Mercedes J. Ruehl (born February 28, 1948) is an American theater, television, and film actor. She won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1992 for The Fisher King and a Tony Award for her performance in Lost in Yonkers in 1991.
Ruehl was born in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York City, the daughter of Mercedes J. Ruehl, a schoolteacher, and Vincent Ruehl, an FBI agent. She was raised Catholic. Her father was of German and Irish descent and her mother was of Cuban and Irish ancestry. Ruehl attended College of New Rochelle and graduated in 1969. She is married to painter David Geiser, with whom she adopted a son, Jake (born 1995). She had another son, Christopher, whom she placed in adoption in 1976; he later became Jake’s godfather. Her brother, Peter Ruehl, moved to Australia in 1987 where he was a popular newspaper columnist until his death in 2011.
Ruehl began her career in regional theatre with the Denver Center Theatre Company, taking odd jobs between engagements. Her first starring role on Broadway came in 1984’s I’m Not Rappaport. She then went on to win the 1984 Obie Award for her performance in The Marriage of Bette and Boo and twenty years later, an Obie for Woman Before a Glass. She also received a 1991 Tony Award as Best Actress (Play) for Neil Simon’s Lost in Yonkers and continued her role in the show during its tour with co-star Mercedes McCambridge. Her performances in two other plays earned her two other Tony nominations: in 1995, as Best Actress (Featured Role – Play) for a revival of The Shadow Box; and in 2002, as Best Actress (Play) for Edward Albee’s The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?.
Her most acclaimed film role was in The Fisher King; her performance in the film earned her the 1991 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress as well as an American Comedy Award, a Boston Society of Film Critics Award, a Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award, and a Golden Globe. Earlier she had won the 1989 National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Married to the Mob. She played KACL station manager Kate Costas in five episodes of Frasier, and had a major role in the made-for-TV film All-American Girl: The Mary Kay Letourneau Story. She is the first Cuban-American female Academy Award winner. In 2005, she (along with Esai Morales) received the Rita Moreno HOLA Award for Excellence from the Hispanic Organization of Latin Actors. She later played the mother of main character Vincent Chase in HBO’s Entourage.
In 2009, Ruehl returned to the Broadway stage in Manhattan Theater Club’s production of Richard Greenberg’s The American Plan playing the role of Eva Adler. The production opened at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre and the limited engagement ran From January 22 until March 22. In his rave review in The New York Times, Ben Brantley called Ruehl’s performance “masterly”. Ruehl next appeared in the drama/horror film What Ever Happened to Barker Daniels?, which was released in 2009. In January 2012, Ruehl starred in Sarah Treem’s play The How and The Why, directed by Emily Mann at McCarter Theatre of Princeton University.
Ruehl is appearing in the role of Ma in Harvey Fierstein’s revamped and renamed revival of his play Torch Song Off-Broadway at Second Stage Theater with previews on September 26, and opens officially on October 19, 2017. Moved to Broadway at the Hayes Theatre with full off Broadway Cast Oct 2018.
|1995-1988||I’m Not Rappaport||Clara||Booth Theatre|
|1991–1993||Lost in Yonkers||Bella Kurnitz||Richard Rogers Theater; 780 performances|
|1992||Antony and Cleopatra||Cleopatra, ruler of Egypt||Actors Theater|
|1995||The Shadow Box||Beverly|
|The Rose Tattoo||Serafina Delle Rose|
|2000–2001||Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?||Martha||Tyrone Theater|
|2002||The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia??||Stevie||Broadway|
|2005||Woman Before a Glass||Peggy Guggenheim||The Promenade Theater|
|2009||The American Plan||Eva Adler||Samuel J Friedman Theatre|
|2005||Woman Before a Glass||Peggy Guggenheim||The Promenade Theater|
|2008||Edward Albee’s Occupant||Louise Nevelson||Peter Norton Space|
|2017||Torch Song||Ma||Second Stage Theater|
|1976||Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands||American girl in casino||film debutuncredited|
|1981||Four Friends||Woman in Taxi|
|1987||Radio Days||Ad Man|
|84 Charing Cross Road||Kay|
|The Secret of My Succe$s||Sheila|
|Leader of the Band||Miss Cooper|
|Married to the Mob||Connie Russo|
|1989||Slaves of New York||Samantha|
|Crimes and Misdemeanors||Party Guest||uncredited|
|1990||Crazy People||Dr. Liz Baylor|
|1991||Another You||Elaine/Mimi Kravitz|
|The Fisher King||Anne|
|1993||Lost in Yonkers||Bella Kurnitz|
|Last Action Hero||Irene Madigan|
|1994||On Hope||Wendy||Short film|
|1997||Roseanna’s Grave||Roseanna ‘Rosa’|
|1999||The Minus Man||Jane|
|Out of the Cold||Tina|
|2000||What’s Cooking?||Elizabeth ‘Lizzy’ Avila|
|More Dogs Than Bones||Victoria ‘Vic’ Galletti|
|The Amati Girls||Grace|
|2004||Zeyda and the Hitman||Esther|
|2010||Goldstar, Ohio||Adriana Rock||Short film|
|2014||Chu and Blossom||Mrs. Fefterg|
|2016||Good Business||Lorraine||Short film|
|1984||ABC Afterschool Specials||Sandy||television debutEpisode: “Mom’s on Strike”|
|1985||Our Family Honor||Louise Taylor||Episode: “Homecoming”|
|1986||Kate & Allie||Millie||Episode: “Late Bloomer”credited as Mercedes Ruehle|
|1990||The Cosby Show||Bernadette Foley||Episode: “The Moves”|
|1995||Indictment: The McMartin Trial||Lael Rubin||Television Movie|
|1995–1996||Frasier||Kate Costas||recurring role; 5 episodes|
|1997||North Shore Fish||Florence||Television Movie|
|SUBWAYStories: Tales from the Underground||Leyla||Television Moviesegment “Underground”|
|1998||Gia||Kathleen Carangi||Television Movie|
|2000||Mary Kay Letourneau: All American Girl||Jane Newhall||Television Movie|
|The Lost Child||Rebecca||Television Movie|
|2001||Mr. Life||Television Movie|
|2002||Guilt by Association||Susan Walker||Television Movie|
|Windows||Dolly Rawlins||Television Miniseries4 episodes|
|2004||Everyday Life||Television movie|
|1-800-Missing||Emmanuelle Baker||Episode: “These Dreams Before Me”|
|Bab Apple||Lorraine Gibbons||Television Movie|
|2004–2009||Law & Order||Judge Clara Lloyd/Zina Rybakov||2 episodes|
|2005||Mom at Sixteen||Terry Jeffries||Television Movie|
|2006||So Here’s What Happened||Rochelle||Television Movie|
|A Girl Like Me: The Gwen Araujo Story||Sylvia Guerrero||Television Movie|
|2006–2008||Entourage||Rita Chase||2 episodes|
|2007||Psych||Detective Goochberg||Episode: “Scary Sherry: Bianca’s Toast”|
|2009||Loving Leah||Janice Lever||Television Movie|
|2012||El Jefe||Delmi Rodriguez||Television movie|
|Luck||Renzo’s Mother||Episode: “Two Prized Colts Go Head-to-Head”|
|2013||Doubt||Mrs. Syd Newman||Television Movie|
|Monday Mornings||Judge Beverly Natheson||Episode: “Wheels Within Wheels”|
|Star Spangled Banners||Rosalind Banner||Television Movie|
|2015||Law & Order: Special Victims Unit||Lucia Barba||Episode: “December Solstice”|
|2016||Life in Pieces||Mia||Episode: “Hair Recital Rainbow Mom”|
|The Mysteries of Laura||Val Santiani||Episode: “The Mystery of the End of Watch”|
|2 Broke Girls||Olga||Episode: “And the Godmama Drama”|
|2017||NCIS||Marie Quinn||Episode: “A Bowl of Cherries”|
|2017–2018||Power||Connie Teresi||Recurring role; 7 episodes|
Awards and Nominations
|1989||Married to the Mob||National Society of Film Critics award, Best Supporting Actress||Won|
|1991||The Fisher King||Boston Society of Film Critics award, Best Supporting Actress||Won|
|Lost in Yonkers||Drama Desk award, Outstanding Actress in a Play||Won|
|The Fisher King||Los Angeles Film Critics Association award, Best Supporting Actress||Won|
|Lost in Yonkers||Tony award, Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play||Won|
|The Fisher King||Venice Film Festival award, Best Lead Actress||Won|
|1992||Academy award, Best Supporting Actress||Won|
|American Comedy award, Funniest Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture||Won|
|Chicago Film Critics Association award, Best Supporting Actor||Won|
|Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association award, Best Supporting Actress||Won|
|Golden Globe award, Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture||Won|
|Saturn award, Best Supporting Actress||Won|
|1993||Boston Film Festival award, Film Excellence award||Won|
|1995||Indictment: The McMartin Trial||CableACE award, Best Actress in a Movie or Miniseries||Nominated|
|The Rose Tattoo||Drama Desk award, Outstanding Actress in a Play||Nominated|
|The Shadow Box||Tony award, Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play||Nominated|
|2002||The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?||Tony award, Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play||Nominated|
|2006||Mom at Sixteen||Prism award, Performance in a Television Movie or Miniseries||Nominated|
|2007||A Girl Like Me: The Gwen Araujo Story||Imagen Foundation award, Best Actress – Television||Nominated|
- Trescott, Jacqueline (26 March 1992). “Mercedes Ruehl, Driven; The Manic Actress On the Road to Oscar”. The Washington Post. HighBeam Research. Retrieved 2013-10-25.
- “Mercedes Ruehl biography (1948?- )”. Film Reference.com. Retrieved 2013-10-25.
- Stark, John; Hutchings, David (5 September 1988). “Playing a Gangster’s Spitfire Wife, Mercedes Ruehl Heists the Spotlight in Married to the Mob”. People. Retrieved 2013-10-25.
- Ruehl, Mercedes. Casting a new light on a dark subject – novelist Cynthia Ozick – Interview. Interview. August 1994. FindArticles.com.
- Corliss, Richard (6 April 2002). “That Old Feeling: The Oscar Race”. Time. Retrieved 2013-10-25.
- Buckley, Michael. “STAGE TO SCREENS: Mercedes Ruehl, the Macy-Mamet Connection and Remembering Brad Sullivan”. Playbill. Archived from the original on 2013-10-29. Retrieved 2013-10-25.
- “About CNR”. College of New Rochelle. Archived from the original on 2013-05-07. Retrieved 2013-10-25.
- “Mercedes Ruehl”. Yahoo! Movies. Archived from the original on 2011-07-26. Retrieved 2013-10-25.
- “Newspaper columnist Peter Ruehl dies”. The Sydney Morning Herald. 12 April 2011. Retrieved 2013-10-25.
- “Biography: Mercedes Ruehl”. American Theatre Wing. February 2005. Archived from the original on 2013-05-12. Retrieved 2013-10-25.
- Jones, Kenneth (22 January 2009). “Ruehl & Rabe Are Mother and Daughter in Broadway’s American Plan, Opening Jan. 22”. Playbill. Playbill.com. Archived from the original on 28 April 2009. Retrieved 2013-10-25.
- Jones, Kenneth (19 February 2009). “Broadway’s American Plan Is Extended to March 22”. Playbill. Playbill.com. Archived from the original on 28 April 2009. Retrieved 2013-10-25.
- “Rapunzel in the Catskills”. The New York Times. NYTimes.com. 22 January 2009. Retrieved 2013-10-25.
- Filichia, Peter (18 January 2011). “‘The How and the Why’ review: Princeton play premiere proves to be all-inclusive success”. The Star-Ledger. Newark, New Jersey: nj.com. Retrieved 2013-10-25.
- Rickwald, Bethany. ” ‘Torch Song’, Starring Michael Urie and Mercedes Ruehl, Extends” theatermania.com, September 14, 2017