Whatever happened to Blair, Jo, Natalie, and Tootie? Find out what the girls are up to now, and other behind the scenes facts and trivia about the cast of the hit series, The Facts of Life!
Lisa Whelchel was always into acting, joining the famous Mickey Mouse Club at a young age. She also was involved with music before her time on The Facts of Life, recording a popular Christian album. Despite her immense talent, Whelchel, who played the part of Blair Warner for nine years, hasn’t sought the limelight since The Facts of Life ended.
She’s still somewhat involved in the entertainment industry, however, with a brief stint on CBS’s Survivor: Phillippines in 2012, where she was the runner-up, as well as a fan favorite. She’s also appeared on Hallmark TV series in movies such as Hearts of Spring and For Better or For Worse.
Lisa Whelchel also read for the part of Rachel Green on Friends, with Nancy McKeon reading for Monica’s part. Of course, the role of the materialistic, yet kind Rachel went to Jennifer Aniston and the OCD chef Monica Gellar was portrayed by Courtney Cox. Whelchel was a hit as Rachel, but ultimately, chose not to pursue the part although she had a feeling it was going to be a huge hit.
Whelchel was a devout Christian who in the past, had refused controversial plot lines. She accurately predicted that while hilarious, Friends would focus a lot on sex, which she had no interest in playing out on screen. Although the role made Jennifer Aniston’s career, Whelchel doesn’t regret her choice.
Charlotte Rae, the actress who played Edna Garrett, is best known for her time on The Facts of Life. The actress was nominated for an Emmy, for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, for her work on the series in 1982. Rae has written an autobiography discussing her time on the show and has also continued to act since the show wrapped, starring on popular television shows such as The King of Queens, as well as ER.
She also had a part in the film Ricki and the Flash, with actress Meryl Streep in the lead, and returned to her maternal, young woman mentoring roots on The Disney Channel’s hit series, Girl Meets World.
The iconic Cloris Leachman was cast as Beverly Ann Stickle, Edna Garrett’s sister. After Rae decided to leave the series, Leachman stepped into the leading role. Before her time on The Facts of Life, Leachman competed in the Miss America pageant and acted on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
Leachman has worked extensively since wrapping the show, including an appearance on Dancing with the Stars. She’s also starred on hit shows such as Malcolm In The Middle and Raising Hope. During the roast of Bob Saget on Comedy Central, Leachman was a contributor, roasting the famous Full House star.
It was Charlotte Rae who in fact, discovered Mindy Cohn. Cohn reminded Rae of her childhood best friend, and she insisted that the writers write in a role just for Cohn. They two remained lifelong friends, with Rae teaching Cohn much of what she knew about acting.
Today, she occasionally guest stars on shows, with small parts on series such as The Middle and Hot In Cleveland. She’s never had children and remains unmarried, but continues to work as an actress. Her biggest claim to fame since the series ended is her voice work on Scooby Doo. Rae plays Velma Dinkley.
Kim Fields, who played Tootie, was the only character featured on two shows, Diff’rent Strokes and The Facts of Life. She started as a guest star on Good Times before becoming Tootie, or Dorothy “Tootie” Ramsey, a young girl who was known for her spunky, vivacious personality. She was also known for her famous catchphrase, “We’re in troouu-ble!”
Reportedly, Fields was so much shorter than the rest of the cast, she had to wear rollerbladers to help her stay in frame. When the Facts of Life ended, she was cast as Regina “Regine” Hunter on Living Single, on FOX. She’s also had guest roles on Dancing with the Stars and The Real Housewives of Atlanta.
Nancy McKeon, who was a late addition to the cast, played fan favorite Jo Polniaczek in season two. She replaced most of the characters from season one, such as The Breakfast Club alum Molly Ringwald. McKeon made her start starring in commercials with her brother, Phillip. It was her work in a Hallmark commercial that landed her a part on the show after a casting agent saw her crying on cue.
Since the ending of the show, McKeon, who’s a native New Yorker, is still an active actress. She auditioned for the part of Monica Gellar on Friends, that she does not regret she lost to Courteney Cox, and also starred on shows such as Can’t Hurry Love and Lifetime crime drama The Division, playing Inspector Jinny Exstead. She’s won three PRISM Award nominations for her depiction.
Behind The Scenes
Some of the most creative minds were behind The Facts of Life, including Ben Starr, Jenna McMahon, and Dick Clair. The three are of many responsible for developing the series, as well as other popular shows in the early to late 1970s. The last big project Starr completed before his untimely passing was actually the Facts of Life reunion movie, which starred series regulars and resonated deeply with dedicated fans of the hit series.
Sadly, he passed away in 2014 from heart failure. McMahon and Clair, responsible for many of the jokes on the series, also created series such as It’s a Living, and Mama’s Family.
Under The Radar
Though some stars gained fame from starring on The Facts of Life, many weren’t really seen again. Two such actresses were Julie Piekarski, or Sue Ann Weaver, and Julie Anne Haddock, who was best known for her role as Cindy Webster on The Facts of Life. When Haddock decided to leave the show, she also left acting behind, though fans were still impressed with her performance.
Piekarski, while making appearances on other popular shows, such as Diff’rent Strokes, General Hospital, and Three’s Company, has also opted to live a quiet life out of the public eye.
Under The Radar
Loren Lester got his big break playing Roy on The Facts of Life. Lester has since starred in hit television series such as Two and a Half Men, Desperate Housewives, and The West Wing. He’s also done some voice-over work for video games, such as for Dr. Parker’s voice in Spider-Man 2.
While he was known before his time on the show, the youngest of the Cassidy brothers, Ryan, still had a very short-lived acting career. He played Kevin Metcalf on the show, but has since pursued behind the scenes work in set dressing.
“The Facts of Life”
Gloria Loring sang the theme song for the show with her now ex-husband, sitcom star Alan Thicke. Loring also acted on famous NBC daytime soap Days of Our Lives, playing Liz Chandler. As one of the new additions to the show, Loring was up against the potential for being cut from it, only to become a fan favorite. Gloria stayed on the show for five seasons, before pursuing other interests.
In addition to her acting and singing, she’s also a talented writer, writing for publications such as Soap Opera Digest. Loring is also the author of an autobiography titled Coincidence Is God’s Way of Remaining Anonymous.
Alan Thicke, husband of Gloria Loring at the time, composed the theme song “The Facts of Life.” Thicke went on to land the role he’d become best known for, being cast on hit family sitcom Growing Pains as Jason Seaver. He later went on to host The Alan Thicke Show, a talk show in Canada. Thicke has had an impressive career in television and film, also starring in film and television, with some of his most notable roles in Raising Helen and Alpha Dog.
Alan has also appeared in branding campaigns for Fruit of the Loom, Bright Smile whitening, and Woolco. Thicke is also the father to popstar Robin Thicke, and has been married three times.
The most esteemed graduate from The Facts of Life is George Clooney, who of course, has gone on to be a huge celebrity. But before he was THE George Clooney, he was handyman George Burnett for the girls for two seasons. After The Facts of Life, Clooney gained fame during his time on ER, as Dr. Doug Ross.
Since his ER days, Clooney has starred in films such as Batman, The Monuments Men, Up In The Air and Michael Clayton, as well as The Oceans series. Clooney has won multiple Oscars, Golden Globes, and Screen Actors Guild Awards. After a high-profile dating life, Clooney married Amal Alamuddin.
Andy, played by actor Mackenzie Astin, has consistently acted since he was a young child. He’s of course, best known for his time as Andy Moffett Stickle for four seasons on The Facts of Life. The part actually got him nominated for a Young Artist Award for Best Young Supporting Actor in a Television Series.
While he hasn’t gained the same kind of fame, he’s appeared on shows such as Rosewood and Scandal, as well as medical dramas Bones and Grey’s Anatomy. Astin lost part of his ear while filming The Evening Star, and had to be fitted with a prosthetic.
Pamela Adlon, who played Kelly Affinado on the series, was only on the show for one season. Since she left the show, Adlon has since had an incredible experience working in film and television. She’s done some voice acting on shows such as Pound Puppies, Bob’s Burgers, and All Grown Up!, as well as for Tinkerbell and Brother Bear.
She also played Marcy on the hit series Californication and recently kicked off her own TV series that she co-created with Louis C.K. and stars in, named Better Things.
Molly Ringwald, who later starred in brat pack films such as Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Pretty In Pink got her big break playing Molly Parker on The Facts of Life. However, she didn’t make it to the second season, due to the show restructuring. Ringwald recovered quickly, hitting her peak in the 80s, before reportedly moving to France and starring in French films in her teens.
She was in high demand at the time, and supposedly walked away from roles in hit films such as Pretty Woman and Ghost. Since her ’80s fame, Ringwald has starred on shows such as the ABC Family teen drama The Secret Life of the American Teenager.
Robert Romanus was perhaps typecast as Snake due to his famous role in Fast Times at Ridgemont High as the shady and sleezy Mike Damone. Romanus has gone on to build up an impressive Hollywood resume since his time on The Facts of Life, working in both television and in movies.
He guest starred on CSI, as well as Cougar Town. In his spare time, Romanus tends to his Los Angeles-based coffee shop and cafe, Bob’s Espresso Bar.
Geri Jewell played the part of Geri Tyler on The Facts of Life for nearly four years, making history as the first disabled person on a prime time series, as she has cerebral palsy. She started performing at The Comedy Store in the late ’70s, later becoming the recurring character Jewel Deadwood, a HBO original series.
Jewell also made appearances on the soap opera The Young and the Restless, as well as on FOX’s hit series, Glee. Jewell has been recognized for her work with awards such as the 1992 Founders Award as well as the 2005 Independent Living Legacy Award.
Jami Gertz, who recently appeared on the hit series, This Is Us on NBC as a high-profile Hollywood executive, actually played Boots St. Clair on The Facts of Life for a little while. Gertz has had quite an impressive career since, showing up in films and television shows such as Sixteen Candles, Ally McBeal, ER, Modern Family, and The Neighbors.
Gertz also went out for the role of Rachel on Friends, similar to other Facts of Life alum Lisa. Similar to Lisa, Gertz realized it wasn’t a good fit, but wished well for the series, who obviously became an incredible hit.
John Bowab, who directed over 90 episodes of The Facts of Life, went on to direct until the late 2000s. His work includes directing gigs on hit television series such as Family Matters, The Cosby Show, and My Wife and Kids. Bowab was joined on the show by fellow director Asaad Kelada, who almost directed as many episodes with just 80 under his belt.
Kelada also went on to have an impressive career, with credits such as The Louie Show, Sister, Sister, and most notably, The Office. Both of the men helped make a significant mark for The Facts of Life due to their dedication and tenacity.
Now current New Yorker columnist Andy Borowitz, of the Borowitz Report, once was the writer for The Facts of Life from 1983 to 1984. Shortly after he left the show, he created legendary TV sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel Air in the early 90’s and eventually went on to co-produce film Pleasantville starring Toby McGuire and Reese Witherspoon.
Borowitz has even found time to become a New York Times Best Seller with novels like Who Moved My Soap?: The CEO’s Guide to Surviving, The Republican Playbook, Governor Arnold, The Trillionaire Next Door and his infamous The Borowitz Report: The Big Book of Shockers.
Once Borowitz signed off as writer the popular TV sitcom, Oscar-winner writer Paul Haggis stepped in until 1986. Since then Haggis has been credited with writing impressive film scripts for Million Dollar Baby, Crash and Casino Royale. Other sitcoms that Haggis is responsible for creating along with The Facts of Life are The Love Boat, One Day at a Time, Diff’rent Strokes and even Walker Texas Ranger.
Impressively, beyond his 2 Grammy Award-winning films Crash and Million Dollar Baby, Haggis actually created the brilliant idea behind Crash, wrote the script and directed the film by himself. Although he was tied to the church of Scientology for a bit and has now come out as an atheist, there is no doubt that Paul Haggis is one of the greatest writers of our time.
Actor Alex Rocco, although most well known for his role on the The Godfather as Moe Greene, appeared often on the show as Charlie Polniaczek, Jo’s father. Following the ending of the show, Rocco earned an Emmy for his work on CBS sitcom The Famous Teddy Z as the character of Hollywood talent agent Al Floss.
Rocco even played Jennifer Lopez’s scrabble-loving immigrant father in the romantic comedy The Wedding Planner and was also seen in That Thing You Do! as the founder of Playtone Records. Unfortunately, Rocco passed away in 2015 at the age of 79 from pancreatic cancer, but we will never forget his influential roles in Hollywood.
You may recognize this aging actor as Steven Bradley from the first season of the show, and you are correct. Actor John Lawlor played the role of Steven Bradley, headmaster at the Eastland Academy, but has since moved on to roles like guest- star Larry Lambert on Knot’s Landing, Brad in Highway to Heaven and the role of Herbert West on Scoundrels.
Bradley’s role on The Facts of Life was said to be inspired by a real Steven Bradley that Lawlor knew from his hometown of Boulder that was the manager of Winter Park ski area. The 75-year-old even made small appearances on National Lampoon Goes to the Movies, Breaking Bad, Cold Case and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys in recent years.
The stunning Australian actress/ singer that we know as Pippa McKenna from the last season of the show, is none other than Sherrie Austin.
Now a country singer known for her 2003 hit “Streets of Heaven,” the 46-year-old talent also made a career in Broadway after the show’s end in musicals Bonnie & Clyde, Warrior, Annie Get Your Gun and even Ring of Fire: The Johnny Cash Musical Show in more recent years and still continues to tour in shows to this day. Austin even got to open for the great Johnny Cash at just 14 years old! What a resume!
For at least 6 years that the sitcom ran, actress Marj Dusay appeared as Blair Warner’s mother Monica on The Facts of Life. Since she made a name for herself on the show, she has since become a Soap Opera star on All My Children as Vanessa Bennett Hayward Cortlandt and Alexandra Spaulding on Guiding Light.
Dusay even earned a Daytime Emmy Award for her work as Alexandra on Guiding Light until the show’s cancellation in 2009. Directors of All My Children loved Dusay so much as Bennett, they convinced her to return to the show after her character was revealed as a drug lord and replaced Joan Collins when she left the show earlier than expected.
Co-creator of the TV show, Jenna McMahon spearheaded the humor, trials and tribulations throughout the years with creator and friend Dick Clair. McMahon kept busy during The Facts of Life with other sitcoms though like It’s a Living, Mama’s Family, Carol, Carl Whoopi and Robin and earned several Emmys for her brilliant work on the Carol Burnett Show.
Originally starting out as an actress in Hollywood, Jenna studied under actress Stella Adler and was featured in small roles on major television sitcoms like The Twilight Zone, The Bob Newhart Show, Dennis The Menace and more. Sadly, McMahon passed away at 89 from heart failure, but she will always be remembered as a great in Hollywood.
Famous New Yorker native and screen play writer Ben Starr was one of the many brilliant minds behind The Facts of Life as a developer, but the now-deceased talent has so much more on his resume.
As a writer for legendary TV shows like The Andy Griffith Show, Silver Spoons, The Brady Bunch, Diff’rent Strokes, All in the Family, Mister Ed and many more, Starr really brought comedy to another level with intelligence and flare that most do not possess. A fun fact of the writer is that he was the one to pen Gary Coleman’s famous catch phrase “what you talkin’ about Willis?” Starr made it all the way to 92 years old, until he suffered from congestive heart failure in 2014.
The actress is most well known for her role of Nancy on the show, as well as featuring in Zapped! the teen movie. Starting out as a child model, Schachter eventually made her way into ballet on Broadway for shows like The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty and The Taming of the Shrew.
She even starred in off-Broadway plays The Innocents and Time Again when she started to build her show business career in ’78. After playing Nancy on the show, she went on to guest star in various sitcoms and even became a sports broadcaster forCBS and now works as an assistant director and production assistant for infomercials, commercials and corporate films.
Roger is subtly recognized for playing Mr. Parker on The Facts of Life as he only appeared in certain episodes, but his more notable performances include attorney Jim Harrigan in Harrigan and Son, Dr. James Hayes in Count Yorga, Vampire, films Dirty Love and Wreckage, and his co-star role on Arrest and Trial as Detective Sergeant Dan Kirby.
He even guest starred on NBC’s Star Trek episode “Tomorrow is Yesterday” as Captain John Christopher. The 83-year-old has since retired, been divorced and remarried to his current wife, actress Joyce Bulifant; both actors were awarded a Golden Palm Star on the Walk of Stars.
Oh the beloved Kevin Metcalfe, played by actor Ryan Cassidy always had our hearts skipping a beat, didn’t he? Although Cassidy only made appearances during the show’s sixth season, he was instantly labeled as a teen heartthrob by the press and fell victim to “Cassidy-mania.”
And what fans may not know about Metcalfe is that the character was specifically created for and based on Cassidy in real life. Since the show’s end, Cassidy has been found on “The King of Queens” set as a set dresser and even worked on the iconic film Blow. A fun fact about Cassidy is that he starred in Lional Richie’s music video for “Penny Lover.”
As recurring role on The Facts of Life, David Warner as Blair’s father, English-born actor Nicolas Coster is most well known for his work on All My Children, One Life to Live, Young Doctor Malone and The Secret Storm.
As a major Daytime Soap Opera actor Coster made a name for himself on screen, but has recently been interested in scuba diving instructing and organizing sail trips for the disabled. Sadly for Coster, his only son reportedly committed suicide on December 21, 2016. He now lives with his wife Beth Panel and his three children from his first marriage to Candance Hilligoss.
Responsible for 80 episodes of the series, director Asaad Kelada was a major pillar behind the show’s image and quality.
But, the sitcom ended up being a stepping stone for the talented director that went on to operate direction over iconic TV programs like Whos The Boss?, Everybody Loves Raymond, Two and a Half Men, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Family Ties, Dharma and Greg,The Office, Disney-favorite Sister, Sister, The Louie Show and many many more.The Cairo native director is clearly very understanding of the complexities of humor and what it takes to make a great comedic sitcom and is now 74 years old.
Although Heather only guest starred on the sitcom as Alex, McAdam really made a name for herself on the show. In the same year she was featured as Alex, she won a Young Artist Award for Best Young Actress in a Television Special for her character Jo Davis on CBS’s Just Pals.
One of her major roles was Cat Margolis on the show Sisters that she carried from ’91 until ’96. The Facts of Life was just one show that she guest starred on throughout her career, along with Quantum Leap, Matlock, Beverly Hills 90210 and Touched By An Angel. Now, she resides with her husband Todd Kessler and her three children in incredible shape for 48 years old.
Actor Scott Bryce was nominated for a Daytime Emmy for his role as Rick Bonner on The Facts of Life, but is also well known for his part in the As The World Turns as Craig Montgomery.
The Guiding Light, Murphy Brown, One Life to Live, ER, Law and Order, Reba, Sex and the City and Beacon Hill were Bryce’s mainstream accomplishments in Hollywood with some major star roles and others as guest appearances. More recently the actor has worked on the set of TV series Homeland and 30 Rock but is starting to slow as he approaches 60 years of age; although he looks incredible.
As Ruth, Chicago actress Ruth Gillette started her career in the 30’s on screen and ended it with the The Facts of Life in the 80’s. Favorite performances of Gillette’s were 1937 film In Old Chicago, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and Woman in the Dark filmed in ’34.
Ruth’s specialty was musical comedy and she was damn good at it! One of her most iconic roles was the portrayal of Lillian Russell in the 1936 black and white flim The Great Ziegfeld but eventually the stunning actress fell victim to cancer and passed away in 1994. With a monumental career in Hollywood both of stage and on screen, Gillette was one of the greatest.
Only a small 3-episode piece of the sitcom as Flyman, actor Michael Damian’s most well known role was The Young and the Restless‘s Danny Romalotti. Damian managed to play the role from 1981 all of the way until 2013 and is now a recording artist and music producer.
Fans of the show might be surprised to find out that Damian actually started out in his family band The Weirz, and even made an appearance on American Bandstand. Recently, the actor landed the starring role of Time Rice’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Michael has even released eight top 40 hits and won a BMI Song-writing Award for his hit single “It Was Nothing at All.”
Host of the late Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore that was recently canceled, Larry actually appeared on show as a police officer. Making friends on set, he went on to write for talk shows, comedy sketch shows and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.
Before Larry got his own show, he actually acted as the “Senior Black Correspondent” on the Daily Show from 2006 until 2014 and currently serves as an executive producer on ABC’s Black-ish. He also has been credited as a co-creator for HBO’s Insecure and finds most of his material on the New York’s subway stating that “there’s nothing funnier than real human behavior.”
As Oliver Thompson on The Facts of Life, actor Orson Bean has definitely been a man to look up to since his 3-episode reoccurring role aired. Most well known for his panelist role on To Tell the Truth, Bean made a name for himself on televised game shows during the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s like Match Game, Super Password and Classic Concentration.
Orson was also very familiar with the Broadway stage starring in Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? and won a Tony Award for his performance in Subways Are For Sleeping for Best Featured Actor in a Musical. He even moved on to producing later and won an Obie Award for the musical Home Movies. The now 88-year-old actor has focused his talents on writing about his experience with orgone therapy in Me and the Orgone: The True Story of One Man’s Sexual Awakening in ’71.
Credited for the writing for every single episode of The Facts of Life, co-writer and creator Dick Clair was a talented, hilarious Emmy-Award winning writer and spirit. The Clair-McMahon duo was unstoppable at the time as they co-wrote/co-produced two other sitcoms while working on The Facts of Life together; these included The Ed Sullivan Show and The Dean Martin Show.
Clair won the Emmy for his iconic work on the legendary Carol Burnett Show and even worked on both the Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Bob Newhart Show. Sadly Dick was diagnosed with AIDS in ’86 and died two years later; it was a huge loss for McMahon, the industry and the world.