Harriet Sansom Harris

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Harriet Sansom Harris
BornHarriet Harris
(1955-01-08) January 8, 1955 (age 59)
Fort Worth, Texas, USA
EducationJuilliard (BFA c.1977)
Years active1977–present
Partner(s)Matthew Sullivan
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Harriet Sansom Harris
BornHarriet Harris
(1955-01-08) January 8, 1955 (age 59)
Fort Worth, Texas, USA
EducationJuilliard (BFA c.1977)
Years active1977–present
Partner(s)Matthew Sullivan

Harriet Sansom Harris (born January 8, 1955), often credited as Harriet Harris, is an American actress best known for her portrayals of Bebe Glazer on Frasier and Felicia Tilman on Desperate Housewives. She won a Tony Award in 2002 as a Featured Actress in a Musical for playing the evil white slaver Mrs. Meers in Thoroughly Modern Millie. Apart from her television and theatre work, she has made various film appearances, including Memento, Addams Family Values and Nurse Betty.

Early years[edit]

Harriet was born in Fort Worth, Texas. On her mother's side, she is a descendant of Marion Sansom, a 20th-century rancher and civic leader; (Sansom Park is named after him).[1] Harris started acting as a youngster, attending Arlington Heights High School. She attended Fort Worth Country Day School and graduated from there in 1973.[2] At age 17, she was accepted at the Juilliard School's Drama Division (1973-1977, Group 6)[3] where she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.[4] Her sister is Elatia Harris.[5]

After graduation from Juilliard, she joined John Houseman's touring repertory company The Acting Company, where she stayed for three years. During this time, she performed in productions of Shakespeare's King Lear and Romeo and Juliet, the classic Antigone, and alongside Frances Conroy in Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children.[6]


Harris went on to do extensive work on and off-broadway including a 1989 performance at Second Stage Theatre in What a Man Weighs . One of Harris's breakthrough stage performances came in the original cast of Paul Rudnick's Jeffrey, where she was the sole female cast member. Her work in Jeffrey led to numerous television guest appearances, including a recurring role on the TV series, Frasier as Frasier's conniving agent Bebe Glazer.

Her own series (including The 5 Mrs. Buchanans, Union Square, The Beast, and It's All Relative) were unsuccessful, but her guest roles on hit series, including Ghost Whisperer, Murphy Brown, Ally McBeal, Six Feet Under, Frasier and Ellen were memorable. Among them was her performance on The X-Files in the 1993 episode "Eve" as Dr. Sally Kendrick and her "Eve" clones. In 2006, she starred in the Sci Fi Channel television miniseries The Lost Room as Margaret Milne.[6]

In 1992 Harris made her Broadway debut in the play Four Baboons Adoring the Sun. That same year she was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for her portrayal in the Off-Broadway play Bella, Belle of Byelorussia. In 1993 she received a second Drama Desk nomination for her performance in Jeffrey. She won both a Drama Desk and Tony Award in 2002 as a Featured Actress in a Musical for playing the evil white slaver Mrs. Meers in Thoroughly Modern Millie. During 1993-2004, she was a regular guest on the long-running sit-com Frasier, appearing as Frasier's suspiciously unethical agent, Bebe Glazer.

Since 2005, Harris has appeared in various stage productions across the United States. In the summer of 2006 she appeared as Vera Charles in the Kennedy Center's production of Mame opposite Christine Baranski in the title role. In early 2007, Harriet appeared as Amanda Wingfield in the production of The Glass Menagerie at the Guthrie Theater. In the summer of 2007, Harriet appeared on Broadway in the revival of the John Van Druten comedy Old Acquaintance as Mildred Watson Drake with Margaret Colin at the American Airlines Theatre.

In 2007, Harris returned to Broadway and joined the cast of the musical Cry-Baby, based on the John Waters film of the same name. The show previewed at Broadway's Marquis Theatre on March 15, 2008 and opened on April 24. The production was nominated for Best Musical at the 2008 Tony Awards and later closed following the matinée performance on June 22.

Harris again returned to Broadway as the "Evil Stepmother" in Cinderella in 2013.

Desperate Housewives[edit]

Harris became known to a new generation by playing Martha Huber's sister Felicia Tilman on the hit ABC drama Desperate Housewives in 2004. The narrative saw Felicia arrive on Wisteria Lane to discover who was behind her sister's murder. She soon came to the conclusion that Paul Young was responsible, but before she could act out her revenge, she was attacked by his son Zach Young. To finish the story, Harris returned for the second season in 2005, which followed Felicia as she planned her final acts of revenge against Paul. She departed at the end of the second series by faking her own murder; thus framing Paul, and sending him to prison.

Harris returned to Desperate Housewives for the show's seventh season which saw Felicia reprise her role as Paul Young's continued nemesis.[7] She has appeared in 28 episodes, with her portrayal of Felicia being praised by fans and critics alike. Harris departed once again in the second-to-last episode of season seven, which saw Felicia involved in a head-on collision with a semi.

On playing the character Harris commented: "People do find Felicia evil. I think she's just determined. She's a zealot pursuing an objective that no-one wants her to pursue. And it makes her really eccentric. And even though a man she's pursuing is the one who committed murder, he's only considered creepy by people and Felicia is always considered evil. I think that's so interesting because he's really the bad person. She's just trying to get him caught. But she is extreme. I think she doesn't stop when others would. She keeps on, she keeps pursuing and I think that is a scary thing. She just keeps scraping away until she eventually gets what she wants. And if she doesn't get it one way, she'll go around and do it another way. She's completely unapologetic about it. She doesn't care what anybody else thinks".[8]

Personal life[edit]

Harriet calls California her home, commenting, "I have a lot of friends out here. The weather is great and much more like Texas than New York. You can have an outdoor life without being armed. At this point, I still need to come back to (New York) on my breaks because this is where I have lived for a long time. So this is very much home. But I feel the pull of California". She currently lives in Los Angeles with her partner, actor Matt Sullivan, and several parrots.[9] She is good friends with stage actress Lisa Banes and The Good Wife star Christine Baranski, with whom she starred in the 2007 production of Mame.[10]


List of acting credits in film and television
Shake It Up2011Dr. PepperTelevision Guest Appearance
Desperate Housewives2005–2006, 2010–2011Felicia TilmanTV series; Recurring; 28 appearances
American Dad2010Mrs. ReaganTelevision Guest Appearance
Moonlight Serenade2009Angelica Webster
The Lost Room2006Margaret MilneTV mini-series
Ghost Whisperer2006Marilyn MandevilleTV series, episode: "A Grave Matter"
CBS Summer Playhouse1988Lauri StevensTV series, Credited as 'Harriet Harris'
Help Me Help You2006Daves' MomTV Guest Appearance
Sex, Love & Secrets2005Dulah
Strong Medicine2005Governor Barbara CurtisTV series
Monster-in-Law2005TherapistFilm appearance
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation2004EvaTV series, episode: "What's Eating Gilbert Grissom?"
Quintuplets2004Ms. HentschelTV series
Frasier1993–2004Bebe GlazerRecurring Guest Star, Appearing in Each season (excluding 6 and 8)
It's All Relative2003–2004Audrey O'NeilRegular Television Role (cancelled)
Six Feet Under2002Catherine CollinsTV series, episode: "In Place of Anger"
Ghost Whisperer2000Marilyn MandevilleTV series, episode: "A Grave Matter"
Memento2000Mrs. Jankis
Nurse Betty2000Ellen
Millennium1997Maureen MurphyTV Episode:First Season "Loin Like A Hunting Flame"
Ally McBeal1998Cheryl BonnerTV series
Romeo + Juliet1996Susan Santandiago (TV Gossip) 'Credited as Harriet Harris'
The 5 Mrs. Buchanans1994–1995Vivian BuchananTelevision Series
X-Files1993Sally Kendrick/Eves 6.7 & 8TV episode:First Season "Eve"
Law and Order1991–1992SheilaTV episode:20 The troubles


  1. ^ http://members.multimania.co.uk/goodnightseattle/hsharris.htm
  2. ^ Fort Worth Country Day Yearbook "Flight" 1971, 1972, 1973.
  3. ^ "Alumni News". The Juilliard School. September 2007. Archived from the original on 2011-11-11. 
  4. ^ "Harriet Sansom Harris: Mrs. Sweeny on The Beast". WCHS-TV. Retrieved April 2, 2012. 
  5. ^ http://3quarksdaily.com/3quarksdaily/page/226/
  6. ^ a b "Harriet Sansom Harris Biography". filmreference. 2010. Retrieved 11 August 2010. 
  7. ^ Keck, William."Keck's Exclusives: Harriet Sansom Harris to Join Mark Moses on 'Desperate Housewives'!", TV Guide, June 30, 2010
  8. ^ Shulman, Randy."Harriet Harris:Stage and TV Actress Discusses Role in 'Mame' and 'Frasier'" MetroWeekly.com, June 8, 2006
  9. ^ http://lubbockonline.com/stories/120203/ent_120203003.shtml
  10. ^ Rosati, Nancy."Spotlight on Harriet Harris" TalkinBroadway.com, accessed August 27, 2011

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