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Why The Angry Neighbor From It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia Season 16 Looks So Familiar

The latest season of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" is one of the most star-studded in the show's long history. Despite the show's massive fan base, it has always felt like a cult classic affair, keeping intact the DIY aesthetic it's always been known for. Of course, the blackhearted sitcom has attracted some massive guest stars in the past. Who can forget Sean "Diddy" Combs as underground botanist Dr. Jinx or multiple Oscar-winning director Guillermo del Toro as the McPoyle family patriarch, Pappy? But for the latest season, the gang brought aboard the likes of Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul.

Viewers may have noticed one character who looks extra familiar this season. The character debuted in the Season 16 trailer and appears to be an angry neighbor. Keen viewers will recognize this neighbor as Rhea Perlman — a true sitcom legend and movie star who also happens to be married to "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" star Danny DeVito. Here are some of her most notable roles.

Rhea Perlman's 50-year career got an early start with Taxi

Even in a season of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" that features cameos from the likes of Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul, Rhea Perlman's star power casts a long shadow.

After beginning her career on the stages of New York City in 1970, Perlman's first notable role was a recurring part on the series "Taxi." She played Zena, the erstwhile girlfriend of series regular Louie De Palma (Danny DeVito). Next to DeVito's wily, flailing energy (which shows early signs of the animalistic character he would later play on "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia"), Perlman often played straight against his antics to uproarious effect.

Ultimately, Zena's on-and-off relationship with Louie breaks down and she marries another man, much to his dismay. The scene in which she informs him of her upcoming wedding is a master class in physical comedy from both DeVito and Perlman. At that point, the two were already a real-life couple for several years.

Perlman rose to acclaim as Carla Tortelli on Cheers

Rhea Perlman has been acting since 1970, but perhaps her most well-known role was as the witty bar worker Carla Tortelli on "Cheers." As one of the most popular sitcoms of all time, "Cheers" catapulted Perlman to national recognition.

Known for her no-nonsense attitude and caustic tone, Carla was a force to be reckoned with for the patrons of Cheers, dispensing one-liners at their expense whenever they said something obtuse or rubbed her the wrong way. She was also the sworn nemesis of her co-worker Diane (Shelley Long). But her softer side often showed when talking about her children, who she worked at the bar to support. By the show's conclusion, however, it was said that she had a total of eight children.

Perlman acted on "Cheers" for 11 seasons, was one of only three cast members who appeared in every episode, and was nominated for an Emmy each year except for 1992, ultimately garnering a total of 10 nominations and four wins for outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series. In 1987, NBC attempted a spin-off of "Cheers" starring Carla's estranged ex-husband called "The Tortellis," but absent Perlman, who appeared only in the pilot, the series was short-lived.

Her appearance on "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" feels like coming full circle. After all, the bleak bar The Gang calls home always felt loosely inspired by the setting of "Cheers," including the running gag where characters burst through the door with news to deliver. And while Perlman doesn't get to play a barkeep this time around, she does once more get to share an episode of television with DeVito as she once did on "Taxi," though the two sadly don't interact in "The Gang Gets Cursed."

Perlman had a beloved supporting role in Matilda

In 1996, Rhea Perlman starred in a supporting role in the film adaptation of Roald Dahl's "Matilda." The film's lead was then-child star Mara Wilson as the titular Matilda, a neglected child genius with latent telekinetic powers. Perlman stars as Matilda's selfish mother, Zinnia, alongside Danny DeVito as Harry, the child's abusive car salesman father. The movie was a smashing success, catapulting Wilson to instant fame and reinvigorating Perlman's career.

In fact, not only did Perlman play DeVito's husband in "Matilda," the two are married in real life as well. Perlman met the "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" star while he was performing off-Broadway in 1971, and starred alongside him in a stage production the next year. She subsequently landed her role on "Taxi" alongside DeVito. The two were wed in 1982 and went on to have three children. Although they have been separated since 2017, they have no plans to file for divorce.

In 2022, Netflix released "Roald Dahl's Matilda the Musical," and though Perlman was not a part of the cast this time around, she still loved seeing the story retold. As she put it to The Daily Beast, "['Matilda'] is one of my favorite projects of all time — it's still a fantastic movie — I really didn't get to see the musical on stage. I'm looking forward to it."

Her own series, Pearl, ran for a season

After decades of success in supporting roles on classic sitcoms, Rhea Perlman starred in her own. Entitled "Pearl," she played Pearl Caraldo, a middle-aged woman who decides to earn her college degree in night school after the passing of her husband. The show was created by Don Reo and the cast was filled out with, among others, Lucy Liu, Carol Kane, and Malcolm McDowell, with recurring guest stars including Bryan Cranston, Ted Danson, and Mara Wilson.

While the show was well-received when it debuted on CBS in 1996, but it declined in the ratings as the season continued. The Los Angeles Times praised Perlman's performance but had gripes about other aspects of the series. "But Perlman's still pert and peppery and endearingly pugnacious. 'Pearl' deserves a chance because it's a lot less dumb than most of the season's other new sitcoms and because Perlman makes it gleam," the outlet wrote, adding that the show squandered its high-profile guest actors in the service of shortsighted comedy.

But while the broadest critical consensus agreed the show seemed to be headed in a promising direction, CBS wasn't willing to wait around and see. "Pearl" was canceled after a single season, leaving Perlman to embark on a new leg of her career.

She had a recurring role on The Mindy Project

Following the early demise of "Pearl," Rhea Perlman starred in a string of films and plays while making guest appearances on various television shows. Then, from 2014 to 2017, she took up a recurring role on the Mindy Kaling vehicle "The Mindy Project." The series revolved around Kaling as a much put-upon obstetrician, also named Mindy, with Perlman playing Annette Castellano, the mother of Kaling's love interest Danny (Chris Messina).

Though she appeared infrequently, Perlman is equally as ferocious in the role of Annette as she's ever been. Among her most intriguing storylines, Annette is diagnosed with breast cancer in Season 6 and elects to hide her illness from her son. Of course, Mindy can't help but get involved, much to Annette's chagrin.

Season 6 was the final stretch of "The Mindy Project," which remains widely remembered for its often sharp critique of modern society. It also marked the last time, as of this writing, that Perlman held a recurring role on TV. She has since done a slew of TV guest appearances, including voice work on "Harley Quinn" and "Star Wars: The Bad Batch," and has continued to star in films, most recently taking the role of Bubby in "You People." Later this year, she will appear in Greta Gerwig's "Barbie" in an unannounced role.