Rhea Perlman Reflects on 'Cheers' ' Impact on Her Career 40 Years Later: It Was 'Everything'

"Cheers might have been everything in the beginning of my career, but family is everything, everything,” the Marvelous and the Black Hole actress tells PEOPLE

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP/Shutterstock (10253254g) Rhea Perlman poses for a portrait to promote the film "Poms" in New York Rhea Perlman Portrait Session, New York, USA - 08 May 2019
Photo: Andy Kropa/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

Forty years later, Rhea Perlman still credits Cheers with jumpstarting her career.

"It was huge," the 74-year-old actress, starring next in Marvelous and the Black Hole, tells PEOPLE in this week's issue. "And I wouldn't have had any of the career that I — well, who knows what I would've had? Nobody knows what doesn't happen, but it was the best job in the world."

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Perlman played head waitress Carla during Cheers' run from 1982 until 1993.

"I remember we were all going, 'Should we do another year? It's been 11 years?'" Perlman recalls. "George [Wendt] says, 'If someone gives you a present every year, you're not going to take it the next year? Why not?' So, we took it for as long as they gave it."

CHEERS -- "Someday My Prince Will Come" Episode 3 -- Aired 10/17/85 -- Pictured: (l-r) Woody Harrelson as Woody Boyd, Ted Danson as Sam Malone, John Ratzenberger as Cliff Clavin, Rhea Perlman as Carla Tortelli, George Wendt as Norm Peterson (Photo by NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images)
NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal/Getty

The only thing Perlman cherishes more than Cheers: her relationships with her kids Lucy, 39, Grace, 37, and Jack, 34, who she welcomed with actor Danny DeVito after they wed in 1982.

"Cheers might have been everything in the beginning of my career, but family is everything, everything," Perlman says. "If my relationships with my children were strained, I would be beside myself."

Perlman and DeVito, 77, announced their separation for the first time in 2012 but never officially divorced.

"We're still separated, but we see each other often, and we're still a family," the four-time Emmy winner says. "We can do things together, we can do things separately. I'm really, really glad that Danny and I were able to navigate some rough days to be able to have this different kind of relationship. I think it's pretty rare, but we agree on so many things that it makes sense."

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Ultimately Perlman thinks "it's probably worked out for the best" with DeVito. "Sometimes I wish we were still together because those were the glory days, but these are other kinds of glory days," she says.

Today the mom of three looks forward to working — "I'm very excited about that," she says — and traveling more.

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"I really want to go so many places," the native New Yorker says. "I've never been to Japan. I've never been to so many parts of South America. I've never been to Australia, believe it or not. So that's one thing that I'm really looking forward to. I like being in nice places."

Perlman, who recently signed on to Greta Gerwig's live-action Barbie movie, feels hopeful about continuing to land great roles because of the increasing number of women behind the camera; just look at her latest movie Marvelous and the Black Hole.

Marvelous and the Black Hole
Nanu Segal

"Kate [Tsang] who's the writer and director had never directed a feature before. And she couldn't have been more prepared every day," Perlman gushes. "And the producer Carolyn Mao, she's amazing. And the cinematographer was a woman. It was a really great feeling. There's always more parts for men, but I think that everybody's aware of trying to write for women and cast women. I feel very optimistic about it."

Marvelous and the Black Hole hits theaters Friday.

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