Mercedes Ruehl
Ruehl in 2009
Born (1948-02-28) February 28, 1948 (age 75)
New York City, U.S.
EducationCollege of New Rochelle
Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts
Years active1976–present
(m. 1999; died 2020)
RelativesPeter Ruehl (brother)

Mercedes J. Ruehl (/rl/;[1] born February 28, 1948) is an American screen, stage, and television actress. She is the recipient of several accolades, including an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, a Tony Award, a Drama Desk Award, two Obie Awards, and two Outer Critics Circle Awards.

Ruehl is known for her leading performance in the play Lost in Yonkers (1990) and supporting performance in the film The Fisher King (1991). Her other film credits include Big (1988), Married to the Mob (1988), Last Action Hero (1993), Roseanna's Grave (1997), Gia (1998), and Hustlers (2019).

Early life and education

Ruehl was born February 28, 1948, in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York City,[2] to Mercedes J. Ruehl, a schoolteacher, and Vincent Ruehl, an FBI agent.[3][4] Her father was of German and Irish descent and her mother was of Cuban and Irish descent.[5][6] The family frequently moved during her childhood owing to Vincent Ruehl's assignments with the FBI, and lived in other states including Silver Spring, Maryland. She and her brother, Peter, were raised Catholic.[7]

She attended the College of New Rochelle[8] and graduated in 1969 with a BA in English.[4]


Ruehl began her career in regional theatre with the Denver Center Theatre Company, taking odd jobs between engagements. In 1980, she was nearly cast in the sixth season of Saturday Night Live, losing her slot to Denny Dillon.[9] 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?.[10]

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. 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, she returned to the stage in Manhattan Theater Club's production of Richard Greenberg's The American Plan playing the role of Eva Adler.[11] The production opened at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre and the limited engagement ran From January 22 until March 22.[12] In his rave review in The New York Times, Ben Brantley called Ruehl's performance "masterly".[13] Ruehl next appeared in the drama/horror film What Ever Happened to Barker Daniels?, which was released in 2009. In January 2011, Ruehl starred in Sarah Treem's play The How and The Why, directed by Emily Mann at McCarter Theatre of Princeton University.[14]

Ruehl appeared in the role of Ma in Harvey Fierstein's revamped and renamed revival of his play Torch Song Off-Broadway at Second Stage Theater. The play began previews on September 26, and opened officially on October 19, 2017.[15] The production later transferred to Broadway.

Ruehl is on the faculty of HB Studio in New York City.[16]

Personal life

In 1999, Ruehl married painter David Geiser with whom she had adopted a son, Jake (born 1995).[17][18] She had another son, Christopher, whom she placed for adoption in 1976 when she was 28. They were reunited in the late 1990s when he turned 21, and later Christopher became Jake's godfather.[18] Ruehl and Geiser put their Hampton house on the market in 2017; the same year Ruehl said that they were no longer together, but remained close.[19][20] Geiser died unexpectedly of heart disease in his sleep at home on October 14, 2020, at the age of 73.[17]

Her brother, Peter, moved to Australia in 1987 where he was a newspaper columnist until his death in 2011.[21]



Year Title Role Notes
1976 Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands American girl in casino Film debut Uncredited
1979 The Warriors Policewoman
1981 Four Friends Woman in Taxi
1986 Heartburn Eve
Twisted Cybelle
1987 Radio Days Ad Man
84 Charing Cross Road Kay
The Secret of My Succe$s Sheila
Leader of the Band Miss Cooper
1988 Big Mrs. Baskin
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
2002 Spooky House Boss
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
2019 Hustlers Mother
TBA The Nana Project Helen “Nana” Lewis Post-production


Year Title Role Notes
1977 The Doctors Ursula Television debut
Recurring role
1984 ABC Afterschool Special Sandy Episode: "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
1995–96 Frasier Kate Costas Recurring role; 5 episodes
1997 North Shore Fish Florence Television movie
SUBWAYStories: Tales from the Underground Leyla Television movie
Segment: "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
Widows Dolly Rawlins 4 episodes
2004 Everyday Life Television movie
1-800-Missing Emmanuelle Baker Episode: "These Dreams Before Me"
Bad Apple Lorraine Gibbons Television movie
2004 and 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
2006–08 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: "Episode Nine"
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"
2017–18 Power Connie Teresi Recurring role; 7 episodes
2018–20 Bull Judge Tessa Hudson 3 episodes
2022 New Amsterdam Grace Episode: "TBD"


Year Title Role Venue Refs
1985 Coming of Age in Soho Patricia Public Theatre [22]
1985 The Marriage of Bette and Boo Joan Brennan
1985–88 I'm Not Rappaport Clara Booth Theatre, Broadway
1988 American Notes' Karen The Public Theatre
1989 Other People's Money Kate Sullivan Minetta Lane Theatre, Off-Broadway
1991 Lost in Yonkers Bella Kurnitz Richard Rodgers Theatre
1992 Antony and Cleopatra Cleopatra Actors Theater, Louisville
1994–95 The Shadow Box Beverly Circle in the Square Theatre, Broadway
1995 The Rose Tattoo Serafina Delle Rose
2000 The Vagina Monologues Monologist Westside Theatre, Off-Broadway
2000–01 Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Martha Guthrie Theater. Minneapolis
2002 The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? Stevie John Golden Theatre, Broadway
2005 Woman Before a Glass Peggy Guggenheim Promenade Theater, Off-Broadway
2009 The American Plan Eva Adler Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, Broadway
2010 Edward Albee's Occupant Louise Nevelson Peter Norton Space
2012 The How and the Why Zelda Kahn McCarter Theatre, New Jersey
2015 Full Gallop Diana Vreeland Old Globe Theatre, California
2017–19 Torch Song Ma Beckoff Second Stage Theater, Off-Broadway
Helen Hayes Theatre, Broadway

Awards and nominations

Year Title Accolade Results
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 Leading 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


  1. ^ "Say How: R". National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled. Retrieved April 21, 2020.
  2. ^ Trescott, Jacqueline (26 March 1992). "Mercedes Ruehl, Driven; The Manic Actress On the Road to Oscar". The Washington Post. HighBeam Research. Archived from the original on October 25, 2012. Retrieved 2013-10-25.
  3. ^ "Mercedes Ruehl biography". Film Retrieved 2013-10-25.
  4. ^ a b Stark, John; Hutchings, David (September 5, 1988). "Playing a Gangster's Spitfire Wife, Mercedes Ruehl Heists the Spotlight in Married to the Mob". People. Retrieved 2013-10-25.
  5. ^ Corliss, Richard (April 6, 2002). "That Old Feeling: The Oscar Race". Time. Retrieved 2013-10-25.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ Ruehl, Mercedes. Casting a new light on a dark subject - novelist Cynthia Ozick - Interview. Interview. August 1994. Archived 2006-12-14 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ "About CNR". College of New Rochelle. Archived from the original on 2013-05-07. Retrieved 2013-10-25.
  9. ^ [1] Andy Hoglund, Vulture, August 13, 2020 Archived August 12, 2020, at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ "Biography: Mercedes Ruehl". American Theatre Wing. February 2005. Archived from the original on 2013-05-12. Retrieved 2013-10-25.
  11. ^ Jones, Kenneth (January 22, 2009). "Ruehl & Rabe Are Mother and Daughter in Broadway's American Plan, Opening Jan. 22". Playbill. Archived from the original on April 28, 2009. Retrieved 2013-10-25.
  12. ^ Jones, Kenneth (February 19, 2009). "Broadway's American Plan Is Extended to March 22". Playbill. Archived from the original on April 28, 2009. Retrieved 2013-10-25.
  13. ^ "Rapunzel in the Catskills". The New York Times. January 22, 2009. Retrieved 2013-10-25.
  14. ^ Filichia, Peter (January 18, 2011). "'The How and the Why' review: Princeton play premiere proves to be all-inclusive success". The Star-Ledger. Newark, New Jersey: Retrieved 2013-10-25.
  15. ^ "Torch Song, Starring Michael Urie and Mercedes Ruehl, Extends". TheaterMania. September 14, 2017. Retrieved 2021-07-26.
  16. ^ "Mercedes Ruehl, HB Studio NYC, Acting Workshop Teacher". HB Studio. 2021-02-04. Retrieved 2021-07-26.
  17. ^ a b "David Geiser, Artist, Was 73". East Hampton Star. November 5, 2020. Retrieved February 23, 2021.
  18. ^ a b "Mercedes Ruehl". Yahoo! Movies. Archived from the original on 2011-07-26. Retrieved 2013-10-25.
  19. ^ Hoffman, Barbara (November 2, 2017). "Meet the 'most unloved woman in New York'". New York Post. Retrieved February 23, 2021.
  20. ^ "Mercedes Ruehl And David Geiser Unload East Hampton Home". Southampton Press. March 28, 2017. Retrieved February 23, 2021 – via 27east.
  21. ^ "Newspaper columnist Peter Ruehl dies". The Sydney Morning Herald. April 12, 2011. Retrieved 2013-10-25.
  22. ^ "Mercedes Ruehl theatre profile".