Phyllis Somerville, busy dtage and screen actress, dies at 76

The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Phyllis Somerville, busy dtage and screen actress, dies at 76
In one of her last roles, in the 2019 film “Poms,” she was among a group of women in a retirement village who start a cheerleading club.

Neil Genzlinger

NEW YORK (NYT NEWS SERVICE).- Phyllis Somerville, whose scores of stage, television and film roles included a cranky bigot in the 2018 Broadway adaptation of “To Kill a Mockingbird” and a cranky neighbor of the main character in the Showtime series “The Big C,” died Thursday at her home in Manhattan. She was 76.

Paul Hilepo, her manager, announced the death. No cause was specified.

Somerville, though rarely the lead, thrived in secondary roles and ensemble work. She began turning up on New York stages in the 1970s, making her Broadway debut in “Over Here!,” a musical about life on the home front during World War II. She was rarely idle for long over the next 45 years.

She made her film debut in 1981 in a small role in “Arthur,” the Dudley Moore-Liza Minnelli vehicle, and beginning in the early 1990s she turned up regularly on television, appearing in episodes of “NYPD Blue,” “The Sopranos,” “Kidnapped” and other series.

Her character, Marlene, was featured in all four seasons of “The Big C,” the acclaimed comic drama that starred Laura Linney as a cancer patient. Mary McNamara, a television critic at The Los Angeles Times, said that Somerville “inevitably steals every scene she’s in.”

She also had a recurring role on the WGN America series “Outsiders,” which ran for two seasons beginning in 2016.

In one of her last roles, in the 2019 film “Poms,” she was among a group of women in a retirement village who start a cheerleading club. She may have been able to tap some long-ago firsthand experience for that role. In a 2007 interview with The Waterloo Courier of Iowa, she mentioned that she had spent her high school years in Cresco, Iowa.

“Great wrestling town,” she said. “I know that because I was a cheerleader.”

Phyllis Jeanne Somerville was born Dec. 12, 1943, in Iowa City. Her father, Paul, was a Methodist minister, and her mother, Lefa Mary Pash Somerville, was a librarian.

Somerville graduated from the University of Northern Iowa in 1966 and, having been involved in theater since high school, eventually made her way to Manhattan and settled in the West Village.

She became a favorite of director Tom Moore, who after casting her in “Over Here!” also gave her a role in “Once in a Lifetime,” the 1978 Broadway revival of a Moss Hart-George S. Kaufman comedy, starring John Lithgow.

In 1983 Moore made her the standby for Kathy Bates in the Broadway production of “’night, Mother,” Marsha Norman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama. The next year, he cast her in Norman’s follow-up, “Traveler in the Dark,” at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachuetts, in a cast that also included Hume Cronyn and Sam Waterston.

Somerville’s only other Broadway credit was in “Mockingbird,” in which she played Mrs. Dubose, a virulent racist. She was better known off-Broadway and in regional theaters.

She had a rare star turn in 1987 in an unusual production at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, playing artist Georgia O’Keeffe in a one-woman show by Constance Congdon, created in conjunction with an art exhibition there.

Somerville worked several times with Playwrights Horizons in Manhattan, including in 2001, when she played the owner of the title establishment in “The Spitfire Grill,” a musical based on the film of the same title.

Her movie work included the Todd Field film “Little Children” (2006), in which she played the protective mother of a pedophile.

“As a preacher’s kid from Iowa,” she told The Courier, “I find it a film that has a lot to say about atonement and forgiveness.”

Somerville’s marriage to David Darlow ended in divorce. No immediate family members survive.

© 2020 The New York Times Company

Today's News

July 26, 2020

Schantz Galleries exhibits works by Albert Paley at Stockbridge Station Gallery

Jerusalem site reveals ancient Judean tax centre

Man questioned over French cathedral fire rearrested: prosecutor

Fleetwood Mac guitarist Peter Green dies aged 73

Bombed and looted: Yemen battles to save its heritage

Sotheby's presents a survey of 20th & 21st Century Design in New York

50th anniversary of the Isle of White Festival celebrated in landmark exhibition

National Gallery of Ireland exhibition marks George Bernard Shaw's birthday

Survey by Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and BNO reveals impact of Covid-19 pandemic on Dutch designers

Original exhibitions highlight Oklahoma City Museum of Art's permanent collection

Machu Picchu empty for anniversary as Peru virus cases soar

rosenfeld opens 'Between the Forceps and the Stone', the gallery's summer exhibition

Regis Philbin, TV's indignant everyman, dies at 88

Tornabuoni announces new location in Paris

The UK's leading contemporary art prize and exhibition Artes Mundi 9 announces new dates and plans

Artist Nathaniel Donnett creates a public installation that bridges communities

Delaware Art Museum announces exhibition of Helen Mason and Margo Allman

Kehrer Verlag publishes Reinout van den Bergh's Eboundja

Life and work of Joan Eardley to be celebrated in her centenary year

Juan Marsé, who wrote of Spain's dark years, is dead at 87

Phyllis Somerville, busy dtage and screen actress, dies at 76

signs and symbols reopens with exhibition of works by Drew Conrad

On August 8, The Violet Taaffe Estate goes up for bid at Turner Auctions + Appraisals

All Shook Up: Norwegian Elvis impersonator sets world record

Causes of Dry Skin and How to Cure it

Why Invest in LED Grow Lights

The most Innovative Luxury Watches fuelling a culture of change

How to Dispose of Old Furniture in Sydney?

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

Royalville Communications, Inc
Founder's Site. Hommage
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful