiced Bill's mother, Brenda, until the show's end in 2002. She also played a role in the pre-show of the Dinosaur ride at Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom theme park as Dr. Helen Marsh, the head of the Dino Institute.

She played Kill Moves' affluent mother on Everybody Hates Chris on Sunday, December 9, 2007. In 2007 she appeared as Winnie Guster in the Psych episode Gus's Dad May Have Killed an Old Guy. She returned to the role in 2008, in the episode Christmas Joy.

In February 2008, she appeared in the television adaptation of A Raisin in the Sun. She starred on Broadway as Big Mama in an all-African American production of Tennessee Williams's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Cat on a Hot Tin Roof directed by her sister Debbie Allen. She appeared alongside stage veterans James Earl Jones (Big Daddy) and Anika Noni Rose (Maggie), as well as film actor Terrence Howard, who made his Broadway debut as Brick. She next appeared as Violet Weston, the drug-addicted matriarch of Tracy Letts's award-winning play, August: Osage County at the Music Box Theatre.

In November 2010, Rashad starred in the Tyler Perry film For Colored Girls, based on the play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf by Ntozake Shange. In 2012 she starred in another Tyler Perry movie Good Deeds. In that same year, Rashad played Clairee Belcher in the remake of Steel Magnolias (the role originated by Olympia Dukakis). This version has an all African American cast.

Personal life

Rashad's first marriage, in 1972, was to dentist William Lancelot Bowles, Jr. They had one son, William Lancelot Bowles III, who was born the following year. The marriage ended in 1975. Rashad then married Victor Willis (original lead singer of the Village People, whom she met during the run of The Wiz) in 1978. Their divorce was finalized in 1982.

She married former NFL wide receiver and sportscaster Ahmad Rashād on December 14, 1985. It was a third marriage for both of them and she took his last name. They were married after he proposed to her during a pregame show for a nationally televised Thanksgiving Day football game between the New York Jets and the Detroit Lions on November 28, 1985.[10][11] Their daughter, Condola Phyleia Rashād,[12] was born on December 11, 1986 in New York. The couple divorced in early 2001.[13]



Year Title Role Notes
1976 Delvecchio Ventita Ray Episode: "Wax Job"
1983–84 One Life to Live Courtney Wright Regular role
1984–92 The Cosby Show Clair Hanks Huxtable 195 episodes
1985 Santa Barbara Felicia Dalton 3 episodes
1985 The Love Boat Lonette Becker Episode: "A Day in Port"
1987 Uncle Tom's Cabin Eliza Television movie
1988 Mickey's 60th Birthday Herself Movie
1988–90 A Different World Clair Hanks Huxtable 4 episodes
1989 False Witness Lynne Jacobi Movie
1989 Polly Aunt Polly Movie
1990 Reading Rainbow Herself Episode: "Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters"
1990 Polly: Comin' Home! Aunt Polly Movie
1990 The Earth Day Special Clair Huxtable Special
1991 Jailbirds Janice Grant Movie
1991 Blossom Blossom's Dream Mom Episode: "Blossom's Blossom"
1993 American Playhouse Mayor Turner Episode: "Hallelujah"
1994 David's Mother Gladys Johnson Movie
1994-2002 Touched by an Angel Elizabeth Jessup 2 episodes
1995 The Possession of Michael D Dr. Marion Hale Movie
1995 In the House Rowena Episode: "Sister Act"
1996 The Babysitter's Seduction Detective Kate Jacobs Movie
1996–2000 Cosby Ruth Lucas 92 episodes
1998 Intimate Portrait Herself/Narrator 4 episodes
1999 Free of Eden Desiree Movie
2001 Murder She Wrote: The Last Free Man Cassandra Hawkins Movie
2001 The Old Settler Elizabeth Movie
1999–2004 Little Bill Brenda (voice) Main role (21 episodes)
2007 Working in the Theatre Actor Episode: "August Wilson's Legacy"
2007 Everybody Hates Chris Kathleen Devereaux Episode: "Everybody Hates Kwanzaa"
2007–14 Psych Winnie Guster 3 episodes
2008 A Raisin in the Sun Lena Younger Movie
2008 The Life & Times of Tim The Boss's Wife (voice) Episode: "Theo Strikes Back/Amy Gets Wasted"
2012 The Cleveland Show Dee Dee Tubbs (voice) 4 episodes
2012 Steel Magnolias Clairee Movie
2013 Gods Behaving Badly Demeter Filmed in 2011
2013 Do No Harm Dr. Vanessa Young Supporting role (all 13 episodes)
2014 Sofia the First Glacia the Ice Witch (voice) Episode: "Winter's Gift"


Year Title Role Notes
1995 Once Upon a Time...
When We Were Colored
Ma Ponk
2000 Loving Jezebel Alice Melville
2000 The Visit Dr. Coles
2010 Just Wright Ella McKnight
2010 Frankie & Alice Edna
2010 For Colored Girls Gilda
2012 Good Deeds Wilimena
2015 Creed Mary Anne Creed Filming

Awards and honors

Year Association Category Work Result
1985 Emmy Award Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series The Cosby Show Nominated
1986 Nominated
1997 NAACP Image Award Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series Cosby Won
1998 Nominated
1999 Satellite Award Satellite Award for Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy Nominated
2002 NAACP Image Award Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special The Old Settler Nominated
2004 Tony Award Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play A Raisin in the Sun[2][14] Won
2005 Gem of the Ocean Nominated[2]
2008 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie A Raisin in the Sun Nominated
2009 NAACP Image Award Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special Won
Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie Nominated
2011 Black Reel Awards Outstanding Supporting Actress For Colored Girls Won
NAACP Image Award Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture Nominated
2015 The BET Honors Theatrical Arts Award N/A (Honoree) Won
  • 2003: Honored as Woman of the Year by the Harvard Black Men's Forum
  • 2005: received an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts (D.F.A.) degree from Brown University[15]
  • 2011: received an honorary doctorate degree from Spelman College for her work in the Arts[16]
  • 2011: named the first Denzel Washington Chair professor in Theatre at Fordham University, supported by a $2 million gift from the actor[17]


  1. ^ "Tony Awards Wrap Up" by Amy Somensky. Jun 9, 2004]
  2. ^ a b c Tony Awards (official site)
  3. ^
  4. ^ Lawrence, Muhammad. - "One-woman dynamo". - The Courier-Journal. - September 12, 1999.
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ [1]
  13. ^
  14. ^ Monsters & Critics: "Tony Awards Wrap Up", by Amy Somensky. Jun 9, 2004
  15. ^ 04-126 (Honorary Degrees 2005)
  16. ^
  17. ^

External links

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