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From ‘Cheers’ to ‘Barbie,’ Take A Look Back At Rhea Perlman’s Life and Career

Find out why she’s separated from husband Danny Devito, but not divorced!

Rhea Perlman, a powerhouse in the entertainment industry, has graced screens big and small for decades with her remarkable career and undeniable charisma. Born into a humble family in New York City, Perlman’s journey to stardom is one of resilience, passion, and unparalleled dedication to her craft.

Rhea Perlman’s early life

Rhea Perlman was born on March 31, 1948, in Brooklyn, New York, to Philip and Adele Perlman. Her father, Philip, worked as a doll and toy part salesman, while her mother, Adele, was a bookkeeper.

Rhea Perlman’s early life (Rhea Pearlman )
1983Aaron Rapoport / Contributor/Getty

Growing up in a tight-knit Jewish family, Perlman was instilled with values of hard work, determination, and perseverance from a young age. Despite facing financial struggles, her parents emphasized the importance of education and encouraged her artistic inclinations.

Must read: 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Rhea Perlman: From Her Marriage to Danny DeVito to Her Hidden Talent

Rhea Perlman’s introduction to acting

Rhea Perlman discovered her passion for a career in acting during her time at Hunter College in New York City, where she studied drama. She told EW, “We couldn’t afford to send me away to school, but at least I was getting out of Brooklyn.”

Perlman’s early career and breakthrough- Cheers (Rhea Pearlman )
Rhea Perlman in Cheers (1982)

It was here that she honed her skills and realized her potential as a performer. After graduating, Perlman pursued acting professionally, determined to carve out a career in the competitive world of entertainment.

Rhea Perlman’s early career and breakthrough

The career of Rhea Perlman began with roles in off-Broadway productions, where she showcased her versatility and comedic timing. She then appeared in shows like Taxi, before getting her breakout role as the sharp-tongued waitress Carla Tortelli on the hit sitcom Cheers. That show catapulted her to fame. Portraying Carla with unmatched wit and sass, Perlman became a beloved fixture on the show, earning widespread acclaim and four Primetime Emmy Awards for her role.

Nicholas Colasanto, Rhea Perlman, Shelley Long and Ted Danson in Cheers (1982)
Nicholas Colasanto, Rhea Perlman, Shelley Long and Ted Danson in Cheers (1982)

She was on Cheers from 1982 to 1993. She told People, that she wouldn’t be where she is today without that show. Perlman said, “Nobody knows what doesn’t happen, but it was the best job in the world.”

Must read: Wanna Go Where Everybody Knows Your Name? See the ‘Cheers’ Cast Then and Now

Rhea Perlman movies and television throughout the decades

As Perlman’s career flourished, she ventured into the world of film, showcasing her talent in a diverse range of roles. She appeared in movies such as Canadian Bacon (1995), Carpool (1996), and Matilda (1996) where Danny Davito played her on-screen husband.

Movies and television throughout the decades- Matilda (Rhea Pearlman )
Rhea Perlman and Danny DeVito in Matilda (1996) Pictures

She then went on to appear in Stroller Wars (2006), I’ll See You In My Dreams (2015), the voice of Judith on Sing (2016) and the part of Alice on Poms (2019). In 2022 Perlman, appeared in the movie Marvelous and the Black Hole. She told People that she’s excited about the increasing number of women behind the camera and hopes that means she’ll continue to have acting roles. “Kate Tsang,who’s the writer and director of Marvelous and the Black Hole, had never directed a feature before.

Must read: The Top 10 Funniest Sitcom Episodes of All Time, Ranked!

Movies and television throughout the decades - Sing
Rhea Perlman as Judith in Sing Studios

And she couldn’t have been more prepared every day,” Perlman gushes. “And the producer Carolyn Mao, she’s amazing. And the cinematographer was a woman. It was a really great feeling. There’s always more parts for men, but I think that everybody’s aware of trying to write for women and cast women. I feel very optimistic about it.”

In 2023, Perlman played the character Ruth Handler (the creator of Barbie) in the Barbie movie; the star-studded cast included Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling.

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Movies and television throughout the decades - Barbie (Rhea Perlman career)
Rhea Perlman and Margot Robbie in Barbie (2023) Brothers Studios

In addition to her film work, Perlman remained active in television, starring in sitcoms like Pearl (1996–1997) and Kirstie (2013–2014). She also had a recurring role on FOX’s The Mindy Project from 2014 to 2017. From 2021-2023 she was the voice of Cid in Star Wars: The Bad Batch.

She also still performs on stage. In 2023 she starred in the off-Broadway hit Let’s Call Her Patty in New York. She told Theater Mania, “I started in New York and early on, I did a lot of off-off-Broadway. Then we decided to spend some time in LA. I thought it would be a short stint; I never imagined we’d end up there permanently.”

Perlman’s ability to seamlessly transition between comedic and dramatic roles garnered praise from audiences and critics alike, cementing her legacy as one of Hollywood’s most talented actresses.

Must read: Barbie’s Fabulous 64-Year History + Discover What *Your* Vintage Barbie Is Worth

Rhea Perlman gets personal

Outside of her professional endeavors, Perlman married fellow comedian and actor Danny DeVito. Perlman spotted her future husband in an off-off Broadway play called The Shrinking Bride. She told EW, “He played a demented stable boy who spoke in monosyllables. I found that very attractive.”

The couple, who met in 1971 and married in 1982, share three children: Lucy, Grace, and Jacob. After 30 years of marriage, the couple separated in 2012, but they never officially divorce.

Perlman told Julia Louis-Dreyfus on her Wiser Than Me podcast, “Danny and I, we are still married. And we are still very good friends and we see each other a lot. And our family is still the most important thing to both of us.”

Perlman’s personal life (Rhea Perlman Career)
Rhea Perlman career, with Danny DeVito in 2016 Robin Marchant / Stringer/Getty

However, the couple live separately, with Perlman living alone with her dog. She stays busy with family and friends and especially loves when her grandchild comes to visit. Perlman said, “Everybody said it will change your life when you have a grandchild and it does. There’s a certain love.”

Ironically, Perlman feels like she’s been playing the role of grandma for years. “I’ve been a grandma, in a way, since I was in my late-30s, since Carla from Cheers had so many kids. I was a grandmother even when I was 38,” she told the Daily Beast.

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