Phylicia Rashad

Phylicia Rashād (/fɪˈlʃə rəˈʃɑːd/ 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.

Phylicia Rashad
Rashad in 1998
Phylicia Ayers-Allen

(1948-06-19) June 19, 1948
Alma materHoward University
OccupationSinger, actress, stage director
Years active1972–present
Children2, including Condola Rashād
RelativesDebbie Allen (sister)

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).

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] Phylicia'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 Phylicia was growing up, her family moved to Mexico, and as a result, Rashad speaks Spanish fluently.

Phylicia 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]


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 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.

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 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]



Year Title Role Notes
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
2015 Emily & Tim Emily Hanratty
Creed Mary Anne Creed Replaced Sylvia Meals in the role
2018 Creed II
2020 Soul Joe's Mother Voice role
A Fall From Grace Sarah
Jingle Jangle[25]


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 193 episodes
1985 Santa Barbara Felicia Dalton 3 episodes
The Love Boat Lonette Becker Episode: "A Day in Port"
1987 Uncle Tom's Cabin Eliza Television movie
1988 Mickey's 60th Birthday Herself
1988–90 A Different World Clair Huxtable 4 episodes
1989 False Witness Lynne Jacobi Television movie
Polly Aunt Polly
1990 Reading Rainbow Herself Episode: "Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters"
Polly: Comin' Home! Aunt Polly Television movie
The Earth Day Special Clair Huxtable Special
1991 Jailbirds Janice Grant Television movie
Blossom Blossom's Dream Mom Episode: "Blossom's Blossom"
Episode: "Hallelujah"
1994 David's Mother Gladys Johnson Television movie
Ghostwriter Herself Episode: "A Crime of Two Cities"
1994–2002 Touched by an Angel Elizabeth Jessup 2 episodes
1995 The Possession of Michael D Dr. Marion Hale Television movie
In the House Rowena Episode: "Sister Act"
1996 The Babysitter's Seduction Detective Kate Jacobs Television movie
1996–2000 Cosby Ruth Lucas 93 episodes
1998 Intimate Portrait Herself/Narrator 4 episodes
1999 Free of Eden Desiree Television 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"
2001 Murder, She Wrote: The Last Free Man Cassandra Hawkins Television movie
The Old Settler Elizabeth
2007 Working in the Theatre Actor Episode: "August Wilson's Legacy"
Everybody Hates Chris Kathleen Devereaux Episode: "Everybody Hates Kwanzaa"
2007–14 Psych Winnie Guster 3 episodes
2008 A Raisin in the Sun Lena Younger Television 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 Clairee Television movie
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"
2016–17 Empire Diana DuBois 14 episodes
2017 When We Rise Bishop Yvette A. Flunder 2 episodes
Tour de Pharmacy Victoria Young Television movie
Jean-Claude Van Johnson
2019 This Is Us Carol Episode: "Our Little Island Girl"
2019 David Makes Man Dr. Woods Trap Series regular

Awards and honors

Year Association Category Work Result
1985 Emmy Awards Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series The Cosby Show Nominated
1986 Nominated
1988 NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series Won
1989 Won
1997 Cosby Won
1998 Nominated
1999 Satellite Awards Satellite Award for Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy Nominated
2002 NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special The Old Settler Nominated
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 Sun Nominated
2009 NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special 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 Girls Won
NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture Nominated
2015 The BET Honors Theatrical Arts Award N/A (Honoree) Won
2019 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series This Is Us Nominated
  • 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[27]
  • 2011: received an honorary doctorate degree from Spelman College for her work in the Arts[28]
  • 2011: named the first Denzel Washington Chair professor in Theatre at Fordham University, supported by a $2 million gift from the actor[29]


  1. "Rashad makes Tony Awards history". June 6, 2004. Retrieved September 17, 2016.
  2. Tony Awards (official site) Archived February 4, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  3. "Phylicia Birthday-01948-June-19". Archived from the original on November 14, 2007. Retrieved December 27, 2007.
  4. Lawrence, Muhammad. - "One-woman dynamo". - The Courier-Journal. - September 12, 1999.
  5. "About Phylicia Rashad". Yahoo! Inc. Retrieved August 13, 2012.
  6. "Phylicia Rashad". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved July 29, 2018.
  7. "Phylicia Rashad to direct Seattle Repertory Theatre's Gem of the Ocean". Monsters and Critics. December 6, 2006. Archived from the original on October 13, 2012. Retrieved December 11, 2009.
  8. "Phylicia Rashad directs August Wilson's 'Fences' at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton". The Star Ledger. January 5, 2014. Retrieved February 18, 2014.
  9. Dana Kennedy (September 20, 1996). "Pilot Errors This Fall Season". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved June 21, 2007.
  10. ""Cosby" (1996)". Retrieved June 21, 2007.
  11. "Guide to Disney World - DINOSAUR, Dinoland USA, Animal Kingdom". August 23, 2007. Retrieved May 29, 2017.
  12. "'Cosby Show' Star Phylicia Rashad Cringes At The Current State Of Sitcoms". April 3, 2014. Retrieved May 29, 2017.
  13. Ginina Bellafante (February 25, 2008). "A Raisin in the Sun - Television - Review". The New York Times. Retrieved May 29, 2017.
  14. Ginia Bellafante, "Raisin in the Sun: A Tale of Race and Family and a $10,000 Question", The New York Times, February 25, 2008.
  15. "Phylicia Rashad Says Tyler Perry 'Kept The Poetry' Of 'For Colored Girls'". November 5, 2010. Retrieved May 29, 2017.
  16. David DeWitt (February 24, 2012). "'Tyler Perry's Good Deeds,' With Thandie Newton". The New York Times. Retrieved May 29, 2017.
  17. Corneau, Allison (October 1, 2012). "Queen Latifah: Phylicia Rashad "Really Delivered" in Steel Magnolias Remake". Retrieved May 29, 2017.
  18. Wagmeister, Elizabeth (August 29, 2016). "'Empire' Season 3 Guest Stars: Phylicia Rashad Joins Mariah Carey & More". Variety. Retrieved May 29, 2017.
  19. Elizabeth Wagmeister (June 22, 2016). "'When We Rise' Guest Stars: Pauley Perrette, Rob Reiner, T.R. Knight & More". Variety. Retrieved May 29, 2017.
  20. Moses, Gavin (December 16, 1985). "Sportscaster Ahmad Rashād Scores with a Televised Proposal to Cosby's Phylicia Ayers-Allen". People. Retrieved February 28, 2009.
  21. Shouler, Ken (1994). "Catching It All". Cigar Aficionado. Archived from the original on June 7, 2007. Retrieved June 21, 2007.
  22. "Actress Phylicia Rashad Divorcing Sportscaster Husband Ahmad Rashād". Jet. March 5, 2001. Retrieved June 21, 2007.
  23. Netflix ‘Jingle Jangle’ Musical Adds Keegan-Michael Key, Phylicia Rashad, Anika Noni Rose & Madalen Mills
  24. Monsters & Critics: "Tony Awards Wrap Up", by Amy Somensky. Jun 9, 2004 Archived November 17, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  25. "04-126 (Honorary Degrees 2005)". Retrieved May 29, 2017.
  26. "Michelle Obama Addresses 2011 Spelman Class; Joins Debbie Allen, Phylicia Rashad as Honorees". Rolling Out. May 16, 2011. Retrieved May 17, 2011.
  27. "Denzel Washington donates $2.25 million to Fordham". The Wall Street Journal. October 5, 2011. Retrieved October 5, 2011.
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