Anyone who watched The Cosby Show knows Phylicia Rashad’s TV family, since the Emmy nominee played the NBC sitcom’s matriarch, lawyer and mother Clair Huxtable. But what about the actress’ real family?
Turns out, one of Phylicia’s daughters followed her footsteps on stage and screen — and even co-starred with her in a Lifetime movie! Born in 1986, Condola Rashad watched her mom and her other famous family members take the spotlight and then charted a path of her own. After attending the California Institute of the Arts, Condola returned to New York City to take the city by storm, earning multiple Tony nominations for her Broadway performances and landing a buzzy part on a Showtime drama.
And as if that weren’t impressive enough, Condola then turned her attention to music and released a solo EP. From baby daughter to Space Daughter, check out Condola’s life so far and her evolution as an actor.
Condola Rashad was raised in a famous family
Not only is Condola Rashad the daughter of the stunning Phylicia Rashad, but her father is Ahmad Rashad, a sportscaster and former NFL star who played seven seasons for the Minnesota Vikings and made the Pro Bowl four times in a row, according to his Vikings bio. You’ve likely seen Condola’s aunt on TV, too: Phylicia’s sister is Debbie Allen, an executive producer of Grey’s Anatomy, the actress behind Grey’s doc Catherine Fox, and the subject of the Netflix documentary Dance Dreams: Hot Chocolate Nutcracker. Even Condola’s grandmother is a creative powerhouse: Phylicia and Debbie’s mother is Vivian Ayers, who earned a 1952 Pulitzer Prize nomination for her poem “Hawk,” according to The Times and Democrat. “My grandmother is the root to this whole tree,” Condola told Town & Country in 2018. “We are all extensions of different parts of her.”
Condola also praised her grandmother — and her family’s creativity — in an interview with NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday that same year. “I was allowed to kind of find my way growing up, but it’s something that even starts back all the way back to my grandmother,” she said. “You know, she was the first real bohemian artist of my family.”
Phylicia Rashad encouraged her daughter to be creative as a child
Talking to Town & Country, Phylicia Rashad and Debbie Allen said they were encouraged to explore the arts, so they did the same for their daughters. (Allen’s daughter, Condola Rashad’s cousin, is dancer and actress Vivian Nixon, who boasts a recurring role on Grey’s Anatomy.)
At 4 years old, Condola apparently said, “Mommy, I need a piano teacher, a reading teacher, and a dancing teacher,” and Phylicia agreed to her terms. “We were included in whatever they were doing, and I aspired to that level of professionalism and love for what they do,” Condola explained to Town & Country, reflecting on her idolization of her famous mom and aunt. And a 2017 WSJ. Magazine profile revealed Condola took weekly piano lessons for 11 years, from when she was 7 to when she was 18.
Even though she’s Hollywood royalty, Condola made her own success. “I’ve never made a single phone call for Condola,” Phylicia told Town & Country. As Condola explained to W magazine in 2017, she toes the “very fine line” of making a name for herself and embracing her lineage: “I’m not going to pretend that’s not my family but I’m also not going to ride anybody’s coattails, either.”
Condola Rashad grew up watching her mom (but didn't watch The Cosby Show)
Condola Rashad confessed to the Associated Press in 2012 that she didn’t watch The Cosby Show when she was growing up, saying it would have been “mother overload.” But she told W magazine that she vividly remembers her mom’s theater performances — in the Broadway musicals The Wiz and Dreamgirls, for example. “The really exciting part was the rehearsal room and watching them take something from a page and bringing that to life and watching how they did that,” she said. “I was able to be a fly on the wall. I’d be in tech rehearsals. I was really able to watch her process.”
She also recalled watching her mom’s plays Blues for an Alabama Sky or Medea from the audience and taking detailed notes that Phylicia Rashad would tell her to give to the director. And then the director would tell Phylicia to read them.
Turnabout is fair play, of course, and Condola revealed that, now that she’s an actress, her performances are subject to Phylicia’s reviews. “She’ll allude to things but won’t actually say it,” Condola told W. “She’ll be like, ‘I wondered about that part.’ And I’ll be like, ‘I know what you’re trying to say.'”
Condola Rashad originally went by this name
Condola Rashad went by her middle name, Phylea, as a young girl, only switching to Condola in college. “It’s my paternal grandmother’s name,” she explained to Essence in 2020.
“My family and all of my friends — anybody that I knew before college — actually called me and still calls me Phylea,” she added. “I decided to utilize, finally, my real first name because as a professional artist, I knew that Phylea was going to be very close to Phylicia.” She admitted going by Phylea Rashad would “be a little too confusing,” so, since she was going to college and no one knew her yet, she decided to reinvent herself with a different name.
Phylicia Rashad’s daughter isn’t the only person in her family to change their name. Her dad changed his name, too: Born Bobby Moore, the football star adopted the name Ahmad Rashad in 1973 after he converted to Islam, according to Sports Illustrated.
Phylicia Rashad's daughter studied acting at CalArts
After growing up in New York, Condola Rashad moved across the country to study acting at the California Institute of the Arts. “What I loved about CalArts is it’s not a school where they shape you as an actor; they help you shape yourself as an actor,” she told W magazine. “And that was a big difference to me. And that to me felt like more of a challenge.”
She also credited the school with giving its students a realistic expectation of the rigors and frustrations of life as a professional artist, and the reality that “no matter how good you are, there’s thousands of phenomenal actors that never see a stage.”
Undaunted, Rashad moved back to New York after graduation to pursue her theater dreams. She told W that she chose the Big Apple over Los Angeles because New York “will take a chance on a new face in theater.”
She starred with her mom, Phylicia Rashad, in Steel Magnolias
Condola Rashad and mom Phylicia Rashad finally worked together when they co-starred in Lifetime’s 2012 adaptation of Steel Magnolias. Condola played the role of bride Shelby, the part played by Julia Roberts in the 1989 film. But Phylicia didn’t play Condola’s mom in the TV movie — that part went to Queen Latifah. Instead, Phylicia played “busybody” Clairee.
During the production, Condola filmed her characters’ wedding scene eight times, as she told Broadway.com in 2012. “My mind was definitely blown,” she said, noting, “I thought, ‘This is how it will feel to get married,’ which was a little bizarre, especially because my mother was sitting there looking at me. And as a different character!”
Fun fact: Condola and Phylicia have another shared credit on IMDb. Mother and daughter — and Condola’s dad, too — had uncredited roles in a 1994 episode of Ghostwriter.
Condola Rashad played Juliet to Orlando Bloom's Romeo
Love bloomed on stage between Condola Rashad and Orlando Bloom as they starred in a 2013 Broadway production of the Shakespeare tragedy Romeo and Juliet at the Richard Rodgers Theatre.
In an interview with Newsday at the time, Rashad, then 26, remarked on her stage chemistry with the Lord of the Rings actor. “What’s funny is that we didn’t have to force it,” she observed. “We had a connection from the minute we met … a sense of comfort with each other. Which was cool. We both loved the work. And he’s such a great guy.”
The actress, who had previously appeared on the Great White Way in Stick Fly and The Trip to Bountiful, also revealed she helped Bloom through his Broadway debut. “He occasionally asks things, like, ‘Is this normal for a tech rehearsal?’ Because they can be brutal,” she told the publication at the time. “But he’s finding his way beautifully.”
Phylicia Rashad's daughter Condola Rashad scored a role on Billions
After guest-starring roles on The Good Wife, Smash, and Master of None, Condola Rashad landed a starring role in the Showtime drama Billions in 2016. Playing ambitious Assistant District Attorney Kate Sacker, she’s shared the screen with Paul Giamatti and Damian Lewis.
“Kate is a person who is highly intuitive, a problem-solver, but she’s often quite… she’s kind of panther-like,” Rashad told W magazine. “She notices everything but she doesn’t say everything. Everything that happens in the room or outside of the room, she clocks.” Regardless of her character’s skill, Rashad noted that “she can’t really do all that she’s able to do” because of her position.
With so many legal issues to unpack on the show, Rashad told Stephen Colbert in 2017 that her sister, who was working as an attorney for the mayor of Atlanta at the time, is her “go-to” resource for any questions that spring up during production. “She’s like, ‘Way to get the job that I wanted,'” Rashad added with a laugh. “Totally frustrated by it.”
Condola Rashad got engaged to actor Sebastian Vallentin Stenhøj
In 2016, just after her 30th birthday, Condola Rashad revealed on Instagram, as reported by Essence, that she was engaged to Sebastian Vallentin Stenhøj, an actor from the TV series Fight to Survive and the director of the short films The Wallet and To Live and Dine in L.A.
Later in 2017, on the talk show Harry, Rashad detailed the moment her beau got down on bended knee, saying the special moment happened on a trip to Mexico with her sisters and a close friend. “I had this day planned where I was going to surprise everybody with this boat ride,” she told host Harry Connick Jr. “So I’m thinking I’m surprising everybody else. And on the boat, I’m looking out into the ocean, and all I hear is, ‘Turn around.’ And I did, and there he was.” Her sisters were apparently too distracted to notice at first.
Phylicia Rashad's daughter earned back-to-back Tony nominations — twice
Condola Rashad has twice earned Tony Award nominations two years in a row, according to BroadwayWorld.com. In 2012, she was recognized in the Best Featured Actress in a Play category for her performance in Stick Fly. A year later, she was nominated in the same category for her work in The Trip to Bountiful. She earned a place in that category again in 2017 for her part in A Doll’s House, Part 2. And in 2018, she was nominated in the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her version of Joan of Arc in Saint Joan.
“I’m so filled with gratitude to have been recognized in this way, and it’s a very interesting emotion because taking on the role is a huge reward in itself,” Rashad told Deadline after that fourth nod. “After the show there often will be girls outside [the stage door] who are, like, 17, 18, and they always say that since they were young, Joan of Arc has been a part of their life, and they are so moved by our story. That, to me, is the biggest gift, to be able to tell this story.”
She inspired an Insecure character
In Season 3 of the HBO comedy Insecure, viewers meet Condola, a woman who starts dating protagonist Issa’s ex Lawrence. And Insecure creator and star Issa Rae later told fans on Instagram that the character name came about because executive producer Prentice Penny once dated “with intention” to find “his Clair Huxtable.” Per Essence, Rae continued, “And so, we started thinking about Lawrence as he starts to date with intention…and who would he be looking for?” She explained that he’d probably want someone his own age, so “he would be looking for his ‘Condola Rashad.'”
In a 2020 chat with Essence, Condola remarked on the Insecure tribute. “I had known that this character existed and I think sometimes it truly takes me a while to put things together,” Phylicia Rashad’s daughter said. “I just thought, ‘Oh well, they really must love the name, so cool,'” she added. “I just thought they liked the name … I didn’t think there was actually any kind of actual personal connection.”
She released an EP for a good cause
In 2020, Condola Rashad released her EP Space Daughter under the name Dola. “That title came to me before I even created the music,” she told Broadway.com. “I didn’t quite know what it was going to be. I knew it was going to be a conceptual and visual EP; this is my playful ode to the Divine Feminine.” Rashad explained to the site that she’s been working on music for a while. She even recorded an album with her former band, Dola and the Stoop Kids, while she was performing in Romeo and Juliet, but she put her music career on the back burner while her acting career took off.
The multi-hyphenate star released her music independently to preserve her artistic vision, and she decided to donate all of her personal proceeds from Space Daughter to various charities. The single “What I Said,” for instance, benefits Campaign Zero. “What I really appreciated about Campaign Zero is that there are concrete ways that we can all contribute to actually ending police brutality in this country,” she shared.
Condola Rashad signed on to voice Meghan Markle in a TV show
Going from Hollywood royalty to (former) British royalty, Condola Rashad was cast to voice Meghan Markle in the HBO Max show The Prince, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Family Guy writer Gary Janetti created the show after finding viral fame with his satirical Instagram posts about Prince George, and he’ll voice little George, as well. “I’m thrilled to be working at HBO Max and bringing them yet another series about a family ruthlessly fighting for the throne,” Janetti quipped in a statement when the project was announced, per THR.
The project reunites Rashad with a certain star-crossed lover from her Broadway past: Her Romeo and Juliet costar Orlando Bloom was brought on to voice Prince Harry on the show. The rest of the cast includes Game of Thrones alums Sophie Turner and Iwan Rheon as Princess Charlotte and Prince William, respectively, and Downton Abbey star Dan Stevens as Prince Charles (via Deadline).
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