She's instantly recognizable as the actress who played Clair Huxtable in the beloved sitcom The Cosby Show. While Phylicia Rashad has moved on to many more roles and has received acting awards since, she says she doesn't mind being known for the TV show that made her famous. Gayle talks with Phylicia about her television career, her personal life and her latest Broadway play—a revival of Tennessee Williams's Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
Phylicia says the eight years she worked on The Cosby Show were important to her in many ways. "I associate those years with so much tremendous professional and personal growth," she says. Today, Phylicia says she is at another very important place in her personal and professional life. Now single with two grown children—she divorced sportscaster Ahmad Rashad in 2001—Phylicia says it's the first time in her adult life she feels completely unrestricted. "My children are grown … [and] this is the first time I can say that I am totally and completely free in a way that I have not experienced since graduation from college."
With her newfound freedom, Phylicia has found her way to Broadway. In 2004, she took on her Tony award-winning role for Best Actress as Lena Younger in A Raisin in the Sun. It was the first time a black woman won a Tony for Best Actress. In her latest Broadway play, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Phylicia stars as Big Mama alongside an all-black cast. "This play is deceptively simple on the page," she says. "It's what's behind it, it's what's beneath it [that is complex]—and you only discover and find that when you are working it in rehearsal."
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is directed by Phylicia's sister, Debbie Allen. While two sisters working together could be a recipe for disaster, Phylicia says that wasn't the case with her and Debbie. "[I was with] absolute professional respect and support," she says. "Because, when it gets right down to it, this is a professional setting and this is my sister, and I really want to support her and I would never ever do anything to undermine her."
Printed from Oprah.com on Thursday, December 19, 2013