Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Only Main Actors Still Alive From The Love Boat

The untold truth of "The Love Boat" is a strange combination of scoffing critics and adoring viewers. From its beginning, the feel-good ABC show drew prickly comments from reviewers, but it quickly established its audience to the tune of 10 seasons, numerous Golden Globe and Emmy nominations, and — appropriately enough — a People's Choice award. The show's fun, romantic plots and exotic cruise ship setting are captivating enough, but the cruise staff characters are an instrumental part of the series, providing stability and anchoring the events amidst the constantly changing guests, who are often played by well-known stars like Betty White and Shelley Winters. 

Since it ran from 1977 to 1987, "The Love Boat" is a fairly old show. However, several of its stars are still with us. Let's take a look at what happened to "The Love Boat" cast members who are still alive, and what they've been up to as of late. 

Bernie Kopell (Adam Doc Bricker)

Adam "Doc" Bricker, the ship's capable doctor, is one of the show's key characters, and Bernie Kopell came prepared for the role. When he joined "The Love Boat," Kopell was already a veteran TV actor who had worked since the early 1960s, and he continued to work well after the ABC show ended. In 2022, he appeared on Netflix's "The Lincoln Lawyer" series. His other roles include major villain Siegfried on the NBC secret agent parody "Get Smart," Judge Kornzucker on "Arrested Development," and Mr. Knudsen on the CBS sitcom "B Positive." 

Fascinatingly enough, Kopell doesn't count playing Doc Bricker among his favorite work. "Playing Siegfried on 'Get Smart' and working with Lee J. Cobb in the CBS special of 'Death of a Salesman,'" he described his most beloved roles in an interview with the New York Theatre Guide

This may be because he doesn't really consider Doc a character, but an on-screen extension of his own good self — at least, when it comes to their shared fitness regimen. "Frequent watchers will notice Adam Bricker does a lot of skipping rope stuff on 'The Love Boat'," Kopell said in a 1983 interview with The Times-Tribune (via MeTV). "That's because I do that. This is what happens when you're on a show for years and years. The writers get tuned into you and put you in the character. [A doctor] explained the necessity of exercise to me. This is weird business, this energy stuff, but it's very important."

Ted Lange (Isaac Washington)

Ted Lange played Isaac Washington, who's as iconic as "Love Boat" characters get. The bartender with an easy smile is a likeable person and a great listener, which is a valuable skill set on a cruise ship full of people with romance troubles. Lange appeared on all 250 episodes and has remained active on the acting front after the show ended, generally appearing in guest roles on various TV series. Notably, he also directed and played the titular role in the 1989 movie version of the William Shakespeare play "Othello." 

Apart from "Othello," Lange has directed a number of other projects. He helmed 12 episodes of "The Love Boat," and has directed many episodes for other shows, including the sitcoms " "The First Family," "Mr. Box Office," and "Dharma & Greg."

Lange loved filming "The Love Boat," which allowed the cast to stay aboard cruise ships for long periods. "I've been on eight cruises with the show," he told Austin-American Statesman in 1981 (via MeTV). "I get on the boat and Aaron Spelling Productions pays for my cabin, my food, the whole works. Then they pay me. It's really a sin. And the cruises keep getting better all the time. The last one — to Australia for five weeks — was the best one yet."

Jill Whelan (Vicki Stubing)

Jill Whelan was an important player on many "Love Boat" episodes, playing Captain Merrill Stubing's (Gavin McLeod) young daughter, Vicki Stubing. She became a full cast member on Season 3, appearing in the majority of the episodes and giving a new perspective to the events on the boat. Whelan took a hiatus from acting after "The Love Boat," but returned around 1997, and has appeared in select guest roles guest roles ever since. Outside acting, she has a very fitting gig as a celebrations ambassador for Princess Cruises. 

The actor is married to former NFL player Jeff Knapple, who never really watched "The Love Boat." As such, she had to introduce him to the show's charms at a later age — and on a cruise, no less. 

"I was doing a cruise with my husband, and [he] had never really seen 'The Love Boat'," she told 9Honey. "My friends had called us while we were in our cabins getting ready for dinner, and they said, 'Oh my gosh, we're watching Jill's first episode, you have to turn it on, it's on right now'. And my husband had never seen it, so we didn't even get a chance to sit down because we turned it on and we were just so engrossed in the story of this little girl meeting her father. We were holding hands watching the screen, crying."

Lauren Tewes (Julie McCoy)

Because of her job description, Cruise Director Julie McCoy (Lauren Tewes) is many guests' first point of contact to the staff, and as such, a major character on the show. Tewes landed the role just one year into her on-screen acting career and was unfortunately fired from "The Love Boat" in 1984. She addressed the issue in a 1985 interview with TV Guide (via UPI), citing cocaine abuse, bad behavior, and personal life issues as reasons for the on-set troubles that led to her departure from the show. 

"'I was trying to keep my job, keep my husband, keep my house. I was trying to please everybody and I was destroying myself. I was on drugs. I didn't sleep. I slept at work. I behaved poorly at work, and that is where I made my fatal mistake," Tewes said.

After leaving the show, the actor has only appeared in select works, largely in smaller roles. However, there's absolutely no telling where she might turn up. For instance, she has an episode of David Lynch's "Twin Peaks: The Return" on her résumé, playing a neighbor on Episode 11. 

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Fred Grandy (Burt Gopher Smith)

Fred Grandy played Burl "Gopher" Smith on "The Love Boat." He didn't act for a long time after the show ended, but eventually returned to the screen, appearing in recurring roles on shows like "The Mindy Project" and "Knight Squad." Grandy's onscreen absence is due to his involvement in politics. From 1987 to 1995, the Harvard-educated star served as a member of the United States House of Representatives from the state of Iowa. He later became the CEO of Goodwill Industries and a talk show host, among other things.

Grandy was prompted to look for avenues beyond acting in 1982. This is when he got injured in an explosive accident inside a taxi cab after a cigarette caused a hydrogen balloon to burst into a fireball.

"The car exploded," he said in an interview with Radio Iowa. "I mean, the flames shot six feet in the air and I was profoundly burning on my face and hands and it was that kind of flirtation with mortality that got me thinking of what I wanted to do with my life, and sent me back to Iowa and put me in a whole different kind of life choice which is just kind of serving myself. I don't have any problem with that. Show business is a great life if you can make a go of it, but it became profoundly less gratifying after that accident and it's about that time that I started thinking about is there some other use for what I thought my vaunted communications skills were at the time."

For information on the "Love Boat" cast members who sadly aren't with us anymore, be sure to check out Looper's article about the "Love Boat" actors you may not know passed away.