Harriet Sansom Harris

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Harriet Sansom Harris
Born Harriet Harris
(1955-01-08) January 8, 1955 (age 60)
Fort Worth, Texas, U.S.
Education Juilliard (BFA c.1977)
Occupation Actress
Years active 1977–present
Partner(s) Matthew Sullivan

Harriet Sansom Harris (born January 8, 1955), often credited as Harriet Harris, is an American actress best known for her portrayals of Bebe Glazer on Frasier and Felicia Tilman on Desperate Housewives. She won a Tony Award in 2002 as a Featured Actress in a Musical for playing the evil white slaver Mrs. Meers in Thoroughly Modern Millie. Apart from her television and theatre work, she has made various film appearances, including Memento, Addams Family Values and Nurse Betty.

Early years[edit]

Harriet Sansom Harris was born in Fort Worth, Texas, one of two sisters. On her mother's side, she is a descendant of Marion Sansom, a 20th-century rancher and civic leader. Sansom Park is named after him. She began acting as a youngster, attending Arlington Heights High School. She attended Fort Worth Country Day School and graduated from there in 1973.[1] At age 17, she was accepted at the Juilliard School's Drama Division (1973-77, Group 6)[2] where she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.[3]

After graduation from Juilliard, she joined John Houseman's touring repertory company The Acting Company, where she stayed for three years. During this time, she performed in productions of Shakespeare's King Lear and Romeo and Juliet, Antigone, and Mother Courage and Her Children.[4]

Career[edit]

Harris went on to do extensive work on and off-Broadway including a 1989 performance at Second Stage Theatre in What a Man Weighs . One of her breakthrough performances was in the original cast of Paul Rudnick's Jeffrey (she was the sole female cast member). Her work in Jeffrey led to numerous television guest appearances, including a recurring role on the sitcom Frasier as Frasier's conniving agent Bebe Glazer.[5]

Her own series (including The 5 Mrs. Buchanans, Union Square, The Beast, and It's All Relative) were unsuccessful, but her guest roles on hit series, including Ghost Whisperer, Murphy Brown, Ally McBeal, Six Feet Under, Frasier and Ellen were memorable. Among them was her performance on The X-Files in the 1993 episode "Eve" as Dr. Sally Kendrick and her "Eve" clones. In 2006, she starred in the Sci-Fi Channel miniseries The Lost Room as Margaret Milne.[4][5]

In 1992, she made her Broadway debut in Four Baboons Adoring the Sun. That same year, she was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for her portrayal in the Off-Broadway play Bella, Belle of Byelorussia. In 1993, she received a second Drama Desk nomination for her performance in Jeffrey. She won both a Drama Desk and Tony Award in 2002 as a Featured Actress in a Musical for playing the evil white slaver Mrs. Meers in Thoroughly Modern Millie. During 1993-2004, she was a regular guest on the long-running sitcom Frasier, appearing as Frasier's suspiciously unethical agent, Bebe Glazer.[5]

Since 2005, Harris has appeared in various stage productions across the United States. In the summer of 2006 she appeared as Vera Charles in the Kennedy Center's production of Mame opposite Christine Baranski in the title role. In early 2007, Harriet appeared as Amanda Wingfield in the production of The Glass Menagerie at the Guthrie Theater. In the summer of 2007, Harriet appeared on Broadway in the revival of the John Van Druten comedy Old Acquaintance as Mildred Watson Drake with Margaret Colin at the American Airlines Theatre.

In 2007, Harris returned to Broadway and joined the cast of the musical Cry-Baby, based on the John Waters film of the same name. The show previewed at Broadway's Marquis Theatre on March 15, 2008 and opened on April 24. The production was nominated for Best Musical at the 2008 Tony Awards and later closed following the matinée performance on June 22. She returned to Broadway as the "Evil Stepmother" in Cinderella in 2013.[6] In 2015, Harris took on the role as the mother of the groom-to-be (who secretly wishes that her son was gay) in the musical comedy It Shoulda Been You, sparring with Tyne Daly who played the mother of the bride to be.

Desperate Housewives[edit]

Harris became known to a new generation by playing Martha Huber's sister Felicia Tilman on the ABC drama series Desperate Housewives in 2004. The narrative saw Felicia arrive on Wisteria Lane to discover who was behind her sister's murder. She soon came to the conclusion that Paul Young was responsible, but before she could act out her revenge, she was attacked by his son Zach Young.[5] To finish the story-line, she returned for the second season in 2005, which followed Felicia as she planned her final acts of revenge against Paul. She departed at the end of the second series by faking her own murder, framing Paul, and sending him to prison. She returned to Desperate Housewives for the series' seventh season.[7]

On playing the character Harris commented: "People do find Felicia evil. I think she's just determined. She's a zealot pursuing an objective that no-one wants her to pursue. And it makes her really eccentric. And even though a man she's pursuing is the one who committed murder, he's only considered creepy by people and Felicia is always considered evil. I think that's so interesting because he's really the bad person. She's just trying to get him caught. But she is extreme. I think she doesn't stop when others would. She keeps on, she keeps pursuing and I think that is a scary thing. She just keeps scraping away until she eventually gets what she wants. And if she doesn't get it one way, she'll go around and do it another way. She's completely unapologetic about it. She doesn't care what anybody else thinks".[8]

Personal life[edit]

Harris calls California her home, commenting, "I have a lot of friends out here. The weather is great and much more like Texas than New York. You can have an outdoor life without being armed. At this point, I still need to come back to (New York) on my breaks because this is where I have lived for a long time. So this is very much home. But I feel the pull of California".[9][10]

Selected filmography[edit]

List of acting credits in film and television
Title Year Role Notes
Shake It Up 2011 Dr. Pepper
Desperate Housewives 2005–2006, 2010–2011 Felicia Tilman TV series; Recurring; 28 appearances
American Dad! 2010 Mrs. Reagan Television Guest Appearance
Moonlight Serenade 2009 Angelica Webster
The Lost Room 2006 Margaret Milne TV mini-series
The Ghost Whisperer 2006 Marilyn Mandeville TV series, episode: "A Grave Matter"
CBS Summer Playhouse 1988 Lauri Stevens TV series, Credited as 'Harriet Harris'
Help Me Help You 2006 Daves' Mom TV Guest Appearance
Sex, Love & Secrets 2005 Dulah
Strong Medicine 2005 Governor Barbara Curtis TV series
Monster-in-Law 2005 Therapist Film appearance
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation 2004 Eva TV series, episode: "What's Eating Gilbert Grissom?"
Quintuplets 2004 Ms. Hentschel TV series
Frasier 1993–2004 Bebe Glazer Recurring Guest Star, Appearing in Each season (excluding 6 and 8)
It's All Relative 2003–2004 Audrey O'Neil Regular Television Role (cancelled)
Six Feet Under 2002 Catherine Collins TV series, episode: "In Place of Anger"
Memento 2000 Mrs. Jankis
Nurse Betty 2000 Ellen
Millennium 1997 Maureen Murphy TV Episode:First Season "Loin Like a Hunting Flame"
Ally McBeal 1998 Cheryl Bonner TV series
Romeo + Juliet 1996 Susan Santandiago (TV Gossip) 'Credited as Harriet Harris'
The 5 Mrs. Buchanans 1994–1995 Vivian Buchanan Television Series
The X-Files 1993 Sally Kendrick/Eves 6.7 & 8 TV episode:First Season "Eve"
Law & Order 1991–1992 Sheila TV episode:20 The troubles

References[edit]

  1. ^ Fort Worth Country Day Yearbook "Flight" 1971, 1972, 1973.
  2. ^ "Alumni News". The Juilliard School. September 2007. Archived from the original on 2011-11-11. 
  3. ^ "Harriet Sansom Harris: Mrs. Sweeny on The Beast". WCHS-TV. Retrieved April 2, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b "Harriet Harris profile". filmreference.com. 2010. Retrieved August 11, 2010. 
  5. ^ a b c d Harriet Sansom Harris at the Internet Movie Database
  6. ^ Harriet Sansom Harris at the Internet Broadway Database
  7. ^ Keck, William."Keck's Exclusives: Harriet Sansom Harris to Join Mark Moses on 'Desperate Housewives'!", tvguide.com, June 30, 2010.
  8. ^ Shulman, Randy."Harriet Harris:Stage and TV Actress Discusses Role in 'Mame' and 'Frasier'" MetroWeekly.com, June 8, 2006
  9. ^ Profile, lubbockonline.com; accessed May 28, 2015.
  10. ^ Nancy Rosati."Spotlight on Harriet Harris", TalkinBroadway.com; accessed August 27, 2011.

External links[edit]