Childhood & Early Life
Phyllis was born on July 10, 1951, in The Hill, a neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri. She is the second of the 10 children of her parents. Not much is known about her parents or their professions.
In 1972, Phyllis graduated from the 'University of Missouri–St. Louis,' majoring in elementary education. Around the same time, she was a cheerleader member of ‘St. Louis Cardinals’ (now known as the ‘Arizona Cardinals’) football team. She was a burlesque performer till the 1980s. Phyllis was also a professional jazz dancer and worked under the mentorship of Raoul Appel. She has performed ballet with 'The St. Louis Dance Theater' and the 'St. Louis Civic Ballet.'
As a dancer, Phyllis has traveled to several parts of the US. She has toured with a Vaudeville burlesque show and with Able's 'Baggy Pants Burlesque.' She showcased her comedy skills in the ‘Mercer Brothers’ show 'Giggles Galore.' Phyllis, who loves to dance and has been following her passion since the age of 7, had to unfortunately quit after sustaining a knee injury. She stopped dancing after she hit her late-30s.
After this, Phyllis took up a job as a telemarketer. However, she resigned only after working for 3 hours. Phyllis then moved to Hollywood, California, and began her career as an actor and a casting crew.
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Phyllis’s debut paid acting role was as an “extra” in the 1980 comedy film 'Caddyshack.' Following this, she was cast to voice the mother of the character named ‘Abigail’ in the 1993 British–American animated children's film 'Once Upon a Forest.' However, Phyllis’s voiceover was deleted in the final print of the movie. She had uncredited roles in the films 'The Princess and the Goblin' (as the narrator) and 'The Thief and the Cobbler' (as the ‘Maiden from Mombassa’) that were released in the subsequent years.
Phyllis then began working as a casting crew member. She was hired as a casting associate for the 1992 TV movie 'A Taste for Killing.' From 1994 to 1997, Phyllis worked as a casting associate in the western drama series 'Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.' She was also the casting crew member for an episode of the 'UPN' science-fiction series 'Roswell.' Phyllis assisted the casting crew of the 'ABC' sitcom 'Spin City.'
In 2005, Phyllis was seen as ‘Carla’ in an episode of the 'Fox' sitcom 'Arrested Development,' titled 'The Immaculate Election.' She also worked as part of the casting crew of the 'HBO' sitcom 'Curb Your Enthusiasm.' The same year, Phyllis got her breakthrough role in the 'NBC' sitcom 'The Office.' Her character, ‘Phyllis Vance,’ was created specifically for her. Before her stint as an actor on the show, she worked as the show’s casting associate.
Phyllis’s namesake character in the series was a saleswoman who was portrayed as humble and soft-spoken but with a tendency to contradict her self-centered office manager, ‘Michael Scott,’ played by actor Steve Carell. Phyllis remained on the show for 187 episodes, from 2005 to 2013. The role earned her and the crew two 'Screen Actors Guild Awards,' one each in 2006 and 2007, in the category of ‘Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series.’ She was also nominated for the award from 2009 to 2013. The show was a huge success, and Phyllis’s performance, too, was highly appreciated.
In 2006, Phyllis reprised her 'The Office' role in the show’s spin-off, 'The Office: The Accountants.' She was seen in the episode titled 'Phyllis.' Phyllis played the same character again, 2 years later, in another spin-off, 'The Office: The Outburst.' The same year, in June, Phyllis, along with her 'The Office' co-stars, appeared on the spin-off of the game show 'Family Feud’, titled 'Celebrity Family Feud.'
In 2011, Phyllis bagged the notable film role of ‘Lynn’ in the comedy flick 'Bad Teacher.' The same year, she made her voiceover debut with the comedy animation 'Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked.' However, her most significant voiceover character was that of ‘Sadness’ in the 'Pixar' animated comedy movie 'Inside Out.' She received accolades for her remarkable job as a voice-over artist and also won an 'Annie Award' for ‘Voice Acting in a Feature Production.’
In 2016, Phyllis was seen as ‘Betty Broderick-Allen,’ better known as “BBA,” in the 'Netflix' series 'The OA.' This science-fiction drama about near-death experiences rekindled her passion for dance, as the show featured some quasi-dance moves.
Family & Personal Life
Phyllis has always preferred to keep her personal life away from the limelight. She has never been rumored to date anyone. Phyllis is unmarried and lives happily with her four cats, Shy Boy, Princess, Little Grey, and Sweet Face, and her two turtles, Speedy and Alvin.
Phyllis considers herself a spiritual person and is someone who believes in angels.