Ethan Phillips

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Ethan Phillips
Biography photo of Ethan Phillips. Photo by Daniel Reichert
Born (1955-02-08) February 8, 1955 (age 62)
Garden City, New York, U.S.
Occupation Actor, playwright
Years active 1977–present
Spouse(s) Patricia Cresswell (m. 1990)

Ethan Phillips (born February 8, 1955) is an American actor and playwright. He is best known for his television roles as Neelix on Star Trek: Voyager and PR man Pete Downey on Benson.

Personal life[edit]

Phillips was raised in Garden City, New York. He received a bachelor's degree in English literature from Boston University and a Master of Fine Arts from Cornell University.



After leaving Cornell, Phillips began his show business career in New York City, performing at many Broadway and off-Broadway plays theatres including the Direct Theatre, where he won the Best of the Actors' Festival in 1977; the Wonderhorse Theatre, in the premier of Christopher Durang's The Nature and Purpose of the Universe with Ellen Greene; and at Playwrights Horizons in a revival of Eccentricities of a Nightingale. Legendary writer Tennessee Williams, who helped shape the latter production, wrote a new monologue for Phillips, which Williams personally dictated to him when it was realized that leading lady Jill Eikenberry needed more time for a dress change.

In 1979–80, Phillips appeared as Utrillo in the premier of Dennis McIntyre's Modigliani at the Astor Place Theatre. It ran for 208 performances.

Phillips performed in many plays in New York over the next fifteen years, including Terrence McNally's Lips Together, Teeth Apart for Manhattan Theatre Club (at the Lucille Lortel Theatre); Measure for Measure, with Kevin Kline, for the New York Shakespeare Festival at the Delacorte Theater; and the premier of the musical My Favorite Year at Lincoln Center, with Tim Curry and Andrea Martin.

He went on to appear in the premier of David Mamet's November at the Ethel Barrymore Theater with Nathan Lane, Dylan Baker and Laurie Metcalf, and played the title character opposite Peter Dinklage in the all-male cast of The Imaginary Invalid for Bard College's 2012 SummerScape Festival. In 2013–14 he appeared as Stanley Levison in Robert Schenkkan's new play All the Way at American Repertory Theater.[1]

Phillips's regional theater credits include leading roles for San Diego's Old Globe Theatre, for the Alaska Repertory Theatre, at Seattle Repertory Theatre in the premier of Inspecting Carol with Dan Sullivan directing, at Baltimore's Center Stage in the premier of Miss Evers' Boys, for the Westport Country Playhouse, the Boston Shakespeare Company, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Salt Lake Acting Co., and the McCarter Theatre.

In Los Angeles, Phillips acted in Side Man at the Pasadena Playhouse in Lips Together, Teeth Apart for the Mark Taper Forum; in You Can't Take It with You at the Geffen Playhouse (directed by Chris Hart, Moss Hart's son); in The Bourgeois Gentleman for the Pasadena Symphony, directed by John de Lancie (which moved to the Ravinia Festival in Chicago); and as Polonius in Hamlet for the Uprising Theatre.

Phillips has been a member of Robert Redford's Sundance Playwrights Conference in Utah for six summers, where he developed his play Penguin Blues,[2] which is published by Samuel French Inc. and is included in The Best Short Plays of 1989 (Applause, ed. Ramon Delgado). He collaborated on other new plays at Sundance, including Angels in America, The Kentucky Cycle and Miss Evers' Boys.

Based on his experiences at Sundance, Phillips helped found First Stage, a playwright development lab in Los Angeles now in its twenty-fourth year.


Phillips has appeared in over thirty films, beginning with a small role in Ragtime (directed by Miloš Forman). These features include For Richer or Poorer, Jeffrey, The Shadow, Wagons East!, The Man Without a Face, Green Card, Lean on Me (which reunited him with his Benson co-star Robert Guillaume), Critters, Bloodhounds of Broadway, The Island, Bad Santa, and The Babysitters. More recent films include Shadow Witness, Audrey, and the Coen Brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis.


In 1980, Phillips joined the cast of the hit sitcom Benson (1979–1986), playing Pete Downey, PR man to Governor Gatling.

Phillips has made scores of guest appearances on television series and tele films, including Pushing Daisies, Bones (TV Series), Eli Stone, Criminal Minds, NUMB3RS, Las Vegas, L.A. Law, JAG, Law & Order, Arrested Development, Boston Legal, Castle, Rizzoli & Isles, The Good Guys and The Mentalist.

In 1990 he began his prolific Star Trek career playing the Ferengi character, Dr. Farek, in the "Ménage à Troi" episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. He went on to play Neelix on Star Trek: Voyager in 1995, and stayed with the series through its entire seven-season run. He also cameoed as a holographic nightclub maître d' in the 1996 film Star Trek: First Contact, and appeared as a Ferengi pirate captain on an episode of Star Trek: Enterprise. He reprised his role as Neelix alongside fellow Star Trek: Voyager actors Tim Russ, Robert Picardo, Garrett Wang and Jeri Ryan in Star Trek Online's 2014 expansion Delta Rising.

Phillips co-authored the Star Trek Cookbook with William J Birnes, and performed in the Star Trek Internet fan film Of Gods and Men.

Phillips has also done voice work for several of the Star Wars franchise video games: 2000's Star Wars: Force Commander, 2001's Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds, and 2003's Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.

On November 9, 2010, Phillips appeared on long-running soap opera Days of Our Lives as a witness to a hit-and-run pedestrian fatality. In May 2011, he played Tucker's attorney on The Young and the Restless.


Year Film Role Notes
1980–1985 Benson Peter 'Pete' John Downey Seasons 2-6
1981 Ragtime Guard at Family House
1986 Critters Jeff Barnes
1987 Werewolf Eddy Armando
1989 Lean on Me Mr. Rosenberg
Glory Hospital steward
Bloodhounds of Broadway Basil Valentine
1990 Star Trek: The Next Generation Dr. Farek Season 3, Episode 24- "Menage a Troi"
Green Card Gorsky, INS agent
L.A. Law Dr. Sam Waibel/Marvin Pick Seasons 4-7
1993 The Man Without a Face Todd Lansing
1994 The Shadow Nelson
Wagons East! CMMDR. S. L. Smedly
1995–2001 Star Trek: Voyager Neelix
1996 Star Trek: First Contact Holodeck Nightclub Maitre d'Pete Uncredited
1997 Trekkies Himself
2000 9mm of Love Guy
2002 Star Trek: Enterprise Ulis, group leader of Ferengi thieves[3]
The Wild Thornberrys Movie Loris Uncredited
2003 Rugrats Go Wild Toa Voice
Bad Santa Roger Merman
2004 Arrested Development Military Officer
Trekkies 2 Himself
Geeks Himself
2005 Las Vegas Gabe Labrador
The Island Jones Three Echo
2006 Criminal Minds Marvin Doyle
Chestnut: Hero Of Central Park Marty
Numb3rs Professor Leonard Episode: "Double Down"
2007 Super Sweet 16: The Movie Craig
Keith Mr. Miles
Have Dreams, Will Travel Businessman
The Babysitters Mark Kessler
Hallowed Ground Preacher
Cavemen Red Goldreyer
2008 Bones Checker Box Manager Episode 3.14 The Wannabe in the Weeds
2009 Dahmer Vs. Gacy X-13[4]
2011 Chuck Woodley Episode: Chuck versus The Zoom
2012 Arachnoquake Roy
The Adventures of RoboRex Randy Jenkins
2013 Inside Llewyn Davis Mitch Gorfein
2015 Irrational Man Jill's Father
Veep Mr. Wallace Testimony (S4, Ep9)

Video Games[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
2000 Star Trek: Voyager Elite Force Neelix Voice
Star Wars: Force Commander Transport Pilot/Governor of Abridon
2001 Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds Empire medical droid/Krantian governor/Royal grenade trooper
2003 Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic Various/Dantooine Civilian/Galon Lor(Korriban) Voice
2014 Star Trek Online Neelix Voice role


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]