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Phylicia Rashad Once Discussed 'Cosby Show' and Its Impact on Married Life

Aby Rivas
Feb 25, 2020
09:30 A.M.
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“The Cosby Show” star Phylicia Rashad, better known for portraying the matriarch of the Huxtable family on the popular ’80s show, once opened up about the impact that her fictitious marriage to Bill Cosby had on her real-life relationships.

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Phylicia Rashad is also known as “the mother of the black community,” thanks to her different TV roles as iconic motherly figures through her more than four-decade-long career.

Phylicia Rashad as Clair Hanks Huxtable, Bill Cosby as Dr. Heathcliff 'Cliff' Huxtable on "The Cosby Show" | Photo: GettyImages

Phylicia Rashad as Clair Hanks Huxtable, Bill Cosby as Dr. Heathcliff 'Cliff' Huxtable on "The Cosby Show" | Photo: GettyImages

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Her portrayal of Clair Huxtable, a successful attorney, mother of five, and wife to Bill Cosby’s character Cliff Huxtable, earned her several Emmy nominations and the status of a television icon.

Three decades later, people that recognize her on the streets still mention Clair as a point of reference, and more often than not, Rashad receives messages of gratitude from people that saw the show as a good example of what a family and marriage should be like.

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LIFE DOESN’T ALWAYS IMITATE ART

Unlike Clair, who had one big happy marriage, by the time Rashad landed the role in 1984, she had already been married and divorced twice.

The 71-year-old star reflected on Clair and Cliff Huxtable’s marriage and how they shed light on the relationship between husband and wife, and, most importantly, how to survive children together.

She married dentist William Lancelot Bowles Jr. in 1972, and the following year they welcomed a son, William Lancelot III. However, the couple split in 1975.

Three years later, Rashad married Victor Willis, the original lead singer of the Village People group. They were together for four years and divorced in 1982.

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Phylicia Rashad attends the "Once On This Island" Broadway Opening Night at Circle in the Square Theatre on December 3, 2017 | Photo: GettyImages

Phylicia Rashad attends the "Once On This Island" Broadway Opening Night at Circle in the Square Theatre on December 3, 2017 | Photo: GettyImages

And one year into the success of “The Cosby Show,” Rashad’s third spouse, sportscaster Ahmad Rashad, surprised her and the entire country when he proposed on national television in the middle of a special transmission for a thanksgiving football game.

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The proposal was on November 28, and the couple tied the knot on December 14 of the same year. Then the following year, they welcomed daughter Condola Phylea Rashad.

Phylicia Rashad onstage during the Black Girls Rock! 2018 show at New Jersey Performing Arts Center on August 26, 2018 in Newark, New Jersey | Photo: GettyImages

Phylicia Rashad onstage during the Black Girls Rock! 2018 show at New Jersey Performing Arts Center on August 26, 2018 in Newark, New Jersey | Photo: GettyImages

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GOING TO THE EXTREME

Rashad believed she had found the love of her life with Ahmad to the point that, in a 1987 interview with The Morning Call, she said she would throw herself into a pyre if he died.

Rashad was initially talking about the relationship between Clair and Cliff Huxtable, and how Clair was the kind of woman so devoted to her husband, that she would throw herself into the funeral pyre like Indian women did when their husband died.

“I understand that now, why women would do that,” Rashad explained, saying that there was something about devotion and having that kind of connection with another human being that was incredible.

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Phylicia Rashad and husband/sportscaster Ahmad Rashad arrive at an event in New York City, April 15, 1989 | Photo: GettyImages

Phylicia Rashad and husband/sportscaster Ahmad Rashad arrive at an event in New York City, April 15, 1989 | Photo: GettyImages

Rashad admitted that the idea was dramatic, but when faced with the hypothetical question of how many women would throw themselves into a funerary pyre if they were custom in America, she replied:

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“I really don’t know. I would.”

And continued:

“We don’t throw ourselves on a funeral pyre, but when people have lived together for so long and one leaves, shortly after, the other one’s going to go some kind of way. How many times have you seen that?”

Phylicia Rashad attends the Broadway opening night performance for "Children of a Lesser God" at Studio 54 Theatre on April 11, 2018 | Photo: GettyImages

Phylicia Rashad attends the Broadway opening night performance for "Children of a Lesser God" at Studio 54 Theatre on April 11, 2018 | Photo: GettyImages

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Sadly, Rashad’s and Ahmad’s connection wasn’t everlasting, and they divorced in 2001 after 16 years together.

LESSON LEARNED

In 2017, while on a special interview for Oprah’s “Where Are They Now,” Rashad admitted that despite having been married three times, she didn’t feel as if she was ever truly married.

The 71-year-old star reflected on Clair and Cliff Huxtable’s marriage and how they shed light on the relationship between husband and wife, and, most importantly, how to survive children together.

Phylicia Rashad attends the 2019 Creative Arts Emmy Awards on September 15, 2019 | Photo: GettyImages

Phylicia Rashad attends the 2019 Creative Arts Emmy Awards on September 15, 2019 | Photo: GettyImages

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“I always felt that one of the reasons that Clair was held in such esteem by audiences, was because she was held in such esteem by her husband,” Rashad said, and continued:

“People should marry so that they can build a life together. I’ve been married three times, but I don’t feel that I’ve ever been married once.”

But despite her failed relationships, Rashad still believes in love, as she told Closer Weekly she is surrounded by it. After all, she still has her two children, even though they are all grown-up now.

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