Maybe it's not surprising that this diminutive actress, best known for playing tough-talking Carla Tortelli on Cheers, was born way out in Brooklyn, NY, on Coney Island. What's hard to believe is that as a child she was painfully shy, and remains so despite her success. Perlman was briefly a drama major at Hunter College in New York City, but she dropped out to pursue acting opportunities in off-Broadway theater productions, and it was on one of these productions in 1970 that she met her future husband, Danny DeVito.
The couple moved to Los Angeles in 1976 to look for film and television work. Perlman made her television debut in the made-for-TV movie Stalk the Wild Child. She would go on to make numerous TV appearances, but it was DeVito's good fortune that led to her big break. His role as volatile dispatcher Louie De Palma on the sitcom Taxi led to Perlman being cast as Louie's girlfriend, Zena Sherman, a recurring role that she would reprise until the series ended. Because of her work on Taxi, James Burrows, creator and producer of both Taxi and Cheers, remembered Perlman when he was casting venom-tongued barmaid Carla, whom she played for 11 seasons, and for which Perlman received 10 Emmy Award nominations (she won four).
Significant film appearances include the critically acclaimed Sunset Park and Matilda, which was directed by DeVito. After Cheers, Perlman continued to work in TV and film. In 1996, she produced and starred in the short-lived sitcom Pearl. She made guest appearances on Mad About You and reunited with former Cheers cast mates with guest appearances on Becker and Frasier. Perlman continues to work on projects for television and spends a great deal of time with her husband and their three children.