By Taylor Neumann, ReMIND Magazine
If you grew up in the mid to late ‘80s, chances are you watched The Cosby Show. Back then, America wanted to be like the Huxtables, and the Huxtables, in return, presented a loving and supportive unit. None were as strong and devoted as one of our favorite TV moms, Clair Huxtable.
Phylicia Rashad was born as Phylicia Ayers-Allen on June 19, 1948, in Houston. Her three siblings include actress, choreographer and director Debbie Allen of Fame. In 1970, she graduated from Howard University and moved to New York to begin her career.
Rashad was initially known for her stage work, accumulating a string of Broadway credits including Dreamgirls, The Wiz and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. She later became the first black actress to win the Best Actress in a Play Tony Award for A Raisin in the Sun in 2004. While working on The Wiz in the 1970s, she met her second husband, Victor Willis, one of the original members of the Village People. They divorced in 1982, and in 1985 she married her third husband, former NFL player and sportscaster Ahmad Rashad. The couple divorced in 2001.
In 1983, Rashad joined the ABC soap opera One Life to Live as publicist Courtney Wright before landing her most well-known role as lawyer Clair Huxtable on the NBC sitcom The Cosby Show. The show ran for eight years, from 1984 to 1992, and featured a husband-and-wife team raising their five children. The husband, of course, was Bill Cosby as Dr. Heathcliff “Cliff” Huxtable, namesake of the series and, at the time, a well-known comedian looking to develop his own television show. Rashad played Clair as a loving mother who was a warm and humorous presence among the family, but could give out whatever discipline was required. Millions across the country watched and wished that she could be their own mother. In addition to her regular role, Rashad also took over the majority of promotional appearances for the show on her own after a TV Guide article called Cosby “one of the most arrogant celebrities.”
Her success on The Cosby Show led to other opportunities -- he cast her again as his wife in the ‘90s CBS sitcom Cosby, playing Ruth Lucas. She also worked on Cosby’s animated series Little Bill, voicing Bill’s mother Brenda. After The Cosby Show ended, Rashad guest-starred on TV shows such as Everybody Hates Chris and Psych. She also reprised her Tony-winning role in a TV movie adaptation of A Raisin in the Sun.
Around that time, Rashad pivoted to films, starring in two Tyler Perry films in two years (For Colored Girls in 2010 and Good Deeds in 2012). She also starred in an all-black cast for a remake of Steel Magnolias. The FOX series Empire brought her back to television for a recurring guest role, and she also made an appearance in the miniseries When We Rise. She was most recently seen as the widow of Apollo Creed in both Creed and Creed II, and in a February episode of NBC’s popular family drama This Is Us.
Photo Credit: Phylicia Rashad: Credit: Newsmakers/Diane Freed
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