Rhea Perlman Biography

Rhea Jo Perlman is an American television and film actress. This biography profiles her childhood, family, personal life, acting career, achievements and other facts.

Quick Facts

Birthday: March 31, 1948

Nationality: American

Famous: Actresses American Women

Age: 72 Years, 72 Year Old Females

Sun Sign: Aries

Also Known As: Rhea Jo Perlman

Born in: Coney Island, New York, U.S.

Famous as: Actress

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Spouse/Ex-: Danny DeVito (m. 1982; separated 2017)

father: Philip Perlman

mother: Adele

U.S. State: New Yorkers

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Rhea Jo Perlman is an American actress who has been successful in making her presence felt in both films and TV with great élan. She is particularly well-known for portraying the character of a waitress, Carla Tortelli, in the popular American sitcom ‘Cheers’. A graduate from ‘Hunter College’, Perlman made her acting debut in early 1970s with a bit role in the off-off-Broadway play ‘Dracula Sabbat’, and for the next few years featured mostly in films and television movies. Her first notable role came with the TV series ‘Taxi’, but her big break came in 1982 when she landed up playing Carla Tortelli, in the TV series ‘Cheers’. Her brilliant performance in the sitcom from its very inception through the last episode in May 1993 garnered her ten Emmy Awards nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actress of which she won four. She also bagged a record six Golden Globe Awards nominations for Best Supporting Actress in a Television Series for the role. Other notable performances of Perlman includes in films like ‘Matilda’, ‘Sunset Park’ and ‘Carpool’; TV series like ‘Pearl’, and ‘The Mindy Project; and TV movies like ‘Secret Cutting’ and ‘Oliver's Ghost’.

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Childhood & Early Life
  • She was born on March 31, 1948, in Coney Island, New York, US, to Philip Perlman and Adele. Her mother was a bookkeeper, while her Polish immigrant father served a doll parts factory as manager. She was brought up in a Jewish family in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.
  • She attended ‘Hunter College’ in New York where she studied drama and completed her graduation obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1968.
  • Her parents relocated to Los Angeles in the mid-1980s. Her father eventually landed up with the role of an extra called Phil in the sitcom ‘Cheers’ and featured in over 30 episodes of the sitcom. With time he evolved as a character actor and featured in many TV series and films.
  • Her sister Heide Paula Perlman is a television script writer, producer and story editor. Heide is also a two time Primetime Emmy Awards winner who worked in TV series like ‘Cheers’ and ‘The George Carlin Show’; and variety show The Tracey Ullman Show among others.
  • Perlman’s made her acting debut on stage when she played a bit role of an attendant in the off-off-Broadway play ‘Dracula Sabbat’ that was staged from September 1970 to June next year.
  • She featured in the play ‘Up – An Uppity Revue’ in 1972 with the now famous American actor, comedian, director and producer Danny DeVito whom she married later. That year she also did a small role in the short film ‘Hot Dogs for Gauguin’ that marked film debut of DeVito.
  • From the mid-70s to the late-70s she appeared in several television movies including ‘Stalk the Wild Child’ (1976), ‘Mary Jane Harper Cried Last Night’ (1977) and ‘Like Normal People’ (1979) among others.
  • Her recurring guest cast as Zena Sherman, Louie's girlfriend (played by DeVito) in the famous American sitcom ‘Taxi’ marked among her first notable roles. The sitcom saw her featuring in all its five seasons starting from 1979 to 1982.
  • Meanwhile she played different roles like that of a shoplifting mother in the 1979 American comedy flick ‘Swap Meet’ and as the Little Jewish Prostitute in another American comedy flick ‘National Lampoon's Movie Madness’ (1982) among others.
  • However, her breakthrough came when she got noticed by producers Glen and Les Charles while performing in a play that led her to earn the role of Carla Tortelli, a "feisty", "worldly-wise" and highly superstitious barmaid in the American sitcom ‘Cheers’ in 1982.
  • Although striving to get a foothold in ratings during its first season, ‘Cheers’ later emerged among the most successful sitcoms running for 11 seasons on NBC starting from September 30, 1982, to May 20, 1993. It garnered 95 Emmy Awards nominations and won 20 of them.
  • The brilliance with which she portrayed the character of Carla earned her Emmy Awards nomination each year for all the 11 seasons of the sitcom. Of these she bagged Emmy Awards as an Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series four times in 1984, 1985, 1986 and 1989.
  • She also boasts of being the only one to have earned nomination for a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress for six times. Other accolades received by her for Carla included being honoured by ‘Viewers for Quality Television’ as the Best Supporting Actress (Comedy) in 1985 and by the ‘American Comedy Awards’ as the ‘Funniest Supporting Actress’ in 1989. Carla was also named among the all-time greatest TV characters by CBS in 2011.
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  • Her remarkable performance as Carla saw Perlman appearing in all the 271 episodes of ‘Cheers’. She then reprised the role in spin-offs of ‘Cheers’ namely ‘The Tortellis’ (1987) in its pilot episode and in ‘Frasier’ (2002) in its episode ‘Cheerful Goodbyes’; as also in the TV series ‘St. Elsewhere’ in its episode ‘Cheers’ in 1985.
  • She also gave voice over as Carla in American animated sitcom ‘The Simpsons’ in its episode titled ‘Fear of Flying’ in 1994.
  • Basking with the ongoing success of ‘Cheers’ she meanwhile performed in different other starring roles in TV movies including as Shirley in ‘To Grandmother's House We Go’ (1992); as Jerri Blair in ‘A Place to Be Loved’ (1993) and as Emma in ‘In Spite of Love’ (1994). She also starred as Lois in the episode ‘The Wedding Ring’ from the Steven Spielberg created TV series ‘Amazing Stories’ in 1986.
  • Her next notable TV series after ‘Cheers was the American sitcom ‘Pearl’ where she played the titular character of Pearl Caraldo in all its 22 episodes that aired on CBS from September 16, 1996 until June 25, 1997.
  • In 1996, she performed in starring roles in films like ‘Sunset Park’, ‘Carpool’ and ‘Matilda’. Of these ‘Matilda’, an American children's fantasy comedy flick directed, co-produced and starred by DeVito became a blockbuster hit worldwide.
  • Other notable films of Perlman includes ‘Love Comes Lately’ (2007), ‘Beethoven's Big Break’ (2008), and ‘The Sessions’ (2012). Over the years she also gave voice over in films like ‘My Little Pony: The Movie’ (1986), ‘We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story’ (1993) and ‘Sing’ (2016).
  • From 2014 to 2016, she played the recurring role of Annette Castellano in 13 episodes of the American romantic comedy TV series ‘The Mindy Project’. Her other notable TV series include ‘Kate Brasher’ (2001), Hung (2009–2010), and ‘Me and My Grandma’ (2017).
  • She impersonated Jacqueline Kennedy in the TV film ‘How to Marry a Billionaire: A Christmas Tale’ (2000). Other notable TV movies of Perlman include ‘Secret Cutting’ (2000), ‘The Christmas Choir’ (2008) and ‘Oliver's Ghost’ (2011).
  • The off-Broadway play ‘Love, Loss, and What I Wore’ that was staged at the Westside Theatre in 2009 saw her starring along with her daughter American actress Lucy DeVito.
  • A miniseries of illustrated children’s books ‘Otto Undercover’ was penned down by Perlman with illustrations by American author and illustrator Dan Santat.
  • ‘Otto Undercover’ so far comprise of six books – ‘Born To Drive’ (2006), ‘Canyon Catastrophe’ (2006), ‘Water Balloon Doom’ (2006), ‘Toxic Taffy Takeover’ (2006), ‘Brink of the Ex-Stink-Tion’ (2007) and ‘Brain Freeze’ (2007). Of these ‘The Brink of the Ex-Stink-Tion’ was selected among 50 best books of the year 2007 by ‘Child Magazine’.
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Personal Life & Legacy
  • She married Danny DeVito on January 28, 1982, after being together since early 1971. Together they have three children - Lucy Chet, born in March 1983; Grace Fan, born in March 1985; and Jacob Daniel, born in October 1987.
  • The couple first separated in October 2012 then reconciled later which was reported in March 2013, but they again separated in March 2017.

1. Hot Dogs for Gauguin (1972)


2. The Sessions (2012)

  (Biography, Romance, Drama, Comedy)

3. Matilda (1996)

  (Comedy, Fantasy, Family)

4. 10 Items or Less (2006)

  (Drama, Comedy)

5. I'll See You in My Dreams (2015)

  (Comedy, Drama, Romance)

6. Love Child (1982)

  (Crime, Romance, Drama)

7. Class Act (1992)


8. Canadian Bacon (1995)



Primetime Emmy Awards
1989 Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series Cheers (1982)
1986 Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series Cheers (1982)
1985 Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series Cheers (1982)
1984 Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series Cheers (1982)

See the events in life of Rhea Perlman in Chronological Order

How To Cite

Article Title
- Rhea Perlman Biography
- Editors, TheFamousPeople.com
- TheFamousPeople.com
Last Updated
- August 28, 2017
Rhea Perlman

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