Rashad, Phylicia 1948– (Phylicia Allen, Phylicia Ayers–Allen)
RASHAD, Phylicia 1948–
(Phylicia Allen, Phylicia Ayers–Allen)
Original name, Phylicia Ayers–Allen; born June 19, 1948, in Houston, TX; daughter of Andrew Arthur (a dentist) and Vivian (a poet and scholar; maiden name, Ayers) Allen; sister of Debbie Allen (an actress, director, choreographer, producer, and composer) and Andrew Arthur "Tex" Allen (a jass musician and composer); married William Lancelot Bowles, Jr. (a dentist), 1972 (divorced, 1975); married Victor Willis (a singer), April 28, 1978 (divorced, 1980); married Ahmad Rashad (a sportscaster), December, 1985 (some sources cite 1986; divorced, 2001); children: (first marriage) William Lancelot Bowles III; (third marriage) Condola Phylea and stepchildren Keva, Maiysha, and Ahmad, Jr. Education: Howard University, B.F.A., theatre (magna cum laude), 1970; studied at New York School of Ballet.
Addresses: Agent— (voice work) Cunningham/Escott/Dipene and Associates, 10635 Santa Monica Blvd., Suite 140, Los Angeles, CA 90025. Manager— Johnnie Planco, Parseghian/Planco Management, 23 East 22nd St., Suite 3, New York, NY 10010.
Career: Actress, singer, and producer. Alley Theatre, Houston, TX, member of Merry–Go–Round Theatre (youth group), 1960s; Negro Ensemble Company, New York City, performed as member of company; Phylicia Rashad and Company, Las Vegas, NV, founder, 1990; Alliance Theatre Company, Atlanta, GA, member of board of directors. Howard University, served as drama teacher. Save the Children, spokesperson, 1989–91; Cancer Information Service, spokesperson, 1990–91; Recruiting New Teachers, member of board of directors, beginning 1990; Take Diabetes to Heart! (national health awareness campaign), founder, 2002; supporter of PRASAD Project; affiliated with the renovation of historic Brainerd Institute in South Carolina. Appeared in a television commercial for Pop Secret Jumbo Pop popcorn.
Member: Alpha Kappa Alpha.
Awards, Honors: People's Choice Award, favorite female performer in a new television program, 1985, Emmy Award nominations, outstanding lead actress in a comedy series, 1985, 1986, and Image Award, best actress in a comedy series, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, 1988, all for The Cosby Show; Annual CableACE Award nomination, best supporting actress in television, National Cable Television Association, 1987, for Uncle Tom's Cabin; People's Choice Award, favorite female television performer, 1989; honorary degree, Barber–Scotia College, 1989; Outstanding Achievement Award, Women in Film, 1991; honoree of the year, Harvard Foundation, 1991; honorary degree, Providence College, 1991; Trumpet Award, 1995; Image Award nomination, outstanding lead actress in a motion picture, 1997, for Once upon a Time ... When We Were Colored; Image Award, 1997, and Image Award nomination, 1998, both outstanding lead actress in a comedy series, Golden Satellite Award nomination, best actress in a comedy or musical television series, International Press Academy, 1999, and TV Guide Award nomination, favorite actress in a comedy, 2000, all for Cosby; Dorothy I. Height Dreammaker Award, National Council of Negro Women and Quaker Oats Co., 1999; Muse Award, outstanding vision and achievement, New York Women in Film and Television, 2001; Lucille Lortel Award nomination, outstanding actress, League of Off–Broadway Theatres and Producers, 2002, for Blue; American Film Institute Television Award nomination, actress of the year in a movie or miniseries, and Image Award nomination, outstanding actress in a television movie, miniseries, or dramatic special, both 2002, for "The Old Settler," PBS Hollywood Presents; honorary doctorates from Clark University and Morris Brown College.
Television Appearances; Series:
(As Phylicia Ayers–Allen) Courtney Wright, One Life to Live, ABC, 1983–1984.
(As Phylicia Ayers–Allen; later as Phylicia Rashad) Clair Olivia Hanks Huxtable, The Cosby Show, NBC, 1984–1992.
(As Phylicia Ayers–Allen) Felicia Dalton, Santa Barbara, 1985.
Ruth Lucas, Cosby, CBS, 1996–2000.
Voice of Brenda Glover, Little Bill, Nickelodeon, beginning 1999.
Television Appearances; Movies:
Eliza, Uncle Tom's Cabin, Showtime, 1987.
Lynne Jacobi, False Witness (also known as Double Exposure ), NBC, 1989.
Aunt Polly, "Polly," The Magical World of Disney, NBC, 1989.
Aunt Polly, Polly: Comin' Home (also known as Polly— One More Time! ), NBC, 1990.
Janice Grant, Jailbirds, CBS, 1991.
Mayor Turner, "Hallelujah," American Playhouse, PBS, 1993.
Gladys Johnson, David's Mother, CBS, 1994.
Dr. Marion Hale, The Possession of Michael D. (also known as Legacy of Evil ), Fox, 1995.
Detective Kate Jacobs, The Babysitter's Seduction (also known as Death Pays the Sitter ), NBC, 1996.
Desiree, Free of Eden, Showtime, 1999.
Elizabeth, "The Old Settler," PBS Hollywood Presents, PBS, 2001.
Cassandra Hawkins, Murder, She Wrote: The Last Free Man, CBS, 2001.
Television Appearances; Specials:
(As Phylicia Allen) We're Fighting Back, 1981.
(As Phylicia Ayers–Allen) Host, Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, NBC, 1985.
(As Phylicia Ayers–Allen) Host, The 97th Tournament of Roses Parade, NBC, 1986.
Texas 150: A Celebration Special, ABC, 1986.
Nell Carter—Never Too Old to Dream, NBC, 1986.
Bob Hope's High–Flying Birthday, NBC, 1986.
Kraft Salutes Super Night at the Super Bowl, CBS, 1987.
Bob Hope's High–Flying Birthday Extravaganza, NBC, 1987.
Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, NBC, 1987.
Superstars and Their Moms, ABC, 1987.
Our Kids and the Best of Everything, ABC, 1987.
Host, The 99th Tournament of Roses Parade, NBC, 1988.
Host, First Things First, PBS, 1988.
Mickey's 60th Birthday Special, NBC, 1988.
Host, Michael Jackson around the World, NBC, 1988.
The Debbie Allen Special, ABC, 1989.
Host and commentator, The 100th Tournament of Roses Parade, NBC, 1989.
Host, Best Catches, CBS, 1989.
Judge, The 1989 Miss America Pageant, NBC, 1989.
Time Warner Presents the Earth Day Special, ABC, 1990.
The American Red Cross Emergency Test, ABC, 1990.
Bob Hope's Four–Star Christmas Fiesta from San Antonio, NBC, 1992.
The Last Laugh: Memories of the Cosby Show, NBC, 1992.
Host, Mom Knows Best (also known as Sitcom Moms ), CBS, 1992.
Host, Campbell's Portrait of a Teacher, Lifetime, 1993.
Host, A Tribute to TV's Funniest Families (also known as Television's Funniest Families ), NBC, 1994.
Host, TV Violence: Parents under the Gun, TBS, 1994.
Night of about 14 CBS Stars, Comedy Central, 1996.
Nissan Presents a Celebration of America's Music, ABC, 1996.
Host, The All–American Thanksgiving Parade, CBS, 1996.
Interviewee, Intimate Portrait: Debbie Allen, Lifetime, 1997.
Interviewee, Intimate Portrait: Phylicia Rashad, Lifetime, 1998.
Nissan Presents: The 2nd Annual Celebration of American Music, ABC, 1998.
The Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration of the Performing Arts, CBS, 1998.
Host, A Tribute to Black Music Legends, Black Entertainment Television, 1999.
Broadway '99: Launching the Tony Awards, PBS, 1999.
Voice of Lady Fulton, The Princess and the Pauper: An Animated Special from the "Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child " Series, HBO, 2000.
Interviewee, Intimate Portrait: Madeline Kahn, Lifetime, 2000.
Interviewee, Intimate Portrait: Florence Griffith Joyner, Lifetime, 2000.
Host, The 50th Anniversary Pillsbury Bake–Off, CBS, 2000.
Narrator, Dionne Warwick: Don't Make Me Over, Arts and Entertainment, 2001.
NBC 75th Anniversary Special (also known as NBC 75th Anniversary Celebration ), NBC, 2002.
Herself and Clair Huxtable, The Cosby Show: A Look Back, NBC, 2002.
Interviewee, Great Women of Television Comedy: A Museum of Television & Radio Special, NBC, 2003.
Television Appearances; Episodic:
(As Phylicia Ayers–Allen) "Wax Job," Delvecchio, CBS, 1976.
"A Day in Port," The Love Boat, ABC, 1985.
Clair Huxtable, "Clair's Last Stand," A Different World, NBC, 1988.
Voice of "Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters," Reading Rainbow, PBS, 1988.
Guest cohost, Friday Night Videos, NBC, 1988.
Clair Huxtable, "Risky Business," A Different World, NBC, 1989.
Clair Huxtable, "Forever Hold Your Peace," A Different World, NBC, 1989.
Clair Huxtable, "Success, Lies, and Videotape," A Different World, NBC, 1990.
Blossom's imaginary mom, "Blossom Blossoms," Blossom, 1991.
Elizabeth Jessup, "Tough Love," Touched by an Angel, CBS, 1994.
Hadley Roebuck, "Expert Witness," The Cosby Mysteries, 1994.
Rowena, "Sister Act: The Episode," In the House, 1995.
Mrs. Granville, "What the Past Will Bring," Bull, TNT, 2001.
Elizabeth Barney, "The Last Chapter," Touched by an Angel, CBS, 2002.
Interviewee, VH1 the Greatest, VH1, 2003.
Also appeared in episodes of Cool Women, Ghostwriter, PBS, Watch Your Mouth, PBS, and Women Aloud (also known as Funny Ladies ), syndicated.
Television Appearances; Awards Presentations:
(As Phylicia Ayers–Allen) The 37th Annual Prime Time Emmy Awards, ABC, 1985.
The 39th Annual Emmy Awards, Fox, 1987.
The 24th Annual NAACP Image Awards, NBC, 1992.
The 35th Annual Grammy Awards, CBS, 1993.
The 3rd Annual Trumpet Awards Ceremony, TBS, 1995.
Presenter, The 28th Annual NAACP Image Awards, Fox, 1997.
Presenter, The 29th NAACP Image Awards, Fox, 1998.
Presenter, The 42nd Annual New York Emmy Awards, WNET, 1999.
Television Work; Movies:
Executive producer (with sister, Debbie Allen), "The Old Settler," PBS Hollywood Presents, PBS, 2001.
(As Phylicia Ayers–Allen) Miss Weaver, off–Broadway production, 1968.
(As Phylicia Ayers–Allen) Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death, Roundabout Theatre Company, Ethel Barrymore Theatre, New York City, 1971.
(As Phylicia Ayers–Allen) Sister Sukie, The Duplex, Forum Theatre, New York City, 1972.
(As Phylicia Ayers–Allen) Guest, The Cherry Orchard, New York Shakespeare Festival, Public Theatre, New York City, 1973.
(As Phylicia Ayers–Allen) Munchkin, The Wiz (musical), Roundabout Theatre Company, Majestic Theatre, New York City, 1975.
(As Phylicia Ayers–Allen) Zooman and the Sign, Negro Ensemble Company, Theatre Four, New York City, 1980 and 1981.
(As Phylicia Ayers–Allen) Janet, Weep Not for Me, Negro Ensemble Company, Theatre Four, 1981.
(As Phylicia Ayers–Allen) Female shadow, In an Upstate Motel, Negro Ensemble Company, Theatre Four, 1981.
(As Phylicia Ayers–Allen) Title role, Zora, Louis Abrons Arts for Living Center, New Federal Theatre, New York City, 1981.
(As Phylicia Ayers–Allen) Member of ensemble and understudy for Deena, Dreamgirls (musical), Roundabout Theatre Company, Imperial Theatre, New York City, 1981.
(As Phylicia Ayers–Allen) Second woman, Puppet Play, Negro Ensemble Company, Theatre Four, 1983.
(As Phylicia Ayers–Allen) Vickie and Melanie, Sons and Fathers of Sons, Negro Ensemble Company, Theatre Four, 1983.
(As Phylicia Ayers–Allen) Ruth, A Raisin in the Sun, West Side Arts Center, New York City, 1984.
The witch, Into the Woods (musical), Roundabout Theatre Company, Martin Beck Theatre, New York City, 1988.
Phylicia Rashad and Co. (revue), Las Vegas, NV, 1989.
Anita, Jelly's Last Jam (musical), Roundabout Theatre Company, Virginia Theatre, New York City, c. 1992–1993.
Angel Allen, Blues for an Alabama Sky, Alliance Theatre Company, Atlanta, GA, 1996.
Title role, Medea, Alliance Theatre Company, 1998.
The Vagina Monologues, Westside Theatre Downstairs, New York City, between 1999 and 2003, then Los Angeles.
Peggy Clark, Blue, Roundabout Theatre Company, Kreeger Theatre, Arena Stage, Washington, DC, 2000, then Gramercy Theatre, New York City, 2001, later Pasadena Playhouse, Pasadena, CA, 2002.
Athena, Helen, New York Shakespeare Festival, Martinson Hall, Public Theatre, New York City, 2002.
The Story, New York Shakespeare Festival, Anspacher Theatre, Public Theatre, New York City, 2003.
Nativity: A Life Story, United Palace Theatre, New York City, 2003.
Aunt Esther, Gem of the Ocean, Center Theatre Group, Music Center of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles, 2003.
Appeared as Zora Neale Hurston in Everybody's Ruby, New York Shakespeare Festival, Public Theatre; also appeared in The Great Mac Daddy, Negro Ensemble Company; The Sirens, Manhattan Theatre Club, New York City; and To Be Young, Gifted, and Black, New York City; appeared at Huntington Theatre, Boston, MA. Performed opening acts for comedian Bill Cosby at various appearances in Atlantic City, NJ, Lake Tahoe, and Las Vegas, NV; also appeared in benefit performances.
(As Phylicia Allen) The Broad Coalition, 1971.
(As Phylicia Ayers–Allen) Munchkin and field mouse, The Wiz, Universal Studios Home Video, 1978.
Ma Ponk, Once upon a Time ... When We Were Colored, Legacy Releasing, 1995.
Alice Melville, Loving Jezebel (also known as Chasing Beauties ), Shooting Gallery, 2000.
Dr. Coles, The Visit, Shoreline Entertainment/Urbanworld Films, 2000.
Josephine Superstar, 1979.
Narrator, Sahara Special, by Esme Raji Codell, Listening Library, 2003.
Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 21, Gale, 1999.
Notable Black American Women, Book 2, Gale, 1996.
American Theatre, July–August, 1998, p. 50.
Jet, March 5, 2001, p. 14.
People Weekly, June 26, 2000, p. 69; March 5, 2001, p. 83.
Rosie, December, 2001, pp. 60–62, 64.
Intimate Portrait: Phylicia Rashad (television special), Lifetime, 1998.
Rashad, Phylicia 1948–
Phylicia Rashad 1948–
Though most know her as the on-screen wife of comedian Bill Cosby, Phylicia Rashad is a versatile performer with a number of challenging stage roles to her credit. Rashad was a Broadway veteran before rising to greater fame as the Huxtable mom in the phenomenally successful 1980s sitcom The Cosby Show on NBC. Her character was so memorable that Cosby and his producers again tapped her to join him in his later sitcom, simply titled Cosby, which made its CBS debut in 1996.” They’re almost symbiotic at this point,” Cosby executive producer, Norman Steinberg, said of the Rashad-Cosby connection in the Los Angeles Times.” They have an unspoken language between them and she brings a comfort level to the show and to Bill which is incalculable,” he continued.
Rashad was born Phylicia Allen in 1948 in Houston, Texas. She was one of four children born to a dentist father and a mother who was a talented pianist; though they divorced when she was six, the split caused less distress than usual.” Our parents had the good sense to allow us to love them both,” Rashad told Michele Willens of the Los Angeles Times.
Rashad inherited from both parents a devotion to academic pursuits and a musical ear; her sister is actress/producer/director Debbie Allen. Despite their middle-class comforts, Texas in the 1950s was still an uneasy place for African Americans. Rashad remembered how her mother tried to shield them from the larger, harsher world: when they encountered a place from which African Americans were excluded, such as an amusement park, her mother would explain that it was simply a private club, and they were not members.
After graduating magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Howard University in the early 1970s, Rashad took stage and screen roles, married, had a son, divorced, remarried and divorced again. By the mid-1980s she was an accomplished Broadway musical actress, with roles in Dreamgirls, Into the Woods, and The Wiz to her name. When popular comedian and author Bill Cosby—the first African American to star in a network television series in the 1960s—
At a Glance…
Born June 19, 1948; daughter of a dentist and a pianist; married Ahmad Rashad (a sportscaster), December, 1985; children: (first marriage) Billy, (with Ahmad Rashad) Condola Phylea.Education: Received B.F.A. (magna cum laude) from Howard University, early 1960s.
Career: Stage and television actress. Appeared on One Life to Live, early 1980s; cast on Cosby Show as Clair Huxtable, 1984-92; cast as Ruth Lucas on Cosby, 1996-; appeared in television and cable movies including Polly!, 1989,Polly: Comin’ Home!, 1990,David’s Mother, 1994, and Free of Eden, 1997.
Awards: People’s Choice Award; NAACP Image Award for Best Actress in a Comedy Series, for Cosby; recipient of honorary degrees from Providence College, Morris Brown College, and Barber-Scotia College; Foundation Award, Harvard University.
Addresses: Office—do Carsey-Werner Productions, 4024 Radford Ave., Bldg. 2, Studio City, CA 91604.
was launching his own sitcom about a middle-class family in New York City, he called Rashad to read for the role of Clair Huxtable, the attorney wife of his gruff obstetrician character, Dr. Cliff Huxtable.
The Cosby Show debuted in the fall of 1984 and was a huge success, consistently luring over half the viewing audience in its time slot in its first few seasons. Rashad’s character controlled both her rambunctious children—played by Sabrina La Beauf, Lisa Bonet, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Tempestt Bledsoe, and Keshia Knight Pulliam—and her irascible husband with tart rejoinders and a loving firmness. It became, as New York Times television critic John J. O’Connor declared,” a series that single-handedly revived what was supposedly the dead situation-comedy format and nudged NBC into a ratings dominance that has lasted to this day.”
The Cosby Show also made television history for portraying a middle-class household that just happened to be African American, a family that faced much of the same crises as any other American family of their socioeconomic status.” Bill showed that people are more alike than they are different, and that they want to embrace these likenesses,” Rashad told Rick DuBrow of the Los Angeles Times.” The show wasn’t written for a black family. It was black because we’re black people. But anybody could have played those roles,” Rashad continued.
Rashad played Clair Huxtable for eight seasons, and was nominated twice for an Emmy Award, and won a People’s Choice Award. As an actress, she guided her character through several true-to-life changes, including becoming a grandmother (La Beauf), the college-dropout, unemployable status of daughter Denise (Bonet), and the scholastic struggles of Theo (Warner) as he entered college. Rashad’s new celebrity status also earned her a memorable, live-television marriage proposal from her boyfriend at the time, NBC sportscaster Ahmad Rashad, who used his pre-game football TV show shot at a Detroit Lions game on Thanksgiving Day of 1985 to ask for her hand. The actress had just finished her part in the live coverage of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, and was brought into an NBC studio by colleagues and put on camera. There her sportscaster-boyfriend’s proposal was played back to her on live television; stunned, she said yes. The two were married a few weeks later in a New York City church ceremony at which both Cosby and O.J. Simpson were in attendance.
Despite the depth and warmth of character that Rashad emitted as Clair Huxtable, when the end of The Cosby Show was announced, there were few worthy offers for additional television work to come her way. She met with NBC executive, the late Brandon Tartikoff, who told her that network television was” going to get worse before it gets better,” “Rashad recounted to Willens in the Los Angeles Times. Tartikoff told her to” ‘give your audience a chance to miss you.’”
So Rashad returned to the stage, recorded children’s nursery rhymes, and did some television movies. In 1989 and 1990, she played the strict aunt to Keshia Knight Pulliam’s Polly!, a Disney remake of the 1960 classic Pollyanna directed by her sister, Debbie Allen. She also performed in Las Vegas with Cosby. In 1993, she starred in Jelly’s Last Jam with Brian Stokes Mitchell and Ben Vereen, the hit Broadway musical about the life and music of early jazz pioneer Jelly Roll Morton. Rashad played Jelly’s girlfriend, Sweet Anita, in a steamy role. She also originated the role of Angel Allen, a blues singer with a drinking problem, in Blues for an Alabama Sky at Atlanta’s Alliance Theater. Written by playwright Pearl Cleage, whom Rashad knew from their days together at Howard University, the play was set in Harlem of the 1930s.
Rashad was busy with Blues —a hit in Atlanta before making its way to Washington and Boston—when Cosby suddenly invited her to audition for a reprise of the role of his television wife. Cosby was slated to appear in another show bearing his name, this time for CBS, and the first actress originally cast in the role did not click. It was two days before taping was scheduled to begin, and Rashad was at first rather uninterested.” I wasn’t even thinking about television,” Rashad told Pamela Sommers of the Washington Post.” I had left that world,” she added.
But she had always enjoyed the challenge of working with Cosby, who preferred a theater-trained cast that is unafraid to improvise, and Rashad fit in well as Ruth Lucas, wife of Hilton and mother to their working-class family in Queens.Cosby was modeled after a popular British sitcom called One Foot in the Grave, and centered around her husband, sixty years old and newly unemployed. Cosby’s Hilton faced the challenge of starting a new life and finding new ways to occupy his days. Instead, in typical Cosby fashion, he interfered with the lives of family members and neighbors. When Rashad’s character is asked what it is like having her husband afoot during the day, she compared it to having a piano in the kitchen—” it’s beautiful, but it’s in the way.”
Rashad won praise for her new Cosby-wife role, still the unperturbable foil to the comedian’s bluster. The Washington Post’s Sommers described her as” charmingly indomitable,” and O’Connor opined in the New York Times that” the chemistry still works, her charm smoothing out the edges of his cantankerousness.” It also earned Rashad an NAACP Image Award for Best Actress in a Comedy Series, and some frequent-flyer miles—for a time, she flew weekly to New York for Cosby tapings, while remaining in the Washington production of Blues for an Alabama Sky.” If you think about being exhausted you will be,” Rashad told Sommers in the Washington Post interview, conducted during these months.” This is a circumstance that I did not seek out, that has found its way to me. But I’m not complaining. It’s either feast or famine, and I’ve had my share of famine,” she continued.
Rashad, who has a home outside New York City with her husband and their preteen daughter, enjoys horseback riding but claims to have vastly profited from another pursuit.” Meditation isn’t some far-fetched practice,” Rashad told the Washington Post’s Sommers.” It is focusing the mind … on its own source, which is the self. It changed the way I work significantly” cause I wasn’t worrying, Is the stage manager pleased? What does the director think?’ I wanted not so much to play or express the truth, but to experience it in the moment.”
Rashad’s single feature film is Once Upon a Time …When We Were Colored. She also starred with Sidney Poitier in the 1997 Showtime film Free of Eden in the role of a woman accused of killing her husband in self-defense. In early 1999 Rashad was in rehearsals as the lead in Everybody’s Ruby, a Broadway drama centered around an incident in the life of novelist and playwright Zora Neale Hurston. Written by Thulani Davis, the play recounted Hurston’s unofficial inquest into a murder in Florida in 1952. Though Rashad is a talented actress equally acclaimed for dramatic, comedie, and musical roles, her relatively low profile in the entertainment world does not bother her. She rejects the idea that race is a factor.” I can’t proceed as a human being and I certainly can’t proceed as an artist if I focus on racism,” she told Willens in the Los Angeles Times interview.” I learned that from my mother early on, who did everything to keep her young children from being permanently scarred. From her I learned that the spirit is much bigger than man-made law,” she concluded.
Jet, August 16, 1993, p. 58; September 9, 1996, p. 60.
Los Angeles Times, March 17, 1992, p. F11; November 10, 1997.
New York Times, September 16, 1996, pp. C11, 16; January 15, 1999.
Washington Post, April 30, 1992, p. D1; September 22, 1996, p. G7.
Additional information for this profile was provided by Carsey-Werner Productions publicity materials.