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What Happened To The Cast Of Major Dad?

"Major Dad" follows a conservative Marine who marries a widowed liberal newspaper reporter and takes on her three wisecracking daughters. Starring Gerald McRaney, Shanna Reed, Nicole Dubuc, Chelsea Hertford, Marisa Ryan, Matt Mulhern and Beverly Archer, "Major Dad" premiered on September 17, 1989 as part of CBS' Monday night comedy block and lasted four seasons. The series was notable for its realistic insight in the issues that military families face and the way it discussed real-world political events, notably the 1992 U.S. presidential election. 

"I'd wanted to do a show about somebody in the service to show the human side," McRaney said in an interview with Associated Press (via the Deseret News) before the show premiered. "I'd gotten fed up with people in the service being portrayed as bumbling fools or Rambos. I have a lot of friends and relatives in the service. They're just ordinary people." 

"Major Dad" provided families plenty of light-hearted entertainment during its four-year run. Now that so much time has passed since "Major Dad's" final episode in 1993, we thought it would be fun to check in on the original cast to see what befell them in the intervening years.

Gerald McRaney

Gerald "Mac" McRaney first delighted audiences with his performance as Rick Simon in the popular detective series "Simon & Simon," opposite Jameson Parker from 1981 through 1989. Prior to his success, the Mississippi native worked as an assistant stage manager for a New Orleans repertory company for $125 a week. Eventually, the site closed down and McRaney, after a slight detour in Louisiana where he appeared in some low-budget roles, moved to Hollywood and worked as a cab driver to support his family and his acting dream. 

Eventually, he landed his first big role on an episode of "Night Gallery," then worked his way through shows such as "The Rockford Files" and "Gunsmoke" before his breakout gig on "Simon & Simon." That success led to TV movies such as "City Killer," "Easy Prey" and "Where the Hell's That Gold?," to say nothing of his turn in Wolfgang Petersen's popular 1984 fantasy film, "The NeverEnding Story," in which he appears as the father of the main protagonist.

Since his role as the tough-as-nails, straight-laced "Major Dad," Gerald has continually found himself slipping into the shoes of characters with military backgrounds. "I'm actually sort of shocked by it because I am not a veteran," McRaney told UPI in 2021. "The closest I ever came to this was ROTC in college."

McRaney, who is currently married to former "Designing Women" actress Delta Burke, enjoyed a period of time on the big screen in films such as "The A-Team" and "Red Tails," but has since downshifted to character-actor mode on popular shows such as "Longmire," "Castle," "24: Legacy," "House of Cards," and "This is Us," for which he won an Emmy as Dr. Nathan Katowski; and "NCIS: Los Angeles," on which he portrays retired Navy Admiral Hollace Kilbride. 

In 2004, McRaney had a brush with lung cancer, but, by sheer luck, managed to catch the problem before it turned into something more serious. "I got extremely lucky," he told SurvivorNet in 2021. "If you're gonna have something happen like this, the way it happened to me was lucky." 

Shanna Reed

One of the reasons "Major Dad" worked as well as it did was due to the carefully constructed dynamic between Gerald McRaney's Major MacGillis and Shanna Reed's Polly Cooper. Their opposing points of view — he's a conservative who sided with the like of George Bush, she's a liberal very much in favor of Bill Clinton — made for an interesting pairing, even if the show leaned more on troupes than troops, if you catch our drift. "We've actually had fun with it," Reed told The Washington Post in 1989. "I strongly believe what I believe and obviously so does Mac. That's what makes the world go 'round."

Throughout the series, Reed — whose father and stepfather were both Marines — reflected the '90s-era mom as a hard working woman keen to do more than just fold laundry. Reed saw Polly "as a force in her career," and someone who was "environmentally minded" with a yearning to "effect change and enlighten people." Later seasons, particularly those set during the 1992 presidential election between Bush and Clinton, afforded the actress more of the spotlight.

Despite her obvious enjoyment of "Major Dad," Reed, who also spent time as a professional dancer, left the industry following appearances in "Touched by an Angel" and "Beverly Hills, 90210" in the late '90s. She now calls herself a "former actress."

Nicole Dubuc

Nicole Dubuc, who played sassy middle child Robin on "Major Dad," first appeared on "ALF" in 1988 before landing a recurring role as Bertha on "Our House" opposite Wilford Brimley, Deidre Hall, and Shannen Doherty. "Major Dad" came about when she was just 11 years old, and the success of that show paved the way for an astonishing run in the entertainment industry. Not necessarily as an actress, though Dubuc has lent her voice to a number of animated projects, but mostly as a highly regarded writer and producer. 

Following "Major Dad," Dubuc graduated from Yale University and landed a job as an apprentice writer for Disney's "Kim Possible." She went on to write episodes of "Dragon Tales," "W.I.T.C.H.," "My Friends Tigger & Pooh," "Transformers Prime," "Star Wars: Forces of Destiny," and "Transformers: Rescue Bots," among many others. In 2019, Disney approached her to create an animated follow-up to the 1991 film "The Rocketeer" for its Disney+ channel. Dubuc served as showrunner and executive producer for the series, which lasted one season on the streaming platform.   

Her work has garnered many Emmy nominations and the 2018 Animation Writers Caucus Animation Writing Award for her overall efforts in the realm of animation. She also served as executive producer and story editor on "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic," joining the show at the tail end of Season 7. Dubuc wrote several of Pony's episodes and even had a hand in some of the songs.

Chelsea Hertford

As Casey, the youngest child on "Major Dad," actress Chelsea Hertford enjoyed early fame with an appearance in the film "Poltergeist II: The Other Side," as well as gigs in TV's "Murphy Brown," "Who's the Boss," "McGee and Me!" and the TV movie "Darkness Before Dawn," opposite Meredith Baxter. At just eight years old, Chelsea displayed a talent for delivering quippy one liners in a manner that would make the Olsen twins jealous, and held her own against her older "Major Dad" costars. So much so that one would assume her talents led to future roles in bigger projects.

Alas, Chelsea went on to appear in the short lived TV series "The Faculty" (again, with Baxter) in 1996, followed by a bit part in the Academy Award-winning drama "American Beauty" three years later — as Playground Girl #2 — before calling it quits. She reemerged two decades later for Jordan Michael Blake's short film "Clean Blood," but has otherwise steered clear of the public eye.

Marisa Ryan

Marisa Ryan made her screen debut in a Pamper's commercial when she was just five months old. Her first credited gig is the 1983 film "Without a Trace," in which she played the character Justine Norris when she was just seven. After a series of commercials, some Off-Broadway theatre, and brief stint on a failed TV series called "Tattingers," the young star landed the role of the McGillis' oldest daughter Elizabeth on "Major Dad."

Following her breakout success, Ryan went on to appear in shows such as "Boy Meets World," "The Pretenders," "Sex and the City" and "The Practice." She even landed a recurring role as Detective Nell Delaney on "New York Undercover" from 1998 to 99. In 2001, she appeared in "Riding with Cars with Boys" alongside Drew Barrymore and portrayed Abby on the classic comedy "Wet Hot American Summer," a role Ryan reprised in 2015's sequel, "Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp," and the TV mini series, "Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later." To date, Ryan has over 50 acting credits to her name, and even wrote and directed the short film, "Three Women of Pain," in 1997.

Matt Mulhern

Matt Mulhern trained at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University and developed a passion for film, television and theatre. From 1984-1986, the talented actor played Joseph Wykowski in Neil Simon's Tony Award-winning play "Biloxi Blues," alongside William Sadler, Matthew Broderick and Alan Ruck.

During this time, Mulhern also found success on the big screen in the 1986 romantic comedy "One Crazy Summer," in which he memorably portrayed the antagonistic (but hilarious) meat-head Teddy Beckersted opposite John Cusack and Demi Moore. A few years later, in 1988, Mike Nichols enlisted Mulhern for the big screen adaptation of "Biloxi Blues," where he reprised his role as Joseph Wykowski alongside Broderick.

Still, TV audiences recognize Mulhern for his role on "Major Dad" as the bumbling, but always kind, Lt. Eugene "Gene" Holowachuk, one of the few supporting characters to appear in all 96 episodes of the series. He serves as the Major's aide-de-camp and his aloofness often hilariously contrasts with the more professional characters of the office.   

After "Major Dad," Mulhern took on roles in films such as "Junior" and "Extreme Prejudice." In 2006, the actor enjoyed a three-episode arc on Season 3 of "Rescue Me," on which he played Lt. John "Stack" Stackhouse — a character often remembered for his shocking death. Additionally, Mulhern wrote, directed, and starred in "Walking to the Waterline," alongside Ruck, and wrote and directed "Duane Hopwood," starring David Schwimmer.

Mulhern tapped out of the entertainment industry in 2015. He earned a master's degree in History from CUNY in 2019. He is now pursuing a PhD in History at Fordham University.

Beverly Archer

On "Major Dad," actress Beverly Archer practically disappeared into the role of Gunny Sergeant Alva Bricker, an out and out professional introduced in Season 2 when the Major and his family relocated to Camp Hollister. Gunny's no nonsense demeanor, inspired by John Wayne, often gave way to a, um, fascinating personal life. "I think the driving force behind the characters is that she's the best," Archer said in an interview with Jerry Buck in 1992. "But the personal stuff is fun to play. She has a wild sex life, but the crux is that she's incredibly efficient as administrative chief of the commanding general's office."

Before her recurring role on "Major Dad," a gig she landed thanks to "Mama's Family" producer Rick Hawkins, Archer was already a well known television actress with memorable roles on "The Nancy Walker Show" and "Mama's Family," among others. Following "Major Dad's" cancellation, she went on to play everything from a sexually repressed librarian on "Married ... with Children" to a thieving teacher in "The Brady Bunch Movie." 

Archer, who married Robert Bernard in 1976, retired from acting following a role on the animated series "Rugrats" in 2002, and was actually presumed dead by many online outlets in 2012 before the actress cleared the air and informed the world she is very much alive. She spends her days studying sculpting, traveling and (for a time) ran an antique store called Catskills in upstate New York. 

The actress has not ruled out a return to acting, admitting she would take any role that offered a paycheck. "That was the only kind of role I ever sought, was the one I got paid for," she told the blog Sitcoms Online in 2012, noting how her 5'10 height led to her being typecast in comedic parts. "I certainly enjoyed doing comedy, but I would have enjoyed doing dramatic roles as well. But in our version of Hollywood, people who look like me don't do that." 

Jon Cypher

The only other actor on "Major Dad" to appear regularly throughout the series was Jon Cypher, who played the tough, albeit loveable Brigadier General Marcus C. Craig in 69 episodes. Like Gunny, the character didn't appear on the show until Season 2, but Craig certainly left a mark with audiences. At one point, he even sang, a bit that allowed the actor to show off his impressive vocals. During his time on the series, Cypher actually broke his leg whilst rehearsing for the CLO production of "Oliver," a real-life detail that carried over into "Major Dad" — Craig got around in a wheelchair and crutches for several episodes.

However, Cypher, who made his television debut in the original 1975 production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Cinderella," is best known for his role as Chief of Police Fletcher Daniels on TV's "Hill Street Blues" from 1981 through 1987. He-Man fans likely recognize him as Duncan, aka Man-at-Arms, on the 1987 big screen film "Masters of the Universe."  

Still, despite his television success in "Walker, Texas Ranger," "Law & Order" and "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: The TV Show," and voice work in animated projects "Pinky and the Brain" and "Batman Beyond," Cypher's true passion remained in theatre where he could interact with the live audience. Throughout his career, Cypher starred in theatre productions such as "1776," the aforementioned "Oliver!" and "Evita." His last theatre credit is the 1996 Broadway reimagining of the Tom Hanks comedy "Big." Cypher has since retired from acting.

Rod Brogan

Rod Brogan popped up time and again during the first season of "Major Dad" as Elizabeth's boyfriend Chip Russell, but was written out of the show following the family's relocation to Camp Hollister in Season 2. Chip was one of Brogan's first meaty parts — the other being the TV series "One Life to Live" — and led to roles in "Lifestories: Families in Crisis," "Oz," "Third Watch," "Law & Order" and the film "The Winning Season," starring Sam Rockwell and Emma Roberts. Brogan lent his voice to the popular video game "Grand Theft Auto V," in which he played the character Avi Schwartzman, and appeared in an episode of "Homeland." 

Notably, in 2007, Brogan starred in the Broadway production of "Mauritius" at Manhattan Theater Club, then, in 2020, went on to appear in FST's Mainstage production of "American Son" before performing in the Florida Studio Theatre production of "My Lord, What a Night" in 2021.

Whitney Kershaw

Whitney Kershaw was part of the original "Major Dad" crew that appeared throughout Season 1 during. The actress portrayed the Major's perky secretary Merilee Gunderson, daughter of the base commander.

Prior to her role on "Major Dad," Kershaw, appeared as Sillabub in the 1982 Broadway version of "Cats." Her acting abilities led to roles in TV shows such as "Knots Landing," "LA Law," "Simon & Simon" and "Jake and the Fatman." Additionally, Kershaw also sang the closing theme song for "Big Blue Marble," a mid-1970s syndicated children's TV program produced by her father, Robert Wiemer. 

Following "Major Dad," Kershaw enjoyed parts in "Valerie," "The Wonder Years" and "Something Wilder" before quitting the entertainment industry following pregnancy. "Finally, I didn't have to prove myself because it was obvious what I was doing," the actress told Myria in 1999. "I became valuable for me, not for what show I'm doing, or what award I won."

Kershaw has spent her later years writing personal essays that reflect a wholistic, spiritual vision of the world in which we live. "Life is good," she said during a Writer Salon in 2011. "I think I write to celebrate that."

Marlon Archey

Marlon Archey enjoyed a fun supporting role as staff member Sergeant Byron James in the first season of "Major Dad." Notably, the character assisted the Major in ordering and tracking Polly's wedding ring in the Season 1 episode "The Wedding," and was the focus of the episode, "The Love Doctor," in which he lent his voice to a local radio show. 

Unfortunately, Archey's role on "Major Dad" was scrapped in Season 2. He appeared in a number of popular TV shows throughout the 1990s, namely "Beverly Hills, 90210," "Hangin' with Mr. Cooper," "Murphy Brown" and "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." 

Marlon retired from acting in the late '90s and joined his friend Dan Horn at St. Genevieve Parish Schools in Panorama City, California where he currently works a teacher, Athletic Director and soccer coach. Archey helped turn the program around and earned praise from local news outlets, including The Los Angeles Daily News, which noted: "After sending only four teams to the playoffs in all of the 1990s, St. Gen's has produced 36 contenders since -– and five league champs."

In 2020, Archey was listed among the 50 Impactful Southern California Athletic Directors by Silver Waves Media. "Might not be a better human being in the valley," the website exclaims. "Archey coaches the girls soccer team and helps put his other coaches in great positions to be successful."