Ethel Ayler, ‘Cosby Show’ and ‘Eve’s Bayou’ Actress, Dies at 88

The longtime actress portrayed Clair Huxtable’s mother

Carl Van Vechten via United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division

Ethel Ayler, a prolific character actress whose credits include “The Cosby Show,” died Nov. 18 at the age of 88.

She died in Loma Linda, California of undisclosed causes, her family announced Friday.

Ayler’s character on “The Cosby Show,” Carrie Hanks was the mother of Phylicia Rashad’s Claire Huxtable, appearing in six episodes over the course of the series. The actress, whose career spanned five decades, was also known for her roles in “Eve’s Bayou” and “To Sleep With Anger.”

She also appeared in the original 1980s Broadway production of “Fences” and played Addie in a 1997 revival of “The Little Foxes.” In “Eve’s Bayou” Ayler played Garn Mere, a believer in voodoo, and in “To Sleep With Anger,” she played the role of Hattie, for which received a Spirit Award nomination for Best Supporting Female.

In 1957, Ayler made her off-Broadway debut in the musical “Simply Heavenly,” before serving as Lena Horne’s understudy on Broadway play “Jamaica.” Her credits also includes the films “9½ Weeks” and “The Bodyguard,” and the TV shows “Family Ties,” “Martin,” “Friends,” “Brooklyn South,” “Six Feet Under” and “7th Heaven.”