Phylicia Rashad

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Phylicia Rashad
Phylicia Rashad 1998.jpg
Rashad in 1998
Phylicia Ayers-Allen

(1948-06-19) June 19, 1948 (age 71)
Alma mater Howard University
OccupationSinger, actress, stage director
Years active1972–present
Children2, including Condola Rashād
Relatives Debbie Allen (sister)

Phylicia Rashād ( /fɪˈlʃərəˈʃɑːd/ fih-LI-shə rə-SHAHD) (née Ayers-Allen; June 19, 1948) is an American actress, singer and stage director. She is known for her role as Clair Huxtable on the NBC sitcom The Cosby Show (1984–92), which earned her Emmy Award nominations in 1985 and 1986. She was dubbed "The Mother" of the black community at the 2010 NAACP Image Awards.

Clair Huxtable fictional character in The Cosby Show

Clair Olivia Hanks Huxtable is a fictional character who appears on the American sitcom The Cosby Show (1984–1992). Portrayed by actress Phylicia Rashad, Clair, the wife of Cliff Huxtable and mother of their five children, is the matriarch of the show's central Huxtable family. Working as a lawyer, Clair values the importance of maintaining a successful career and strong household simultaneously. The character debuted alongside most of her family in the pilot episode, "Theo's Economic Lesson", which premiered on September 20, 1984.

NBC American television and radio network

The National Broadcasting Company (NBC) is an American English-language commercial terrestrial television network that is a flagship property of NBCUniversal, a subsidiary of Comcast. The network is headquartered at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City, with additional major offices near Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia. The network is one of the Big Three television networks. NBC is sometimes referred to as the "Peacock Network", in reference to its stylized peacock logo, introduced in 1956 to promote the company's innovations in early color broadcasting. It became the network's official emblem in 1979.


In 2004, Rashad became the first black actress to win the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play, which she won for her role in the revival of A Raisin in the Sun . [1] [2] Her other Broadway credits include Into the Woods (1988), Jelly's Last Jam (1993), Gem of the Ocean (2004), and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (2008). She won a NAACP Image Award when she reprised her A Raisin in the Sun role in the 2008 television adaptation. She has also appeared in the films For Colored Girls (2010), Good Deeds (2012), Creed (2015), and Creed II (2018).

The Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play is an honor presented at the Tony Awards, a ceremony established in 1947 as the Antoinette Perry Awards for Excellence in Theatre. The award is given to actresses for quality leading roles in a Broadway play. Despite the award first being presented in 1947, there were no nominees announced until 1956. There have been two ties in this category, and one three-way tie.

<i>A Raisin in the Sun</i> play by Lorraine Hansberry

A Raisin in the Sun is a play by Lorraine Hansberry that debuted on Broadway in 1959. The title comes from the poem "Harlem" by Langston Hughes. The story tells of a black family's experiences in "Clybourne Park", a fictionalized version of the Washington Park Subdivision of Chicago's Woodlawn neighborhood, as they attempt to improve their financial circumstances with an insurance payout following the death of the father. The New York Drama Critics' Circle named it the best play of 1959.

<i>Into the Woods</i> musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

Into the Woods is a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine. The musical intertwines the plots of several Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault fairy tales, exploring the consequences of the characters' wishes and quests. The main characters are taken from "Little Red Riding Hood", "Jack and the Beanstalk", "Rapunzel", and "Cinderella", as well as several others. The musical is tied together by a story involving a childless baker and his wife and their quest to begin a family, their interaction with a witch who has placed a curse on them, and their interaction with other storybook characters during their journey.

Early life

Phylicia Ayers-Allen was born in Houston, Texas. Her mother, Vivian Ayers (born 1923), is a Pulitzer Prize-nominated artist, poet, playwright, scholar, and publisher. Phylicia's father, Andrew Arthur Allen, (1921–1984), 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.

Pulitzer Prize U.S. award for achievements in newspaper and online journalism, literature, and musical composition

The Pulitzer Prize is an award for achievements in newspaper, magazine and online journalism, literature, and musical composition in the United States. It was established in 1917 by provisions in the will of American (Hungarian-born) Joseph Pulitzer who had made his fortune as a newspaper publisher, and is administered by Columbia University in New York City. Prizes are awarded yearly in twenty-one categories. In twenty of the categories, each winner receives a certificate and a US$15,000 cash award. The winner in the public service category of the journalism competition is awarded a gold medal.

Orthodontics field of dentistry dealing with irregularities in the teeth

Orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics, formerly referred to as orthodontia, is a specialty of dentistry that deals with the diagnosis, prevention and correction of malpositioned teeth and jaws. The field was established by such pioneering orthodontists as Edward Angle and Norman William Kingsley.

Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, United States. It originated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and developed from roots in blues and ragtime. Jazz is seen by many as "America's classical music". Since the 1920s Jazz Age, jazz has become recognized as a major form of musical expression. It then emerged in the form of independent traditional and popular musical styles, all linked by the common bonds of African-American and European-American musical parentage with a performance orientation. Jazz is characterized by swing and blue notes, call and response vocals, polyrhythms and improvisation. Jazz has roots in West African cultural and musical expression, and in African-American music traditions including blues and ragtime, as well as European military band music. Intellectuals around the world have hailed jazz as "one of America's original art forms".

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

Howard University university in Washington D.C.

Howard University is a private, federally chartered historically black university (HBCU) in Washington, D.C. It is categorized by the Carnegie Foundation as a research university with higher research activity and is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Alpha Kappa Alpha historically Black sorority

Alpha Kappa Alpha (ΑΚΑ) is a Greek-lettered sorority, the first established by African-American college women. Membership is for college-educated women. The organization was founded on five basic tenets:

To cultivate and encourage high scholastic and ethical standards, to promote unity and friendship among college women, to study and help alleviate problems concerning girls and women in order to improve their social stature, to maintain a progressive interest in college life, and to be of 'Service to All Mankind'.


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.

Broadway theatre class of professional theater presented in New York City, New York, USA

Broadway theatre, also known simply as Broadway, refers to the theatrical performances presented in the 41 professional theatres, each with 500 or more seats located in the Theater District and Lincoln Center along Broadway, in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. Along with London's West End theatre, Broadway theatre is widely considered to represent the highest level of commercial theatre in the English-speaking world.

<i>Dreamgirls</i> musical

Dreamgirls is a Broadway musical, with music by Henry Krieger and lyrics and book by Tom Eyen. Based on the show business aspirations and successes of R&B acts such as The Supremes, The Shirelles, James Brown, Jackie Wilson, and others, the musical follows the story of a young female singing trio from Chicago, Illinois called "The Dreams", who become music superstars.

Sheryl Lee Ralph American actress-singer

Sheryl Lee Ralph is an American actress, singer, author, and activist. She made her screen debut in the 1977 comedy film A Piece of the Action, before landing her breakthrough role as Deena Jones in the Broadway musical Dreamgirls (1981), for which she received Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in a Musical.

Other Broadway credits include August: Osage County , [6] Cat on a Hot Tin Roof , Gem of the Ocean , Raisin in the Sun (2004 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play/Drama Desk Award), Blue, Jelly's Last Jam , Into the Woods , and Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death . Off-Broadway credits include Lincoln Center's productions of Cymbeline and Bernarda Alba ; Helen, The Story and Everybody's Ruby at the Public Theater; The Negro Ensemble Company productions of Puppet Play, Zooman and the Sign, Sons and Fathers of Sons, In an Upstate Motel, Weep Not For Me, and The Great Mac Daddy; Lincoln Center's production of Ed Bullins' The Duplex ; and The Sirens at the Manhattan Theatre Club. In regional theatre, she performed as Euripides' Medea and in Blues for an Alabama Sky at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia. Other regional theatres at which she has performed are the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. and the Huntington Theatre in Boston.

<i>August: Osage County</i> darkly comedic play by Tracy Letts

August: Osage County is a comedy-drama play by Tracy Letts. It was the recipient of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The play premiered at the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago on June 28, 2007, and closed on August 26, 2007. It had its Broadway debut at the Imperial Theater on December 4, 2007, and the production transferred to the Music Box Theatre on April 29, 2008. The Broadway show closed on June 28, 2009, after 648 performances and 18 previews.

<i>Cat on a Hot Tin Roof</i> stage play

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is a play by Tennessee Williams. One of Williams's more famous works and his personal favorite, the play won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1955. Set in the "plantation home in the Mississippi Delta" of Big Daddy Pollitt, a wealthy cotton tycoon, the play examines the relationships among members of Big Daddy's family, primarily between his son Brick and Maggie the "Cat", Brick's wife.

<i>Gem of the Ocean</i> play written by August Wilson

Gem of the Ocean is a play by American playwright August Wilson. It is the first installment of his decade-by-decade, ten-play chronicle, The Pittsburgh Cycle, dramatizing the African-American experience in the twentieth century.

Rashad was the first black actress of any nationality 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 . [7] More recently, in early 2014 Rashad directed a revival of Fences, also by Wilson, at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, New Jersey, which ran to generally positive reviews, and continued an ongoing focus on Wilson's work, including a well-received production of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom that she directed at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles in late 2016. [8]

In 2008, Rashad 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 Terence Howard, who made his Broadway debut as Brick. In 2009, she appeared as Violet Weston, the drug-addicted matriarch of Tracy Lett's award-winning play August: Osage County at the Music Box Theatre.

From March 17 to May 1, 2016, Rashad played the lead role of Shelah in Tarell Alvin McCraney's play Head of Passes at The Public Theater. Her performance was positively reviewed. [9]

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 the role 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. In 1985, Rashad co-hosted the NBC telecast of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade with Pat Sajak and Bert Convy.

When Cosby returned to TV comedy in 1996 with CBS's Cosby , he called 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. [10] The sitcom ran from 1996 to 2000. [11] 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 2004. 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. [12]

Rashad at the 2007 Red Dress Collection for The Heart Truth Foundation Phylicia Rashad, Red Dress Collection 2007.jpg
Rashad at the 2007 Red Dress Collection for The Heart Truth Foundation

Rashad played "Kill Moves" wealthy mother on Everybody Hates Chris on 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. [13]

In February 2008, Rashad portrayed Lena Younger in the television film adaptation of A Raisin in the Sun , directed by Kenny Leon. Starring core members of the cast of the 2004 Broadway revival at the Royale Theatre of Lorraine Hansberry's 1959 play, including Audra McDonald as Ruth Younger, and Sean Combs as Walter Lee Younger. The television film adaption debuted at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival and was broadcast by ABC on February 25, 2008. [14] According to Nielsen Media Research, the program was watched by 12.7 million viewers and ranked #9 in the ratings for the week ending March 2, 2008. [15]

In November 2010, Rashad featured as Gilda in the ensemble cast 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. Rashad explained in an interview with Vibe Movies & TV in 2010, that "I saw the original Broadway play. I thought it was amazing how such a story that wasn’t pretty was poetry. Usually poetry is about lofty things and this was the poetry of speech and the movement of everyday people. I found a little bit of it off-putting to tell you the truth, because it was so angry when I saw it. And I think Tyler Perry has added an element here that wasn't in the original stage production, and that is the necessity for taking responsibility for one's own self otherwise you are just living to die. That is where he wrote the line [in the film], "You gotta take some responsibility in this. Otherwise you are just living to die". [16]

In 2012, she starred in another Tyler Perry movie Good Deeds . [17] Also in 2012, Rashad played Clairee Belcher in the remake of Steel Magnolias (the role originated by Olympia Dukakis). This version has an all African American A-list cast, including Queen Latifah as M'Lynn, Jill Scott as Truvy, Condola Rashād as Shelby, Adepero Oduye as Annelle, and Alfre Woodard as Ouiser. [18]

In 2016, Rashad was cast as a recurring guest star in the role of Diana DuBois in the third season of the Lee Daniels-produced Empire television series on Fox. [19]

In 2017, Rashad portrayed Bishop Yvette A. Flunder, pastor of The City of Refuge Church in San Francisco, CA, as past of the Dustin Lance Black mini-series When We Rise . Her appearance in show highlighted the compassion of the church, the commitment of its leadership and the loving home the church provides to minister in the tough, primarily African-American community in San Francisco. [20]

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. [21] [22] Their daughter, Condola Phylea Rashād, [23] was born on December 11, 1986 in New York. The couple divorced in early 2001. [24]



1995 Once Upon a Time...When We Were Colored Ma Ponk
1999 Loving Jezebel Alice Melville
2010 Just Wright Ella McKnight
Frankie and Alice Edna
For Colored Girls Gilda
2012 Good Deeds Wililemma
2013 Gods Behaving Badly Demeter
2015Emily & TimEmily Hanratty
Creed Mary Anne CreedReplaced Sylvia Meals in the role
2018 Creed II
2020 Jingle Jangle [25]


1976 Delvecchio Ventita RayEpisode: "Wax Job"
1983–84 One Life to Live Courtney Wright Regular role
1984–92 The Cosby Show Clair Hanks Huxtable 193 episodes
1985 Santa Barbara Felicia Dalton3 episodes
The Love Boat Lonette BeckerEpisode: "A Day in Port"
1987 Uncle Tom's Cabin ElizaTelevision movie
1988 Mickey's 60th Birthday Herself
1988–90 A Different World Clair Huxtable4 episodes
1989 False Witness Lynne JacobiTelevision movie
Polly Aunt Polly
1990 Reading Rainbow HerselfEpisode: "Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters"
Polly: Comin' Home!Aunt PollyTelevision movie
The Earth Day Special Clair HuxtableSpecial
1991 Jailbirds Janice GrantTelevision movie
Blossom Blossom's Dream MomEpisode: "Blossom's Blossom"
1993 American Playhouse Mayor TurnerEpisode: "Hallelujah"
1994 David's Mother Gladys JohnsonTelevision movie
Ghostwriter HerselfEpisode: "A Crime of Two Cities"
1994–2002 Touched by an Angel Elizabeth Jessup2 episodes
1995The Possession of Michael DDr. Marion HaleTelevision movie
In the House RowenaEpisode: "Sister Act"
1996The Babysitter's SeductionDetective Kate JacobsTelevision movie
1996–2000 Cosby Ruth Lucas93 episodes
1998Intimate PortraitHerself/Narrator4 episodes
1999Free of EdenDesireeTelevision movie
1999–2004 Little Bill Brenda (voice)Main role (21 episodes)
2000 Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child Lady Fulten (voice)Episode: "The Princess and the Pauper"
2001Murder, She Wrote: The Last Free ManCassandra HawkinsTelevision movie
The Old SettlerElizabeth
2007Working in the TheatreActorEpisode: "August Wilson's Legacy"
Everybody Hates Chris Kathleen DevereauxEpisode: "Everybody Hates Kwanzaa"
2007–14 Psych Winnie Guster3 episodes
2008 A Raisin in the Sun Lena YoungerTelevision movie
The Life & Times of Tim The Boss's Wife (voice)Episode: "Theo Strikes Back/Amy Gets Wasted"
2012–13 The Cleveland Show Dee Dee Tubbs (voice)4 episodes
2012 Steel Magnolias ClaireeTelevision movie
2013 Do No Harm Dr. Vanessa YoungSupporting role (all 13 episodes)
2014 Sofia the First Glacia the Ice Witch (voice)Episode: "Winter's Gift"
2016–17 Empire Diana DuBois14 episodes
2017 When We Rise Bishop Yvette A. Flunder 2 episodes
Tour de Pharmacy Victoria YoungTelevision movie
Jean-Claude Van Johnson Jane5 episodes
2019 This Is Us Carol"Our Little Island Girl"
David Makes Man Dr. Woods TrapSeries regular

Awards and honors

1985 Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series The Cosby ShowNominated
1988 NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series Won
1999 Satellite Awards Satellite Award for Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy Nominated
2002NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special The Old SettlerNominated
2004 Tony Awards Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play A Raisin in the Sun [2] [26] Won
2005 Gem of the Ocean [2] Nominated
2008 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie A Raisin in the SunNominated
2009NAACP Image AwardsOutstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special[ citation needed ]Won
Screen Actors Guild Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie Nominated
2011 Black Reel Awards Outstanding Supporting Actress For Colored GirlsWon
NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture Nominated
2015 The BET Honors Theatrical Arts Award N/A (Honoree)Won

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