Ethan Phillips

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Ethan Phillips
Born (1955-02-08) February 8, 1955 (age 65)
OccupationActor, playwright
Years active1977–present
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 on Long Island, New York. His father was an owner of Frankie & Johnnie’s, a steakhouse on 45th and Eighth Avenue in New York City.[1] He received a bachelor's degree in English literature from Boston University and a Master of Fine Arts from Cornell University. He plays the tenor saxophone in the Alan Wasserman Jazz Band.



Ethan Phillips began his show business career in New York City, performing off-Broadway at theaters including Direct Theater, winning the Best of the Actors’ Festival there in 1977; the Wonderhorse Theater, in the premier of Christopher Durang's The Nature and Purpose of the Universe; and at Playwrights Horizons in a revival of Eccentricities of a Nightingale. 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 Theater. 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 at the Lucille Lortel, Measure for Measure with Kevin Kline, at the Delacorte Theater; and the Broadway premier of My Favorite Year at Lincoln Center as well as new works for Playwrights Horizons[2] the Hudson Guild Theater,[3] the American Jewish Theater,[4] and many others.

He went on to appear in the premier of David Mamet's November at the Ethel Barrymore Theater and played the title character opposite Peter Dinklage in The Imaginary Invalid for Bard College's 2012 SummerScape Festival. In 2013-14 he appeared as Stanley Levison in Robert Schenkkan's All the Way at the American Repertory Theater. Phillips moved with the show to Broadway’s Neil Simon Theater where the play won Tonys for Best Play and Best Actor Bryan Cranston. More recently Phillips played leading roles in the premiers of Dennis Kelly’s Taking Care of Baby, Terrence McNally's Golden Age, and Sharyn Rothstein’s By the Water, all for the Manhattan Theatre Club (off-Broadway), and played Murray Lefkowitz in the Broadway premier of Ayad Akhtar's Junk: The Golden Age of Debt at Lincoln Center's Vivian Beaumont Theater.

Phillips' regional theater credits include leading roles for San Diego's Old Globe Theater, the Alaska Repertory Theater,[5] at Seattle Repertory Theater, at Baltimore's Centerstage, for the Westport Country Playhouse, Boston Shakespeare Company, Actors Theater of Louisville, The American Repertory Theater, the Salt Lake Acting Co.,[6] and the McCarter Theatre.[7] 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, in The Bourgeois Gentleman for the Pasadena Symphony, and as Polonius in Hamlet for the Uprising Theater.[8]

Phillips has been an actor at the Sundance Playwrights Conference in Utah for six summers, where he developed his play Penguin Blues,[1] which is published by Samuel French Inc.[9] and is included in The Best Short Plays of 1989 (Applause, ed. Ramon Delgado). Based on his experiences at Sundance,[10] Phillips helped found First Stage, a playwright development lab in Los Angeles now in its Thirty-Fifth year.


Phillips has appeared in over fifty films, beginning with Ragtime (directed by Miloš Forman). Other features include For Richer or Poorer, Jeffrey, The Shadow, Wagons East, The Man Without a Face, Green Card, Lean On Me, Critters, Bloodhounds of Broadway, The Island, Bad Santa, and The Babysitters. More recent films include Shadow Witness, Audrey, the Coen Brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis, Woody Allen's Irrational Man, and James DeMonaco's The Purge: Election Year.


In 1980, Phillips joined the cast of the sitcom Benson, playing Pete Downey, PR man to Governor Gatling.

He 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, Deadbeat, The Good Wife, Better Call Saul and Veep. He played the recurring role of Keith in the final two seasons of Lena Dunham's Girls. He currently plays Spike Martin in Armando Iannucci 's upcoming space comedy Avenue 5 on HBO.

In 1990 he began his 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.

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.


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 - "Ménage à 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 Main cast, 170 episodes
1996 Star Trek: First Contact Holodeck Nightclub Maitre d' Uncredited
1997 Trekkies Himself
2000 9mm of Love Guy
2002 Rugrats Storyteller Voice
Episode: "Quiet, Please/Early Retirement"
Star Trek: Enterprise Ulis, group leader of Ferengi thieves Season 1, Episode 18- "Acquisition"
Rocket Power Shop Owner Voice
Episode: "Less Than Full Otto/Card Sharked"
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[11]
2010 The Good Guys Alphonse LaViolette Episode 1.11: "Common Enemies"
2011 Chuck Woodley Episode: Chuck versus The Zoom
2012 Arachnoquake Roy
The Adventures of RoboRex Randy Jenkins
2013 Inside Llewyn Davis Mitch Gorfein
2014 Audrey Donny
2015 Irrational Man Jill's Father
Veep Mr. Wallace Testimony (S4, Ep9)
2016 The Purge: Election Year Chief Couper
2016–2017 Girls Keith 4 episodes
2018 Most Likely to Murder Dad
Better Call Saul Judge Benedict Munsinger Episode: "Talk"
2020 Avenue 5 Spike Williams Main cast

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


  1. ^ Phillips, Ethan (November 19, 2018). "At Frankie & Johnnie's (Metropolitan Diary)". The New York Times. New York. Retrieved November 27, 2018.
  2. ^ "Home". Ensemble Studio Theatre.
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Jewish Theater of New York Homepage".
  5. ^ "Alaska Repertory Theatre Company".
  6. ^ "Salt Lake Acting Company - Home".
  7. ^ "Home - McCarter Theatre".
  8. ^ "Home - Uprising Theatre Company". Uprising Theatre Company.
  9. ^ "Samuel French – Licensing Plays and Musicals to the Theatrical Community".
  10. ^ "Sundance Institute".
  11. ^ "Motion Picture Purgatory: The Moth Diaries - Dread Central". 19 April 2012.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]