To many, Phylicia Rashad will always be iconic Cosby Show mom Clair Huxtable, and she’s OK with that. But at 64, the Tony-winning actress — she’s starred on Broadway in A Raisin in the Sun, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and August: Osage County — is returning to TV once again as Dr. Vanessa Young on NBC’s Do No Harm. American Way caught up with Rashad about groundbreaking television, roles for women and what the future holds.
Everyone’s favorite TV matriarch, Phylicia Rashad, is back on the small screen in NBC’s new medical drama Do No Harm.
American Way: It’s been more than 20 years since The Cosby Show ended, but many people still think of you as Clair Huxtable.
Phylicia Rashad: That’s a good thing, isn’t it? It’s wonderful to do work that’s meaningful to people. And it’s wonderful to do work that makes progress for others.
AW: When you were making the show, did you realize it was so groundbreaking?
PR: Nope. We were just doing our work and having fun. Those were eight of the most magical years of my life. There was just something about that show. It wasn’t about race, it wasn’t about minorities, it wasn’t about any of that. It was about people. It was about families. It was about American culture. That’s why it’s timeless.
AW: What made you want to do TV again?
PR: The intelligence of the writing on this show. It’s such a smart show. Being on this set — it’s just refreshing. I play the chief medical officer, and she’s a professional woman of color. The cast and crew are just good artists and good people.
AW: There’s always talk about how hard it is for women to find great roles.
PR: I’m always a bit stumped [when I hear things like that] because the truth is, I’m busy all the time. I think there’s some truth in it, but I think things are changing. People are bringing all kinds of sensibilities to TV now, and I think that’s great. There are some great roles for women in the theater; I’ve had my fair share. I’m very grateful for theater because it’s informed how I work in every other discipline.
AW: Will you be returning to theater soon?
PR: In April, I’ll be in Los Angeles directing August Wilson’s Joe Turner’s Come and Gone. I enjoy working with designers, playwrights, actors. It’s such a collaborative effort.
AW: Would you direct film down the line?
PR: I don’t know. It’s the same thing that gave me pause about directing theater: It’s something very new that I hadn’t thought of for myself. You never know. There’s a distinct possibility. I have a couple of stories and things stashed away that I’m working on.