For close to ten years, from 1979 up until 1988, American audiences, as well as audiences worldwide, loved sitting down together to watch the television show Facts of life. Over the shows life of 210 episodes, this nearly all female cast shared their stories about what it was like to mature from girl to woman.
The show follows its main character, a woman named Mrs. Garrett. Mrs. Garrett previously served as the housekeeper from the 1970s prime-time television show Different Strokes. Facts of Life continues with Mrs. Garrett’s story, but this time, she is a housekeeper at an all girl’s boarding school in Peekskill, New York. The show reached out and touched the hearts of an entire generation of people everywhere from the United States and beyond.
One of the reasons why this show was so popular was just by pure virtue of how shocking it was. It was one of the first shows to break down the social construct and barriers, including by talking about a girl’s first time being intimate with a boy, as well about having a character with cerebral palsy.
Another thing which was amazing about facts of life, especially from the network’s point of view, was the fact that the show was able to spin off so many made for TV movies, including Facts of Life Down Under, as well as The Facts of Life go to Paris. They even had a reunion special in 2001.
The show was also one of the main drivers used to launch both the movie as well as, of course, television careers of a whole range of actors and actresses who would go on to be recognized all across the United States. Actors such as Mayim Bialik, George Clooney, Seth Green, and even Molly Ringwald. We wanted to find out more about this incredible cast and crew, and it turns out that…
Charlotte Rae – Then
Charlotte played the role of the famous Mrs. Garrett, the housekeeper and caretaker of the girls under her wing at Eastland prep school. The first season had seven girls, while as of season two Mrs. Garrett would look after four of them. The role of Mrs. Garrett would evolve over the seasons and grow in depth and dimension. She began as just a caretaker but went on to be the school’s dietician and a businesswoman, all the while she tended to the girls and their issues as well. Mrs.Garrett was calm, reasonable and kind, but also tough and educational when it was needed.
Charlotte Rae – Now
These days, Charlotte is an astounding 90 years old and still sharing her bubbly personality with the world. Rae received an Emmy Award nomination in 1983 for her role as Edna Garrett. Through the years she appeared in several TV shows and movie. Most recently, Rae appeared in the film, Ricky and the Flash, alongside Meryl Streep, Rick Springfield, and Kevin Kline. Rae has enjoyed both film and television continuity and has also been working in voice roles, such as The Brothers Flub, and Itsy Bitsy Spider. At the age of 90, Rae has slowed down her acting over the last years, and we think she is more than deserving!
Lisa Whelchel – Then
Lisa played young, stunning, and snobby, Blair Warner. Lisa was 14 years old when she began playing Blair. When the show began in 1979, Blair’s character was that of a rebellious wealthy teen that does whatever she feels like it without thinking of the consequences. However, in 1980, for the show’s second season and after many changes, Blair’s bad streak was altered and shifted over to a new character (Jo). Blair would come back as a spoiled rich girl who liked nothing more to do than shop.
Lisa Whelchel – Now
Lisa has always been a devout Christian, and her career took her by way of her religion. She produced a Christian music album, All Because of You, in 1984, which was nominated for a Grammy Award. Whelchel has also been on CBS’s reality show, Survivor: Philippines, where she came in at second place. Whelchel has been in TV movies, such as, For Better or For Worse, Hearts of Spring, and A Snow Capped Christmas. Lisa was married from 1988-2012 and has three children.
Kim Fields – Then
Kim played the adorable and quirky, Tootie! Tootie’s full name is actually Dorothy Ramsey, but most people knew her only as Tootie. Kim was just 10 years old when she started playing the role of Tootie, which is why she was constantly seen on roller skates – to make her look taller than she actually was, seeing as Tootie was supposed to be older than 10. Tootie’s character was used to deal with many real-life issues, such as racism and inappropriate behavior with children. Tootie was on the show from the very beginning in 1979, all the way through to the end of the show in 1988.
Kim Fields – Now
Kim comes from an acting family, her mother and sister are also actresses. After The Facts of Life, Fields went on to be in another television show for quite a while, Living Single, from 1993 through 1998. Kim took part in both Facts of Life reunion movies and interviews. Fields started directing after getting her university degree, directing several Nickelodeon show. Fields has also been on two reality shows, The Real Housewives of Atlanta, and Dancing with the Stars.
Mindy Cohn – Then
Mindy played the role of Natalie Green on the show. Mindy was actually discovered by Charlotte Rae when the production visited the all-female prep school she was attending at the time for the show’s research. Charlotte was so taken with Mindy’s personality that she convinced the show to create the role of Natalie for her. Mindy was 13 years old when she began playing the role of Natalie. Natalie’s character was rambunctious and happy. The fact that she was a full figured young woman didn’t seem to phase her and if anything only made her more confident in herself, a very powerful message to young women watching the show.
Mindy Cohn – Now
Mindy’s other famous roles were the voice of Velma Dinkley, from 2002 to 2015, in the Scooby Doo franchise. Mindy has many other television show appearances, such as her role in Charles In Charge, 21 Jump Street, and The Help. Cohn starred in the 2010 film, Violet Tendencies, as well as appeared on the TLC show, What Not to Wear. She also made a funny appearance, because her comedic timing was always impeccable, on sitcoms like Hot in Cleveland, Secret Life of the American Teenager, and The Middle.
Molly Ringwald – Then
Molly Ringwald played the role of Molly Parker on the first season of The Facts of Life. Molly’s character was cut from the show after producers made a major shift in the show and cut over four characters. She played the role from 1979 to 1980 and was pretty peeved about being cut. We don’t want to ruin the surprise, but Molly did just fine for herself after being cut from the show, pretty well indeed.
Molly Ringwald – Now
After Molly got cut, her career really took off (so it’s essentially a good thing the producers didn’t want her on The Facts of Life anymore!). Molly went on to star in 80s teen hits, Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Pretty in Pink – without Molly, those movies would have been a totally different game. Ringwald is still a very busy actress, both on television and film. Most recently she has been in the film Bad Night and King Cobra and appeared on shows like Raising Expectations, and Riverdale.
George Clooney – Then
George Clooney entered The Facts of Life in season 7 of the show and stayed for the end of the 8th. He appeared in 17 episodes as the lovable and adorable handyman, George Burnett. His role on the show was obviously before his major Hollywood stardom with yet another famous television show, but we LOVE that he pretty much got his start on this show. He shared an on-screen kiss with Blair on the show (a fact that actress Lisa Whelchel doesn’t even remember!).
George Clooney – Now
These days, George Clooney is, well, George Clooney. He has been named the sexiest man alive and has an uber-successful film and television career. After The Facts of Life, Clooney landed his mega-hit role as Dr. Doug Ross on ER. He continued his acting winning streak with films like Oceans Eleven (and the rest), Syriana (for which he won an Academy Award for), Michael Clayton, Burn After Reading, Gravity, and most recently, Money Monster. George is only getting warmed up though, he is also directing and producing the films he is in.
Cloris Leachman – Then
Cloris Leachman came into The Facts of Life in 1986, in season 7. Cloris’ character, Beverly Ann, replaced the legendary Mrs. Garrett, whose character would go off to Africa (Charlotte Rae wanted off the show at this point). Beverly would be the essential new caretaker of the girls on the show, but would also be a businesswoman as she owned a shop. Due to the complexity of the show and its characters, Charlotte Rae herself chose Cloris to be her replacement and told producers that she was the perfect fit to replace her.
Cloris Leachman – Now
Cloris is one of the most hilarious actors in television, despite being a veteran, Cloris hasn’t lost a single inch of her wit. Leachman holds the honor of winning more Primetime Emmy Awards than any other actor – 8, as well as one Daytime Emmy Award and an Academy Award! After The Facts of Life, Cloris went on to play the role of Daisy May Moses in The Beverly Hillbillies, Grandma Ida on Malcolm in the Middle, danced her way on Dancing with the Stars, and most recently played Maw Maw on the Fox show, Raising Hope.
John Lawlor – Then
John played the role of Headmaster Steven Bradley on the show for the first season, from 1979 to 1980. John’s character was also victim to the cut made between season one and two, along with the other four girls who were fired from the cast. Mrs. Garrett seemed to be enough of a personality for the show’s producers so that the role of John was not needed anymore.
John Lawlor – Now
Since his short-lived stint on The Facts of Life, actor John Lawlor has been on television shows such as, L.A. Law, Knots Landing, Mr. Belvedere, Barney Miller, The Rockford Files, Ellery Queen, Baa Baa Black Sheep, and Alice. His most memorable TV appearances in the last ten years on television include shows like Breaking Bad and very recently Godless. In terms of films, John has been on National Lampoon Goes to the Movies, Billy Jack Goes to Washington, and Wyatt Earp.
Felice Schachter – Then
Felice played the role of Nancy on The Facts of Life. She was on the first season and was one of the girls who was cut between season one and two. Felice was the first member of the cast to be let go from the show, followed by a few other characters. However, don’t feel bad for her though, she managed just fine for herself in both the television and film industry.
Felice Schachter – Now
What we mean by fine in the television and film industry is that after The Facts of Life, Felice went on to star in the film Zapped! alongside Scott Baio, as well as working in productions as a production assistant, and assistant director for commercials and industry films. Her production work was part of these productions – JAG, The Citizen, High Tide, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, and 30 Years to Life.
McKenzie Astin – Then
At just 12 years old, McKenzie Astin played the role of Andy Moffett on The Facts of Life. From 1985 to 1988 and the end of the show, little Andy was a fixture. Andy’s character wandered into Edna’s Edibles one day to try and get a job, little one was always looking for some way to make money and make an impression of the ladies. Andy had a crush on almost every girl in the cast. Beverly Ann (Cloris Leachman’s character) became a mother figure to Andy throughout the show.
McKenzie Astin – Now
Little Andy is no longer little, McKenzie Astin is now in his 40s and has been on various television shows. He made appearances in show like, Psych, Lost, NCIS, Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy, and House. Astin has also been in major motion pictures, in films such as, Wyatt Earp, The Evening Star (alongside Shirley MacLaine) and The Last Days of Disco. Most recently, Astin worked with his father, who is the Director of the program in Theatre Arts at Johns Hopkins University. In 2016 he played in shows like Rosewood and The Magicians, as well as the movie, Windsor.
Julie Anne Haddock – Then
Julie Anne played the part of Cindy Webster on the first season of The Facts of Life. She was removed from the show thereafter as a main cast member but appeared in seasons two and three for a few episodes. NBC explained that Haddock and several others were removed from the storyline because of a change in the direction of the show.
Julie Anne Haddock – Now
After The Facts of Life, her last episode was on 1986 and the last acting role she ever did, Haddock shifted her focus to her personal life and away from the lights of Hollywood. Julie lives in California with her family and enjoys singing in church. She was interviewed for The Facts of Life DVD and said that she also fills her time with charity work.
Sherrie Austin – Then
The Australian born singer and actress was on The Facts of Life from 1987 to 1988 and the end of the show. She played the part of Pippa McKenna, an exchange student who came to Eastland Academy from the Australian Academy, Koolunga Academy. Sherrie appeared on the show on the final season, nine, for 15 episodes. Pippa was a funny character who constantly went in with Andy on his plots to make money. She was adopted by Beverly Ann and became Andy’s older sister.
Sherrie Austin – Now
After Sherrie’s time on The Facts of Life, she began her music career, something she was very passionate about. She was part of the band Colorhaus in the 1990s, after which she moved from her native Australia to the United States. In 2003 she topped the Billboard charts with her song, Streets of Heaven. She has been making album after album, with her fifth and latest one released in 2011.
Geri Jewell – Then
Geri got on The Facts of Life because of her passion for life. Producer Norman Lear asked Geri to be on the show after he saw her perform at the Media Access Awards. Geri played the role of Geri Tyler on the show, from the second season in 1980 through 1984. Geri was the first individual with a visible disability to have a major role in a television show, and the very first one with cerebral palsy.
Geri Jewell – Now
Since her comedic days on The Comedy Store and The Facts of Life, Geri has been on shows such as HBO’s Deadwood, Glee, Alcatraz, Strong Medicine, The Young and the Restless, and 21 Jump Street. Her film credits include, The Night of the White Pants and Two of a Kind. Geri’s comedy career continued through her comedic roles in these shows, and despite her disability, she never let anything slow her down, and we commend her so much for that!
Alex Rocco – Then
Alex Rocco played the role of Jo’s father, Charlie Polniaczek. His role was spread out over the years, from 1981-1988 and 11 episodes. During the time he was on the show, Alex also took other acting jobs. He was in films like, Return to Horror High, P.K. and the Kid, Scenes from the Goldmine, and Lady in White. His other acting gigs include television roles in, St. Elsewhere, The Golden Girls, The A-Team, and Murder, She Wrote.
Alex Rocco – Now
Alex Rocco was seriously bit by the Hollywood acting bug. His latest works were on the television shows, Maron, and Episodes. He had also appeared in films, like The Wedding Planner (alongside Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Lopez), The Job, Find Me Guilty, and Scammerhead. Sadly, Alex Rocco passed away on July 18, 2015 at the age of 79, after a very long and fruitful acting career. He is survived by his four children.
Roger Perry – Then
Roger played the role of Charles Parker. From 1981 to 1983, Charles was on the show for 10 episodes. One of his most famous quotes was when he asked Edna, “You know there are parents here whose names I’ve only seen on checks? And I’ve been getting angry phone calls from them all week. They are furious I allowed those books to be removed from the library. I mean Edna, they hate me.”
Roger Perry – Now
After The Facts of Life, Roger did not return much to his acting roots. He and his wife though were given a Golden Palm Star on the Walk of Stars in Palm Springs, California. His wife, Joyce Bulifant, is also an actress on both television and Broadway. She was previously married four times before she finally married Roger.
Jami Gertz – Then
Jami wasn’t a major part of the cast but she sure did make an impression. Gertz played the role of Boots St. Clair, one of Blair’s very best friends. During her years on the show she was also appearing on Family Ties, Dreams, and for Members Only. She had a role on Square Pegs, as well as had a different role on Diff’rent Strokes in 1983, as Lindsay.
Jami Gertz – Now
Jami is considered one of the richest women in the world these days, as her and husband, Antony Ressler are part of the investment group that was bought out by MLB franchise Milwaukee Brewers. She continues to act and has been in films like Jersey Girl, Twister, and Dealin’ with Idiots. She has been on television shows like Ally McBeal, ER, Still Standing, Entourage, and This Is Us. Jami’s name and face are recognizable among most of Hollywood and seems to be getting stronger and brighter.
Marj Dusay – Then
Marj played the interesting role of Blair Warner’s mother, Monica Warner. Marj was on The Facts of Life as a reoccurring guest star from 1981 to 1987 and was in 8 episodes of the show. Most of the episodes she was on were more serious, or at the very least had a serious undertone, which the show was very good at maintaining while keeping the comic relief in there for the audience to relate to and use to balance the heavy.
Marj Dusay – Now
Marj’s career has taken her more along the lines of a mega-hit soap star. Dusay is most known for her role as Alexandra Spaulding on the television soap, Guiding Light. She was on the show off and on from 1993 to 2009! She was also on the soap, All My Children, as the evil Vanessa Bennett, from 1999 through 2002. Dramatic as she is on screen, is how low key Dusay is off screen. She is a devoted mother of two who is no longer acting and enjoying the fruit of her labors.
Jenny O’Hara – Then
Jenny O’Hara was cast as the reoccurring guest role of Miss Emily Mahoney. She was the show for 4 episodes in the first season of the show in 1979. Miss Emily Mahoney was a sort of side kick for Mrs. Garrett and was just as funny as the rest of the cast. O’Hara’s career began in the early 60s and in the early 70s she took over for her sister Jill on stage in the musical, Promises Promises. This is what began her very long career in Hollywood.
Jenny O’Hara – Now
Today, Jenny is very well-known in Hollywood, playing in both television shows and in films. She has been in hits like, Transparent, The Mindy Project, The King of Queens, Big Love, Costello, and Dangerous Minds. Over her long career in acting, O’Hara has been able to transform into many types of characters, as any good actress should, and has done it all while balancing her personal life of a wife and mother of two.
Ryan Cassidy – Then
Ryan Cassidy, who just happens to also be the youngest of the Cassidy son’s (brother of actor David Cassidy) played the role of Kevin Metcalf for five episodes in 1985. Being a part of the Cassidy family, in name and in looks, had him in a perfect place to play the role of adorable Kevin, who more than annoyed Blair on occasion. Ryan and his other famous siblings all looked very much alike in their youth!
Ryan Cassidy – Now
Ryan had one more acting role in the 80s before switching to the more complex behind the camera jobs. He has been in the art department of many successful show, like JAG, The Secret World of Alex Mack, Muppets Tonight, The King of Queens, and Good Luck Charlie. In recent years he has been moving back into the acting game, looking into more dramatic roles.
Juliette Lewis – Then
Juliette Lewis played the role of Terry Rankin on the final season of The Facts of Life. Part of the last season of the show was intended to lay the groundwork for a spinoff series based on a few select character’s lives. The spinoff never happened but Juliette’s character was supposed to be one of those to move on to the spinoff show. Although Lewis was only on the show for two episodes in 1988, the exposure did boost her auditioning process a bit so that she was able to move forward with other acting jobs.
Juliette Lewis – Now
Today, Juliette is an award winning actress with a long list of television and film credits to her name. Her truly breakout role was in Martin Scorsese’s 1991 film, Cape Fear; she was nominated for an Oscar and Golden Globe for her role. She has also been in acclaimed films such as, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Nerve, The Other Sister, and August: Osage County. Her television credits include, The Firm, My Name is Earl, and Wayward Pines.
Scott Bryce – Then
As you can see from the photo, Scott played the role of Rick Bonner, Jo’s love interest on The Facts of Life. He was on the show in 1988 for 4 episodes. The last season of the show portrayed the way the young women had all grown up and transitioned from teenage high schoolers to beautiful young women, finding their own paths and loves. Here we see Rick and Jo’s wedding in the final season of the show.
Scott Bryce – Now
Since his time as Rick, Scott has been busy with his impressively long list of Hollywood credits, from acting to directing. Bryce was on television shows like, The Golden Girls, Who’s the Boss?, Murphy Brown, and L.A. Law; and has been in films like, Lethal Weapon 3, and Up Close and Personal. In recent years he has been more focused on television again, acting in shows like, Deception, Blue Bloods, and The Good Fight.
Dawn Gregg – Then
Dawn played the role of Jenny in The Facts of Life, for 3 episodes between the years 1982 and 1985. Her role was pretty minor in the show, but she was yet another interesting element to the dynamic of the very female cast of ladies. During the time she was on the show, the cast was already downsized from it’s original seven girls to only four, in addition to other cuts that were made between season one and two.
Dawn Gregg- Now
After her short time on the show, Dawn expanded her film role from acting to producing, writing and directing as well. Her particular style is that of short films, which she has been working on in recent years. She took time off acting altogether between The Facts of Life and her return in 2012 to act in her first short film. In addition to her many talents, Dawn is also a wife and mother of five children.
Eve Plumb – Then
Eve may have been on The Facts of Life for two episodes in 1983 as Meg, but she was very famous from before her stint. She also played the role of the young Jan Brady on The Brady Bunch. So when she got her small part on The Facts of Life, it was a nice little added star power to the show during the middle of its very successful run. Eve’s character was pretty simple, but every guest star added a little zest to the show.
Eve Plumb – Now
Eve never stopped acting, although the rest of her roles were not as high profile as The Brady Bunch. She has been on television shows like, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Law and Order, Days of Our Lives, and Army Wives. Eve is also an avid painter in her free time, with several pieces in art galleries across the country. Little known fact: when she was just 11 she bought her home for $55,000, she sold it recently for $3.9 million! Now that’s playing the real estate market.
David Ackroyd – Then
David spent two episodes on The Facts of Life, as the role of Major Dorsey. Now, remember, the show wanted another spinoff at the time (1983) that had to do with the male version of the female characters, i.e. an all male school. The Stone Military Academy gave them the backstory if the spinoff was ever to take off… which it didn’t.
David Ackroyd – Now
After The Facts of Life, David stayed in the acting genre and landed roles in television shows like, Xena Warrior Princess, Walker Texas Ranger, A Peaceable Kingdom, The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest, and a little more into the documentary circuit, The Best Bar in America. He had a tendency to play roles like lawyers, doctors, or government officials, which was probably due to his serious demeanor. David is married and has two daughters.
Jennifer Barlow – Then
Young Jennifer Barlow played the role of Alicia, in two episodes in 1983. 1983 seemed to be the year of the guest appearances, as there were more during that season than any other. Jennifer’s role was relatively minor but like we said before, every character added another layer to the already multicolored show. The storyline needed freshening up every so often, and guest roles were what spruced it up.
Jennifer Barlow – Now
Since the 80s, Barlow has been in television shows such as, Dallas, Nine to Five, The Jeffersons, Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Golden Palace, Beverly Hills 90210, and Key West. Barlow has also entered into the world of television and film editing, as well as producing, directing, stunts and many other genres in the production process.
Mayim Bialik – Then
Mayim was on The Facts of Life for the last two episodes of the series, in 1988. She played the role of Jennifer Cole, an adorable and bubbly little girl. Like other episodes, the last two were meant to be a preparation for (yet another) spinoff show. Just like the other ideas for a spinoff, the show never went off the ground, but Mayim still got her chance to shine on the end tail of a very popular show!
Mayim Bialik – Now
These days, Mayim is known for her role in The Big Bang Theory. She plays the role of Neuroscientist, Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler. She has been on the show since 2010 and is only becoming more and more beloved, as the show is becoming a classic among a growing number of legions of fans. Funny enough, Mayim herself has a PhD in Neuroscience; so it really is a case of art imitating life! Other huge parts for Mayim during her career was her famous role in Blossom.
Seth Green – Then
Seth was in the exact same boat as Mayim Bialik. He was cast for the last two episodes of The Facts of Life, for laying the groundwork for a spinoff series. Seth played the role of Adam Brinkerhoff. Seth started his career in 1984, and has not stopped acting since, he caught the acting bug very deep! The same year he was on The Facts of Life, he played in three other projects – Big Business, Divided We Stand, and My Stepmother Is an Alien.
Seth Green – Now
As we said, Seth started acting and never stopped. He has an astoundingly long list of credits to his name, the ones he is most famous for is his role in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (and the sequels), That 70’s Show, Entourage, and lending his voice to animated shows like, American Dad!, and Family Guy (Chris Griffin). Seth has endless projects in front of him, with credits as an actor, director, writer and producer, to name a few.
Loren Lester – Then
Loren played the role of Roy on 8 episodes of The Facts of Life throughout the seasons, from 1981 to 1987. He had the most interaction with Nancy’s character, Jo. His work on the show was one of the first in Loren’s career, which will go on to be quite impressive. Over the course of the 6 years where he had a reoccurring role on the show, he also began doing the other major part of his career, voice-over work, which lead to his beaming career.
Loren Lester – Now
Flash forward, pun intended, to today, and Loren is a director and actor, both in person and in voice. His most iconic role was as the voice of Robin in the animated series, Batman. In addition to his voice roles, Loren has appeared in shows like, Desperate Housewives, Criminal Minds, Tow and a Half Men, Parenthood, and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Loren is also a stage actor and director, who has also written the play, It’s Magic – The Life and Music of Doris Day.
Julie Piekarski – Then
Just like Felice, Julie played the role of Sue Ann Weaver, and was cut right after season two. The character would make a guest appearance in season seven. Julie was also a Mouseketeer before her stint on The Facts of Life, being a part of the main cast from 1977 to 1978. The beautiful blonde has maintained a small presence on the small screen.
Julie Piekarski – Now
Since the show, Julie has been in several television shows, such as, Three’s Company, The Best of Times, Quincy M.E., and ABC After-school Specials. She was also an entertainment reporter for KPLR-TV in her home town of St. Louis, Missouri. Julie is married to John Probst, a dentist, and has three children. The Facts of Life is still one of the best times for Julie, who loved being a part of the show.
Nancy McKeon – Then
Nancy played the role of probably the most dominant character on the show, Jo! Jo joined the cast in season two of the show, at 15 years old. Jo was the classic trouble maker with a big mouth that did whatever she pleased (these were the elements the writers took away from first-season Blair and gave to second-season Jo). Over the course of the show, Jo’s boyish appearance softened to a more feminine and attractive manner, as well as introduced romantic relationships for some added spice.