Ethan Phillips (born February 8, 1955) is an American actor and playwright. He is best known for his television roles on Star Trek: Voyager (as Neelix) and Benson (as PR man Pete Downey). Raised in Garden City, New York, Phillips attended Boston University and received a bachelor's degree in English literature and a Master of Fine Arts from Cornell University.
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 Playwrights Horizons in a revival of Eccentricities of a Nightingale. Legendary writer Tennessee Williams helped shape the production, and ended up writing a new monologue for Phillips, which Williams personally dictated to him on tech day after it was realized that leading lady Jill Eikenberry, needed more time to make a required dress change.
In 1979-80, Phillips also appeared as Utrillo in the premier of Dennis McIntyre's Modigliani at the Astor Place Theatre. It ran for 208 performances.
Phillips performed in many plays in New York over the next fifteen years, including Terrence McNally's Lips Together, Teeth Apart for Manhattan Theatre Club (at the Lucille Lortel Theatre), Measure for Measure with Kevin Kline for the New York Shakespeare Festival at the Delacorte Theater, the premier of musical My Favorite Year at Lincoln Center, with Tim Curry and Andrea Martin.
He went on to appear in the premier of David Mamet's November at the Ethel Barrymore Theater, with Nathan Lane, Dylan Baker, and Laurie Metcalf and played the title character opposite Peter Dinklage in the all-male cast of The Imaginary Invalid for Bard College's 2012 SummerScape Festival. In 2013-14 he appeared as Stanley Levison in Robert Schenkkan's new play All the Way at American Repertory Theater.
Phillips' regional theater credits include leading roles for San Diego's Old Globe Theatre, for the Alaska Repertory Theatre, at Seattle Repertory Theatre in the premier of Inspecting Carol with Dan Sullivan directing, at Baltimore's Center Stage in the premier of Miss Evers' Boys, for the Westport Country Playhouse, the Boston Shakespeare Company, 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 Forum, in You Can't Take It with You at the Geffen Playhouse (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 six summers, where he developed his play Penguin Blues, which is published by Samuel French Inc. 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 Evers' Boys.
Based on his experience there, he helped found First Stage, a playwright development lab in Los Angeles that is now in its twenty-fourth year of operation.
Phillips has appeared in over thirty films, beginning with a small role in Ragtime (directed by Miloš Forman). These features include For Richer or Poorer, Jeffrey, The Shadow, Wagons East!, The Man Without a Face, Green Card, Lean on Me (which reunited him with his Benson co-star Robert Guillaume), Critters, Bloodhounds of Broadway, The Island, Bad Santa, and The Babysitters. More recent films include Shadow Witness, Audrey, and the Coen brother's Inside Llewyn Davis.
In 1980, Phillips joined the cast of hit sitcom Benson (1979–1986), playing Pete Downey, PR man to Governor Gatling.
Phillips has made scores of guest appearances on television series and tele films, including Pushing Daisies, Bones (TV Series), Eli Stone, Criminal Minds, NUMB3RS, Las Vegas, L.A. Law, JAG, Law & Order, Arrested Development, Boston Legal, Castle, Rizzoli & Isles, 'The Good Guys, and The Mentalist.
In 1990 he began his prolific Star Trek career playing the Ferengi character of Dr. Farek in the "Ménage à Troi" episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation Phillips went on to play Neelix on Star Trek: Voyager from 1995. Phillips stayed with the series through its entire seven-season run; he also cameoed as a holographic nightclub maître d' in 1996 film Star Trek: First Contact, and appeared as a Ferengi pirate captain on an episode of Star Trek: Enterprise. He reprised his role as Neelix alongside fellow Star Trek: Voyager actors Tim Russ, Robert Picardo, Garrett Wang and Jeri Ryan in Star Trek Online's 2014 expansion Delta Rising.
Phillips co-authored the Star Trek Cookbook with William J Birnes, and performed in the Star Trek Internet fan film Of Gods and Men.
Phillips has also done voice work for several of the Star Wars franchise video games: 2000's Star Wars: Force Commander, 2001's Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds, and 2003's Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.
On November 9, 2010, Phillips appeared on long-running soap opera Days of Our Lives as a witness to a hit and run pedestrian fatality. In May 2011, he played Tucker's attorney on The Young and the Restless.