Phylicia Rashad: The Mother Supreme

The Cosby Show

A veteran of stage and screen, Phylicia Rashad has been commanding our attention for more than 40 years. The Howard University grad has been a theatre mainstay off and on Broadway—from serving as Sheryl Lee Ralph’s understudy in the original cast of Dreamgirls to recently starring in an all-black cast as Big Mama in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof.

But we know her best as Claire Huxtable, the down-to-earth, refined, sexy lawyer mom who played pitch-perfectly against Bill Cosby’s sometimes ornery obstetrician hubby Heathcliff’s more wily persona. For eight years, (1984-1992), The Cosby Show was the first depiction of an African American family headed by two parents who were loving, supportive and successful professionals, and set the baseline for the depiction of contemporary urban family, regardless of color. Claire was the Mom everybody wished they had; and with male fans young and old crushing on her, she was quite possibly TV’s first MILF (in the classiest way possible, of course.) We’re still waiting on the heir to the throne.

Unbelievably, Rashad never won an Emmy award for The Cosby Show–blasphemy!—or other TV work. However, she is the first African-Americna actress to win a Tony Award for a leading role for her portrayal of Lena Younger in A Raisin In The Sun on Broadway. From 1996 to 2000, Cosby and Rashad teamed up again for an older, curmudgeonly Cosby with grown-up kids and  adult problems. Rashad also provided the soothing mommy voice of Brenda, mother to the animated Little Bill from 2000-02 (produced by Cosby and Varnette Honeywood).

Offscreen, Rashad is the mother of four grown kids, but still has her career on blast with recent roles in Just Wright, and Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls. And with two movies and as part of an all-star cast in a TV version of Steel Magnolias dropping later in 2012, Rashad keeps proving that this mother is Supreme.