Born in Garden City, Long Island, New York. Phillips was raised a Roman Catholic and is the only boy out of six children. His father and Grandfather were the owners of Frankie and Johnnie’s Restaurant, the famous steak house in New York City. Phillips attended Boston University and received a bachelor's degree in English literature and an MFA from Cornell University. As of 2008, he lives in Los Angeles, California, with his wife Patricia Cresswell an artist, they were married August 10, 1990. He is an avid backpacker and an accomplished tenor saxophonist, and enjoys ornithology and botany.
After leaving Cornell, Phillips began his show business career performing in Broadway and off-Broadway plays– at many different theatres, including the Direct Theatre where he won the Best of the Actors’ Festival in 1977, the Wonderhorse Theatre in the premier of Christopher Durang’s The Nature and Purpose of the Universe, with Ellen Greene, and at Playwright’s Horizons in a revival of Eccentricities of a Nightengale (Tennessee Williams helped shape the production, and ended up writing a new monologue for Phillips, which Williams personally dictated to Phillips on tech day when it was realized the leading lady, Jill Eikenberry, needed more time for a dress change).
In 1979-80, Phillips also appeared as Utrillo in the premier of Dennis McIntyre’s Modicliani at the Astor Place Theatre. It ran for 208 performances and co-starred Jeff De Munn. Phillips performed in many plays in New York over the next fifteen years, including Terence McNally’s Lips Together, Teeth Apart for Manhattan Theatre Club (at the Lucile Lortel), Measure for Measure with Kevin Kline for the New York Shakespeare Festival at the Delacourte Theatre, the premier of the musical My Favorite Year at Lincoln Center, with Tim Curry and Andrea Martin, as well as revivals and new plays at theatres like the Hudson Guild Theatre, the Ensemble Studio Theatre, the American Jewish Theatre, Chelsea Theatre Center, and again at Playwright’s Horizons. Most recently he appeared in the premier of David Mamet’s November at the Ethyl Barrymore, with Nathan Lane, Dylan Baker, and Laurie Metcalf.
Phillips regional theatre credits include performing leading roles for San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre, for the Alaska Repertory Theatre, at Seattle Rep in the premier of Inspecting Carol with Dan Sullivan directing, at Baltimore Center Stage in the premier of Miss Ever's Boys, for the Westport Country Playhouse, the Boston Shakespeare Co., Actors’ Theatre of Louisville, Salt Lake Acting Co., and the McCarter Theatre.
In Los Angeles, Phillips acted in Side Man at the Pasadena Playhouse, in Lips Together, Teeth Apart for the Mark Taper, in You Can't Take It With You at the Geffen Theatre (directed by Chris Hart, Moss Hart’s son), in The Bourgeois Gentleman for the Pasadena Symphony, directed by John De Lancie, which moved to the Ravinia Festival in Chicago, and as Polonius in Hamlet for the Uprising Theatre. Ethan has been a member of Robert Redford's organization, The Sundance Playwrights Conference, in Utah, for over six summers, where he developed his play Penguin Blues, which is published by Samuel French and is included in The Best Short Plays of 1989 (Applause, ed. Ramon Delgado).
While at Sundance he worked on developing new plays such as Angels in America, The Kentucky Cycle, and Miss Ever's Boys. Based on his experience there, he helped found First Stage, a playwright development lab in Los Angeles that is now in it’s twenty-fourth year of operation.
Phillips has appeared in over thirty films, beginning with a small role in Ragtime (Milos Forman). These features include For Richer or Poorer, Jeffrey, The Shadow, Wagon's East, Man Without a Face, Green Card, Lean on Me, Critters, Bloodhounds of Broadway, the 1989 Oscar-winning historical film Glory, The Island, Bad Santa, and The Babysitters.
In 1980 Ethan Phillips and Rene Auberjonois (Odo of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) joined the cast of Benson (1979 - 1986). Phillips continued to play Pete Downey in the half-hour sitcom.
Mr. Phillips has made scores of guest appearances on many television series and TV movies, most recently Pushing Daisies, Bones, Eli Stone, Criminal Minds, NUMB3RS, Las Vegas, JAG, Law and Order, and Arrested Development. In 1990 he began his prolific "Star Trek" career playing the Ferengi character of Dr. Farek in Star Trek: The Next Generation; episode:Ménage à Troi. Phillips went on to play Neelix on Star Trek: Voyager from 1995 to 2001, Phillips stayed with the series through its entire seven-season run, and also performed a cameo as the holographic Nightclub Maitre d' in the 1996 Movie, Star Trek: First Contact.
Through the first three seasons of Star Trek: Voyager, several story lines included the romantic relationship between Neelix and Kes, as well as Neelix's slowly evolving friendship with the Vulcan security officer Tuvok. At the end of the series run, Neelix finds a home inside an asteroid populated with Talaxians. In this episode, titled "Homestead," he be-friends a young Talaxian boy and his mother, and chooses to stay with those of his own race, as well as represent the Federation as the official delta quadrant liaison, as Voyager continued its quest for Earth. In the final episode(s) "Endgame," Neelix is shown communicating with Seven of Nine on board via long-range video conference. While Phillips played the character as upbeat, optimistic, and at times almost comical, he also showed very resourceful, compassionate and insightful sides when dealing with adversity and children. Phillips also coauthored the Star Trek Cookbook.
Ethan Phillips has not only performed on three separate variations in the Star Trek TV Universe (Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Voyager, and Star Trek: Enterprise), he has also appeared in one of the feature length films (Star Trek: First Contact), and performed in the Star Trek Internet 'fanfilm' titled "Of Gods and Men" which starred several of the original Original series Star Trek cast.
Phillips has also performed for the Star Wars fanbase, doing voice work for several of the Star Wars franchise video games: 2000 the 'Star Wars: Force Commander' (Transport Pilot/Governor of Abridon), the 2001 'Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds' (Empire Medical Droid, Krantian Governor, and Royal Grenade Trooper), and the 2003 'Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic' (credited with additional voices).
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