Family & Companions
Canadian-born actress and comedienne Caroline Rhea was best known for her quick wit, bubbly personality and infectious laugh. Rhea first made a name for herself as a popular stand-up performer at such career-launching venues as Catch a Rising Star before garnering national recognition with a supporting role on the long-running fantasy sitcom "Sabrina the Teenage Witch" (The WB, 1996-2003). During this prosperous time, she frequently picked up supplemental work, such as a titular role on the supernatural family comedy "Mom's Got a Date with a Vampire" (Disney Channel, 2000). After leaving "Sabrina" in 2002, she took a run at her own daytime talk program after replacing Rosie O'Donnell with "The Caroline Rhea Show" (syndicated, 2002-03) and as the host of the weight loss competition series "The Biggest Loser" (NBC, 2004- ) for its first two seasons. Occasional supporting work in feature films like the romance "The Perfect Man" (2005) and a lengthy tenure as a voiceover actress on the hit animated comedy series "Phineas and Ferb" (Disney XD, 2007-15) still allowed the busy actress time to accept the rare lead role in made-for-TV offerings like the holiday comedy "The Christmas Consultant" (Lifetime, 2012). Multi-talented and easily relatable, Rhea remained one of the more recognizable and welcomed faces on film and television.
Born April 13, 1964 in Montreal, Quebec, Caroline Gilchrist Rhea (pronounced "Ray") was one of three girls born to Marjorie and David Rhea, an antiques dealer and an obstetrician, respectively. Raised in Montreal and educated at the private all-girls school The Study, she went on to attend Dalhousie University on the island province of Nova Scotia. Rhea made her film debut with an uncredited role in the low-budget comedy sequel "Meatballs III" (1986), before moving to New York City to study stand-up comedy at the New School of Social Research in 1989. The aspiring comedienne soon cut her teeth at several area comedy clubs, most notably Catch a Rising Star, before becoming a popular performer on the circuit. Television appearances were the next natural step, with Rhea booking guest shots on "The Daily Show" (Comedy Central, 1996- ) and "Comic Strip Live (syndicated, 1989-94). The ambitious Rhea also wrote her own segment for the stand-up movie "Fools for Love" (VH1, 1993), before joining the cast of her first network sitcom, the exceptionally short-lived "Pride and Joy" (NBC, 1995), as the wife of Jeremy Piven.
The following year, Rhea played Drew Carey's girlfriend in a pair of episodes of "The Drew Carey Show" (ABC, 1995-2004) then landed the plum role of frothy witch Hildy Spellman, one of two protective aunts to Melissa Joan Hart's Sabrina on the hit comedy "Sabrina The Teenage Witch" (ABC, 1996-2000/TheWB, 2000-03). Rhea remained with the series until its penultimate season, providing many of the series' best belly laughs during its lengthy run. During this period, Rhea was also extraordinarily busy with other projects, including a cameo as herself in the pilot episode of Larry David's acclaimed series "Curb Your Enthusiasm" (HBO, 2000- ). She made a feature film appearance in the wrestling comedy "Ready to Rumble" (2000) and enjoyed a rare lead as a single parent set up with a toothsome stranger by her mischievous kids in the family comedy "Mom's Got a Date with a Vampire" (Disney Channel, 2000). With her effervescent personality, she was a highly sought after celebrity guest, appearing regularly on "Hollywood Squares" (NBC, 1998-2002) and late night talk shows like "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" (NBC, 1993-2009) and "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" (NBC, 1992-2009; 2010- ).
In 2002, Rhea was handpicked as Rosie O'Donnell's replacement to host her own daytime talk show after O'Donnell decided to hang it up after her own successful run. Rhea had been a frequent guest and substitute host for O'Donnell during the last two seasons of "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" (syndicated, 1996-2002), making the selection of Rhea a natural choice. Unfortunately, the transition was not as smooth as one may have hoped, as "The Caroline Rhea Show" (syndicated, 2002-03) debuted to substantially lower ratings than its predecessor and was cancelled within its first season. Undeterred, Rhea soon reappeared in the holiday comedy feature "Christmas with the Kranks" (2004) and signed on as the host of the reality weight loss competition "The Biggest Loser" (NBC, 2004- ) for two seasons before being replaced by Allison Sweeney in 2005. Never out of work for long, Rhea was next seen in a supporting role in the Hilary Duff vehicle "The Perfect Man" (2005) and as Ilsa Shickelgrubermeiger-Von Helsing del Keppelugerhofer, a hilariously recurring character on the first season of "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody" (The Disney Channel, 2005-08).
Rhea landed one of the steadiest - and likely, cushiest - roles of her career when she was asked to voice the mother of a thrill-seeking genius and his English stepbrother on the hugely popular cartoon "Phineas and Ferb" (Disney XD, 2007-15). One of the constant gags on the long-running series involved the futile attempts by the boys' sister (Ashley Tisdale) to bring their outlandish summer projects to the attention of the eternally preoccupied Linda Flynn (Rhea). Somehow finding time in her busy schedule, Rhea briefly co-starred with Rue McClanahan and Olivia Newton-John on "Sordid Lives: The Series" (Logo, 2008), a made-for-cable sitcom, described by its creator Del Shores as "a black comedy about white trash." After a turn in the direct-to-DVD dance romance "Love N' Dancing" (2009), Rhea played the matriarch of a busy family looking to squeeze the most out of the season in the family comedy "The Christmas Consultant" (Lifetime, 2012), co-starring David Hasslehoff as the eponymous holiday helper.
By Bryce P. Coleman
Cast (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Special)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Had bit part in feature film "Meatballs II"
Moved to NYC and became regular performer at Catch A Rising Star
Appeared on "Women Aloud" for Comedy Central and "Six Comics In Search of a Generation" for Lifetime
Was one of the writers for the VH-1 sketch comedy "Fools for Love"
Co-starred in the short-lived NBC sitcom "Pride & Joy"
Was correspondent for "The Daily Show" (Comedy Central)
Returned to series TV to portray Aunt Hilda on "Sabrina, The Teenage Witch" (ABC, 1996-2000; The WB, 2000-2002)
Named a regular on the new syndicated version of "Hollywood Squares"
Had a supporting role in Jim Carrey's Andy Kaufman bio-pic "Man on the Moon"
Occasionally filled in as guest co-host on "Live With Regis" and guest host of the "Rosie O'Donnell Show"
In July, announced to assume hosting duties for a new talk show set to debut in fall 2002 that would replace the departing "Rosie O'Donnell Show"
Signed to host own eponymous talk show, "Caroline"; Paramount cancelled show for financial reasons before it even began production
Hosted "The Caroline Rhea Show", a syndicated talk show; show was cancelled in June 2003, upon the completion of its first season
Appeared in the holiday comedy "Christmas with the Kranks" directed by Joe Roth
Hosted NBC's reality series, "The Biggest Loser"