Phylicia Rashad’s Intense Stare Scored Her the Role of Clair on ‘The Cosby Show’
Casting is a crucial part of the creative process for films and television shows. After all, casting a terrible actor can destroy even a fantastic script. On the flip side, there are actors so spectacular at their craft that even a lackluster plot can be brought to life when they light up the screen. Choosing who to cast in each role is a difficult and nuanced process that often hinges on tiny details. That was the case for Phylicia Rashad when she landed the part of Clair on The Cosby Show.
‘The Cosby Show’ was groundbreaking family TV
Premiering in 1984, The Cosby Show was groundbreaking in many ways. It was one of the first television shows to center on a Black upper middle-class family, and it had a heartwarming mix of comedic moments wrapped around real moments of drama and tension that resonated with everyday viewers.
From themes of teen pregnancy to learning disabilities, the series tackled difficult topics without shying away from them, and fans were impressed enough to give the show an eight-season run. It wrapped up in 1992.
The show centered around the Huxtables, a family headed up by Dr. Cliff Huxtable, an obstetrician, and his wife Clair, a lawyer. The family had five children — daughters Sondra, Denise, Vanessa, and Rudy and son Theo.
Bill Cosby, who played Cliff Huxtable, pulled in many of his famous standup routines to make observational jokes about the everyday happenings in the family’s life. As much as Cosby’s early fame helped pull the show up to its success, his downfall and arrest for sexual assault has left this show — once a family classic — tainted in modern times.
Phylicia Rashad played Clair Huxtable
Many of the cast members on The Cosby Show grew to fame with their appearance on the series. For Phylicia Rashad, getting cast as Clair Huxtable represented a big break in her career.
Prior to landing the 1984 role, Rashad had some small parts on TV series and played a Munchkin in the 1983 video for The Wiz. After landing the part of Clair, Rashad’s star was certainly on the rise. She stayed with the series for its entire run, and along the way she found time to play Eliza in a TV movie rendition of Uncle Tom’s Cabin as well as portray Clair in The Cosby Show spinoff, A Different World.
After The Cosby Show came to an end, Rashad played in more TV movies before once again stepping in to play the wife of Cosby’s character on the show Cosby, which ran from 1996-2000. The actor then went on to have a part as a voice actor on the animated series Little Bill.
In more recent years, Rashad has had a part in the Creed franchise and a recurring role on the hit series Empire. She’s also in the new Netflix Christmas hit Jingle Jangle.
Phylicia Rashad’s stony gaze helped earn her ‘The Cosby Show’ part
Plenty of actors were vying for the part of Clair Huxtable, and Cosby was sitting in on the screen tests to help determine who would eventually land the role. The scene the auditions centered around had Clair arguing with her on-screen son Theo.
According to Mental Floss, Rashad’s audition stood out from the crowd because of her subtle body language during the argument. While most of the actors hoping to become Clair wagged their fingers and put their hands on their hips to express their displeasure with the kid, Rashad took a different approach.
She froze and stared Theo down. The look was withering, and Cosby was certain that he had found the right Clair.