Phyllis Somerville

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Phyllis Somerville
Phyllis Somerville Lucky You 2007 Shankbone.jpg
Somerville at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival
Phyllis Jeanne Somerville

(1943-12-12) December 12, 1943 (age 76)
EducationUniversity of Northern Iowa
Years active1968–present

Phyllis Jeanne Somerville (born December 12, 1943) is an American stage, film and television actress. She is best known for her roles in Little Children (2006), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), Surviving Family (2012), The Big C (2010–2013) and Outsiders (2016–2017).

Personal life[edit]

Somerville was born in Iowa City, Iowa, to Lefa Mary (née Pash; 1918–2011) and The Rev. Paul Somerville (1919-1995), who moved the family around as he preached at different parishes, until settling in Traer, and eventually Cresco, Iowa. There, her mother worked as a librarian and Phyllis attended high school where she was involved with cheerleading, drama, and music, including playing clarinet in the All-State band. She has three brothers: Bruce (also an actor), Paul (1947-2005) and Stephen, a pathologist.[1]

She attended Morningside College and then transferred to the University of Northern Iowa, studying theatre and graduating with a degree in English in 1966. In college she starred in productions such as The Visit, Electra, and Macbeth. She next did graduate work performing classical roles like Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Hilberry Theatre through Wayne State University in Detroit and later became a resident equity actress with the Arena Stage in Washington D.C. Her first paid job as an entertainer was at Buckskin Joe amusement park over summer break in college.[2][3][4]

She resides in New York City.[5][6]


Somerville made her Broadway debut as Wilma in the 1974 musical Over Here! which was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Musical. The following year, she performed in the off-Broadway musical The Journey of Snow White as "The Witch". She appeared in the 1978 Broadway production of Once in a Lifetime. In 1983 she was the understudy for Kathy Bates in the Broadway production of Marsha Norman's 'night, Mother, and later toured in the role opposite Mercedes McCambridge. In 1984, she originated the role of Glory in Norman's next play, Traveler in the Dark, at the American Repertory Theater.

In 1990, she originated the role of Joyce in The Sum of Us by David Stevens. In 2001, she originated the role of Hannah in the Off-Broadway musical The Spitfire Grill, a role played in the 1996 film by Ellen Burstyn. In 2009 she performed in the musical Happiness at the Lincoln Center Theatre. She has appeared in other productions Off-Broadway, as well as in regional theatre, including many roles with the Hartford Stage Company. She is a member of the LAByrinth Theater Company. In 2014, she appeared Off-Broadway in an experimental all-female production of I Remember Mama, alongside Rita Gardner, Heather MacRae and Barbara Barrie.[7]



Year Title Role Notes
1981 Arthur Saleslady
1992 Leap of Faith Dolores
1998 Curtain Call Gladys
Better Living Nellie
1999 Bringing Out the Dead Mrs. Burke
2006 Little Children May MacGorvey
2007 Broken English Psychic
Lucky You Pawnbroker
2008 The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Grandma Fuller
2012 Surviving Family Mary Giaconne
2013 Stoker Mrs. McGarrick
The Double Mrs. James
2016 Detours Annie Delaney
2017 Our Souls at Night Ruth
2018 Diane Ina
2019 Poms Helen


Year Title Role Notes
1990 Law & Order Ms. Maltese
1991 Law & Order Kristen Cameron
1995 New York News Edith Schemer
NYPD Blue Dorothy Russell
1997 One Life to Live Charlotte Stonecliff
1998 Guiding Light Mrs. Beasley
Sex and the City Gertrude Morgan
Homicide: Life on the Street Faye Ann Ralston
2000 The Sopranos Brenda
2001 Third Watch Fran
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Mrs. Moss
2002 Law & Order: Criminal Intent Mrs. McLeish
2004 As the World Turns Annabelle Fettle
Law & Order: Criminal Intent Louise Politano
2007 Kidnapped Annie Phillips
2008 Life on Mars Mrs. Raimes
2010 CSI: Miami Louise Russo
The Big C Marlene
2011 Fringe Alice Merchant
2013 House of Cards Russo's Mother
Unforgettable Ruth
Elementary Miriam Berg
2014 Taxi Brooklyn Sasha Lowenthal
The Blacklist Skye Kincaid The Mombasa Cartel
2015 Blue Bloods Beth Del Rio Episode: Occupational Hazards
The Night Shift Marilyn Capshaw
Daredevil Mrs. Vistain
The Good Wife Louise Nolfi
2016 Impastor Ester Strumble
2016-17 Outsiders Lady Ray
2017 Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Meemaw
2018 Castle Rock Leanne Chambers


Year Title Role Notes
2016 Homecoming Ellen Bergman

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award / Festival Category Work Result
2006 Awards Circuit Community Awards Best Cast Ensemble Little Children Nominated
2009 Gold Derby Awards Best Ensemble Cast The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture Nominated
2012 Indie Gathering International Film Festival Best Supporting Actress Surviving Family Nominated
Golden Door Film Festival Best Supporting Actress Won
2016 Long Island International Film Expo Best Supporting Actress Stuff Won


  1. ^ Profile,; accessed May 30, 2014.
  2. ^ Lefa Pash Somerville obituary,; accessed May 28, 2014.
  3. ^ Profile,; accessed May 28, 2014.
  4. ^ Phyllis Somerville interview with AARP,; accessed May 28, 2014.
  5. ^ Profile,; accessed May 28, 2014.
  6. ^ Profile,; accessed May 28, 2014.
  7. ^ Profile,; accessed May 24, 2014.

External links[edit]