Rhea Perlman

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Rhea Perlman
Perlman in 2011
Rhea Jo Perlman

(1948-03-31) March 31, 1948 (age 75)
Alma materHunter College (BA)
  • Actor
  • writer
Years active1972–present
Height5 ft 0 in (1.52 m)
(m. 1982; sep. 2017)
Children3, including Lucy DeVito
RelativesHeide Perlman (sister)

Rhea Jo Perlman[2] (born March 31, 1948) is an American actress. She is well-known for playing head waitress Carla Tortelli in the sitcom Cheers (1982–1993).[3] Over the course of 11 seasons, Perlman was nominated for ten Emmy Awards for Outstanding Supporting Actress — winning four times — and was nominated for a record six Golden Globe Awards for Best Supporting Actress in a Television Series. She has also appeared in films, including Canadian Bacon (1995), Matilda (1996), The Sessions (2012), Poms (2019), and Barbie (2023).

Early life[edit]

Perlman was born on March 31, 1948, in Coney Island, Brooklyn, to Philip Perlman, a Polish immigrant who was a manager at a doll parts factory and Adele, a bookkeeper.[4] She grew up in Bensonhurst in a Jewish family with additional roots in Russia.[5] She has a sister, Heide, who is a television writer, story editor, and producer who worked on Cheers, Frasier and The Tracey Ullman Show.[6] In the mid-1980s, her parents moved to Los Angeles, and her father became an extra on Cheers. His character became known by his real name, Phil, and he managed to get a few lines over the years as he appeared in more than 30 episodes. He created a second career as a character actor, appearing in several films and television shows, including Throw Momma from the Train, Hoffa, and Frasier.[4][6]

She studied drama at Hunter College in New York, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1968.[1][7][6]


Perlman at the 1988 Emmy Awards

Perlman began her acting career with a small role as an attendant in the off-off-Broadway play Dracula Sabbat, which ran from September 1970 to June 1971.[1][8] In 1972, she played a bit role in the film Hot Dogs for Gauguin. That same year she appeared in Westbeth Playwrights Feminist Collective's production of Up – An Uppity Revue, along with her future husband, Danny DeVito.[9]

One of her first notable parts was a recurring role on the television show Taxi as Zena, the sweet girlfriend of Louie De Palma (played by DeVito).

Following that, she had a role in a small play portraying a much tougher character.[10] Producers Glen and Les Charles saw her in that play, which led to her landing the role as wisecracking barmaid Carla Tortelli on their sitcom Cheers in 1982. The series struggled with ratings in its first season, but by the time it ended in 1993, it was one of the most popular and successful shows of all time, winning 20 Emmy awards out of 95 nominations.[10][11]

Perlman won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy four times: in 1984, 1985, 1986 and 1989.[12] Over her 11 seasons on Cheers, she was nominated for an Emmy every year but 1992, becoming the Cheers star to have the most wins and nominations. She was also nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress six times, more than anyone else in that category. In 2011, NBC named Carla Tortelli as one of the greatest TV characters of all time.[13]

In 1986, Perlman starred in an episode of Steven Spielberg's Amazing Stories titled "The Wedding Ring," which also starred DeVito as her character's husband.

In the 1990s, Perlman starred in several TV movies and motion pictures. In 1992, she starred in the made-for-TV-movie, To Grandmother's House We Go opposite Ashley Olsen and Mary-Kate Olsen, playing the wife of Jerry Van Dyke's character; the couple kidnapped the Olsen Twins' characters, hoping to cash in on ransom before Christmas. Other TV films in which she starred included the dramas A Place to Be Loved and In Spite of Love.

Perlman's motion picture roles included There Goes The Neighborhood (1992), Canadian Bacon (1995), Carpool (1996), Sunset Park (1996), and Matilda (1996). She had a cameo in the film 10 Items Or Less (2006), and also starred in the 2007 independent film Love Comes Lately.

In 1994, Perlman voiced 9-Eye in The Timekeeper, a Circle-Vision show at the Magic Kingdom in Tomorrowland. She later starred in the 1996 sitcom Pearl as the title character and was featured on the 2001 TV drama Kate Brasher. Among her notable guest appearances was on the fourth-season premiere of Becker, which starred Cheers co-star Ted Danson.

Perlman also appeared in a 2000 television film How to Marry a Billionaire: A Christmas Tale, in which she impersonated Jacqueline Kennedy. She also portrayed a therapist called Dr. Parella in the 2000 film Secret Cutting, which follows the story of a young girl named Dawn who self-injures. In 2007, Perlman appeared as Bertha in the West End of London in the comedy Boeing Boeing. In 2008, she starred in the Hallmark Channel original movie, The Christmas Choir, and appeared in Beethoven's Big Break in 2008 as Patricia Benji. In 2009, she appeared as Tanya's mother on the series Hung for Home Box Office Networks. In 2011, Perlman had a guest appearance as Mittens in one episode of Wilfred.

In 2009, Perlman and her daughter Lucy DeVito starred in the off-Broadway play Love, Loss, and What I Wore, adapted by Nora and Delia Ephron, at the Westside Theatre.[3]

From 2014 to 2017, she starred in a recurring role on The Mindy Project as Danny's mother, Annette Castellano.

In 2023, Perlman earned critical praise for playing Barbie creator Ruth Handler in Greta Gerwig's film Barbie.[14][15]


Perlman is the author of the illustrated children's book series Otto Undercover, whose six books to date (as of the middle of May 2012) are Born to Drive, Canyon Catastrophe, Water Balloon Doom, Toxic Taffy Takeover, The Brink of Ex-stink-tion, and Brain Freeze.

Personal life[edit]

Perlman with her husband Danny DeVito in 2006.

Perlman met Danny DeVito on January 17, 1971, when she went to see a friend in the single performance of the play The Shrinking Bride, which also featured DeVito.[16] They moved in together two weeks after meeting[17] and married on January 28, 1982.[18] They have three children: Lucy Chet DeVito, Grace Fan DeVito, and Jacob Daniel DeVito.[19] Perlman, who is Jewish, and DeVito, who was raised Catholic, raised their children celebrating the major holidays of both religions but did not give their children any religious identity. Perlman told the Los Angeles Times in 1998:

"We do all the holidays to keep the traditions and the culture going, but I truly don't have a great feeling about any particular organized religion, and I don't think it's right to impose one on my kids. I feel like I'm bringing them up to be good people, and that's what it's about."[5]

In addition to their three children, the couple has one granddaughter.[20]

The family resided in Beverly Hills, California, and they owned a vacation home in Interlaken, New Jersey that they frequented to get away from Los Angeles.[21][22] Throughout their relationship, Perlman and DeVito have acted alongside each other several times, including in the TV show Taxi and the feature film Matilda.[19]

Perlman and DeVito separated in October 2012.[19] However, in March 2013, it was reported that they had reconciled.[23] The couple later separated again for a second time in March 2017 on amicable terms.[24] Although the two no longer live together, Perlman said she has no intention of divorcing DeVito.[24] In 2019, Perlman told interviewer Andy Cohen that she and DeVito have become closer friends after their separation than they were in their final years as a couple.[25]



Year Title Role Notes
1972 Hot Dogs for Gauguin Woman on Ferry Short film
1979 Swap Meet Mother
1982 National Lampoon's Movie Madness The Little Jewish Prostitute
Love Child June Burns
1985 Molly and the Skywalkerz: Happily Ever After Rose Johnson Voice
1986 My Little Pony: The Movie Reeka Voice
1989 Molly and the Skywalkerz: Two Daddies? Rose Johnson Voice
1990 Enid Is Sleeping Mavis
1991 The Last Halloween Mrs. Gizborne
Ted and Venus Grace
1992 To Grandmother's House We Go Shirley
Class Act Ms. Simpson
There Goes the Neighborhood Lydia Nunn
1993 We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story Mother Bird Voice
1995 Canadian Bacon Honey
1996 Sunset Park Phyllis Saroka
Carpool Martha
Matilda Zinnia Wormwood
2001 Old Love Short film
2006 10 Items or Less Mrs. D
2007 Bloom Ma Short film
Love Comes Lately Riesel
2008 Cat Dragged In Woman in Street Short film
Beethoven's Big Break Patricia
2011 The Trouble with Bliss Maria
2012 The Sessions Mikvah Lady
2015 I'll See You in My Dreams Sally
2016 Sing Judith Voice[26]
2017 Lemon Esther
2018 Half Magic Linda
2019 Poms Alice
2020 Funny Face Fernie
2021 Marvelous and the Black Hole Margot
2022 13: The Musical Grandma Ruth
2023 You People Bubby
Barbie Ruth Handler[27] Nominated–Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture


Year Title Role Notes
1976 Stalk the Wild Child Jean
I Want to Keep My Baby! Rae Finer
1977 Mary Jane Harper Cried Last Night Judy
Having Babies II Cheryl Uncredited
Intimate Strangers Unknown
1979 Like Normal People Jan
1979–1982 Taxi Zena Sherman 5 episodes
1982 The Selling of Vince D'Angelo Mrs. D'Angelo Television film
Drop Out Father Tawney Shapiro Television film
1982–1993 Cheers Carla Tortelli
Annette Lozupone (one episode)
Main role
American Comedy Award for Funniest Supporting Female in a Television Series
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (1984–86, 1989)
Viewers for Quality Television Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Quality Comedy Series
Nominated—American Comedy Award for Funniest Supporting Female in a Television Series
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film (1985, 1987–90, 1992)
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (1983, 1987–88, 1990–91, 1993)
1983 Unlikely Stories, Vol. 2 Vince's Wife Television film
Saturday Night Live Herself (co-host) Episode: "Danny DeVito & Rhea Perlman/Eddy Grant"
1984 The Ratings Game Francine Kester Voice, television film
1985 A Girl Named Alida Rose Johnson Voice, television film
St. Elsewhere Carla Tortelli Episode: "Cheers"
1986 Amazing Stories Lois Episode: "The Wedding Ring"
Annie Rose Johnson Voice, 12 episodes
1987 The Tortellis Carla Tortelli Episode: "Pilot"
Stamp of a Killer Claudia Television film
1988 A Family Again Aunt Dee Television film
1989 Alida's Problem? Rose Johnson Television film
1990 The Earth Day Special Paula Television special
1991 Blossom The Godmother Episode: "Dad's Girlfriend"
Sesame Street The Old Woman Who Lives in a Shoe Episode: "The Old Woman Who Lives in a Shoe's house arrives on Sesame Street"
1992 Roc Connie Mason Episode: "The Stan Who Came to Dinner"
1993 A Place to Be Loved Jerri Blair Television film
1994 The Simpsons Carla Tortelli Voice, episode: "Fear of Flying"
In Spite of Love Emma Television film
All-Star 25th Birthday: Stars and Street Forever! Worm TV Host Television film
1995 The Critic Ardeth Voice, 2 episodes
1996–1997 Pearl Pearl Caraldo 22 episodes
1997 Union Square Mrs. Eileen Mulrooney Episode: "Harassed"
Almost Perfect Rhea Perlman Episode: "Dating for Ratings"
1998 In the Doghouse Phil Markowitz Television film
Houdini Esther Television film
1999 H-E Double Hockey Sticks Mrs. Beelzebub Television film
Mad About You Ramona Episode: "Valentine's Day"
2000 A Tale of Two Bunnies Thelma Television film
Secret Cutting Dr. Parella Television film
How to Marry a Billionaire: A Christmas Tale Jacqueline Kennedy Television film
2001 Ally McBeal Dr. Helen Tooth Episode: "Falling Up"
Kate Brasher Abbie Shaeffer 6 episodes
Becker Dr. Katherine Simmons Episode: "Psycho Therapy"
2002 Frasier Carla Tortelli Episode: "Cheerful Goodbyes"
What's New, Scooby-Doo? Agnes Voice, episode: "A Scooby-Doo Halloween"
2003 Karen Sisco Louise Salchek Episode: "Dumb Bunnies"
Other People's Business Mrs. Wabash Television film
2004 Kevin Hill Eleanor Frank Episode: "Homework"
2006 Crumbs Camile Spadaro Episode: "A Loon Again, Naturally"
Stroller Wars Penny Television film
2008 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Roxana Fox Episode: "Unorthodox"
The Christmas Choir Sister Agatha Television film
2009–2010 Hung Vera-Joan Skagle 4 episodes
2011 Wilfred Mittens Episode: "Compassion"
Oliver's Ghost Eloise Television film
2012 Hot in Cleveland Jacki Episode: "Everything Goes Better with Vampires"
The Manzanis Camille Pilot
2012–2013 Robot and Monster Nessie Voice, 13 episodes
2013 Robot Chicken Crypt Keeper's Wife / Grandmother / Witch Voice, episode: "Caffeine-Induced Aneurysm"
2013–2014 Kirstie Thelma 12 episodes
2014 The Neighbors Janet Episode: "Uncle Benjamin"
2014–2017 The Mindy Project Annette Castellano 17 episodes
2015 Getting On Crystal Buff Episode: "No, I Don't Want a Fucking Smiley Face"
2016 Mom[28] Anya Episode: "Diabetic Lesbians and a Blushing Bride"
Brooklyn Nine-Nine Estelle Episode: "Coral Palms, Part 1"
2017 Me and My Grandma[29] Grandma Skalecki 6 episodes
Tim & Eric's Bedtime Stories Maureen Episode: "The Duke"
2018 Shooter Associate Justice Gibson 2 episodes
2019 The Goldbergs Margot Letien Episode: “Food in a Geoffy”[30]
Harley Quinn Golda Voice, episode: "Being Harley Quinn"
2021–2023 Star Wars: The Bad Batch Cid Voice, 11 episodes
2022 Little Demon Durlawn Voice, episode: "Wet Bodies"
2023 Accused Joyce Episode: "Brenda's Story"
Poker Face Beatrix Hasp Voice, episode: "The Hook"
Not Dead Yet Janice Episode: "Not A Fairytale Yet"
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia Bertha Fussy Episode: "The Gang Gets Cursed"
Curses! Margie Voice, 3 episodes


  1. ^ a b c Brant, Marley (2006). Happier Days: Paramount Television's Classic Sitcoms, 1974-1984. Billboard Books. p. 166. ISBN 9780823089338. Retrieved May 6, 2017.
  2. ^ "Veromi.net - People Summary". www.veromi.net.
  3. ^ a b Itzkoff, Dave (November 17, 2009). "Rhea Perlman and Lucy DeVito in 'Love, Loss, and What I Wore'". The New York Times. Retrieved May 5, 2017.
  4. ^ a b Barnes, Mike (May 7, 2015). "Philip Perlman, 'Cheers' Barfly and Father of Rhea Perlman, Dies at 95". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 6, 2017.
  5. ^ a b Lacher, Irene (December 28, 1998). "No Religious Ballyhoo in Her Family". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 5, 2017.
  6. ^ a b c Kennedy, Dana (October 4, 1996). "Rhea Perlman's real life is super sweet". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved May 6, 2017.
  7. ^ Hunter College Commencement Exercises (PDF). Hunter College. June 11, 1968. p. 14. Retrieved May 6, 2017.
  8. ^ "Dracula Sabbat at Judson Poets Theater and others 1970-1971". About The Artists. Retrieved May 6, 2017.
  9. ^ "Cheers: funniest lines". The Daily Telegraph. May 20, 2016. Retrieved May 6, 2017.
  10. ^ a b Raftery, Brian (September 27, 2012). "Cheers Oral History". GQ. Retrieved May 5, 2017.
  11. ^ Shapiro, Mitchell E.; Jicha, Tom (2015). The Top 100 American Situation Comedies: An Objective Ranking. McFarland. pp. 8–9. ISBN 9781476623405. Retrieved May 5, 2017.
  12. ^ "Rhea Perlman". Television Academy. Retrieved May 5, 2017.
  13. ^ "50 Greatest TV Characters". March 29, 2011. Retrieved May 5, 2017.
  14. ^ "Barbie's Creator Appeared In The Movie — But She Was Totally Different IRL". Bustle. July 24, 2023. Retrieved July 28, 2023.
  15. ^ Peters, Fletcher (July 28, 2023). "Rhea Perlman Puts a Fantastic Twist on Barbie's Real Creator". The Daily Beast. Retrieved July 28, 2023.
  16. ^ Lovece, Frank; with Franco, Jules (1988). Hailing Taxi: The Official Book of the Show. New York: Simon & Schuster / Prentice Hall Press. pp. 53, 286. ISBN 978-0-13-372103-4.
  17. ^ Lovece, pp. 53, 80
  18. ^ Wallace, Carol (December 12, 1983). "Chalk Up a Successful Marriage for TV's Tart-Tongued Twosome, Danny De Vito and Rhea Perlman". People. Archived from the original on November 20, 2012. Retrieved October 8, 2012.
  19. ^ a b c "Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman Separate". Entertainment Tonight. Archived from the original on October 10, 2012. Retrieved October 8, 2012.
  20. ^ Perman and DeVito family
  21. ^ Boon, Jon. "Single In The City! Danny DeVito Moving To New York: He Misses The Big Apple!", RadarOnline, October 15, 2012. Accessed January 24, 2023. "Danny and Rhea used to stay at his vacation home in Interlaken, New Jersey whenever they wanted a break away from Los Angeles. He never really felt an affinity to California and lived there purely for work reasons."
  22. ^ "Monmouth County, New Jersey Tax Assessor's Office property record for Danny De Vito and Rhea Perlman". Tax1.co.monmouth.nj.us. Retrieved February 10, 2010.
  23. ^ Leonard, Elizabeth (March 15, 2013). "Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman Are Back Together". People. Retrieved March 16, 2013.
  24. ^ a b "Why Rhea Perlman won't divorce Danny DeVito". New York Post. March 8, 2018. Retrieved July 9, 2018.
  25. ^ Squires, Bethy (May 10, 2019). "Rhea Perlman and Danny DeVito May Be Separated, but They're Still Bros". Vulture. Retrieved May 26, 2019.
  26. ^ "Sing - Full Cast and Credits". Hollywood.com. Retrieved November 30, 2016.
  27. ^ "Barbie's Ruth Handler: More on the Doll's Creator and Those IRS Jokes".
  28. ^ "Diabetic Lesbians and a Blushing Bride". the Futon Critic. Retrieved January 30, 2016.
  29. ^ "Rhea Perlman cast alongside Eva Gutowski on 'Me and My Grandma'". Tubefilter. November 2016. Retrieved March 15, 2017.
  30. ^ Dawn, Randee (September 17, 2019). "A mini-'Cheers' reunion is coming to TV! See the pics". Today. Retrieved September 18, 2019.

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