Played by Phylicia Rashād, Clair Huxtable on The Cosby Show has always been one of my favorite T.V. characters for a multitude of reasons, but one of those reasons is the dash of Spanish she brought to the series. If you didn’t know, Rashād is bilingual English/Spanish. Born in Houston, Texas, her family moved to Mexico when she was a child to escape racism in the United States – and that’s how she learned the language.
While Clair’s character remained bilingual throughout the series, Bill Cosby had originally wanted the character to be Dominican. The character of Clair was inspired by I Love Lucy’s Ricky Ricardo, and like Ricky Ricardo, she would speak Spanish when angry. If you listen closely in the pilot episode of The Cosby Show, you can hear Clair speaking Spanish to the kids as she’s coming down the stairs, saying ¡No me digas que no, ey, porque de todas maneras tú lo tienes que hacer!
In another early episode (Season 1, Episode 23, “Mr. Quiet”), Clair is portrayed as a mother raising the children to be bilingual. In this scene Clair answers the phone and speaks Spanish. After the phone call, Rudy speaks to her mother in Spanish, with Cliff in the middle looking confused. (Clair speaks Spanish throughout this episode. Watch from 1:57 to 2:42, then at approximately 4:30 to 4:41, 14:22 to 15:00, and 16:42 to 17:10.)
I can’t really say that I wish they had kept Clair as Dominican and made the kids bilingual as the series went on – as amazing as that would have been – because I loved the show exactly as it was and it was a historically very important show, not just in the United States, but around the world. That being said, I’m still wondering where the Latino Cosby Show is and hoping it will happen sooner rather than later.