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The Only Actors Still Alive From The Cast Of WKRP In Cincinnati

It's been a solid 40 years since "WKRP in Cincinnati" aired its final episode in 1982 (via IMDb). During the show's four-season run on CBS, fans followed the antics of a low-rated morning radio station that's on-air personalities oftentimes butt heads with station management. The 90-episode run of "WKRP in Cincinnati" jumpstarted the careers of several notable actors who were able to have great success after the sitcom's conclusion. 

After four decades, it's probably no surprise that any reunion of the show's original cast will have some noticeable gaps caused by Father Time. Fans said goodbye to Gordon Jump, who played the role of Arthur Carlson, in 2003 (via The New York Times), while two other main cast members – Frank Bonner, who played Herb Tarlek, and Howard Hesseman, who played Johnny Fever — passed away in 2021 and 2022, respectively.

Though the actors in the show are now much older, there are still a core group of performers from "WKRP in Cincinnati" who are still alive and kicking today. Some are retired, while there are still several who are active on both the big and small screens.

Gary Sandy

Andy Travis is the man hired to turn the failing WKRP around, breathing new life into a station that seems to be aging itself out of the Cincinnati market. Andy is played by television actor Gary Sandy, who had amassed numerous made-for-TV movie credits and bit parts in television dramas and sitcoms before being cast into the role he would be most known for. He appeared in all 90 episodes of "WKRP in Cincinnati."

Sandy's television career was at its height during the four seasons of "WKRP in Cincinnati." After the show's final episode, Sandy had appearances in several television shows throughout the 1980s and 1990s, including "L.A. Law," "Murder, She Wrote," and "Diagnosis Murder." He was also cast in several films during that time, including the horror-fantasy movie "Troll" in 1986 (per IMDb). For a brief time in 2001, the actor appeared in the daytime soap "The Young and the Restless."

In addition, Sandy is an accomplished theatre actor, with credits that include "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas," "Lone Star Love," and Arsenic and Old Lace" (via Broadway World). Though he had a successful career on screen and stage, Sandy feels as though he was typecast in his role as Andy in "WKRP in Cincinnati." He told the Welland Tribune that he knows he is associated with a 1970s television show and that his being typecast probably cost him the career that he hoped for. The scripts that he wanted most were out of his reach, as many studio executives likely thought that moviegoers wouldn't be able to see Sandy as anyone other than Andy. 

Richard Sanders

Bald, bespectacled, and grossly incompetent might be several adjectives used to describe Richard Sanders' character Les Nessman. The WKRP reporter is no stranger to gaffes or on-air flubs, with a history of butchering the names of subjects he's reporting on. It's perhaps Sanders who garners the most laughs throughout the series, playing a character who makes audiences laugh as much as he frustrates them.

Sanders had a very busy career in film and television after "WKRP in Cincinnati" stopped production in 1982. Wherever a meek, balding man was needed throughout the rest of the 1980s, there was a good chance that you'd see Sanders cast in the role. He appeared in various television sitcoms including "Who's the Boss?," "Designing Women," and "Growing Pains," and had regular roles in the shows "Berrenger's" and "Spencer" (per IMDb). 

His career continued into the 1990s as he resumed the role of Nessman in "The New WKRP in Cincinnati" from 1991 to 1993. Sanders took fewer parts after the show ran its course but made appearances in several sitcoms afterward, as well as the made-for-TV movie "Rose Red" and the film "Men of Honor." The actor retired in 2006, with his last acting credit being a role in the short film "The Delivery."

Tim Reid

Tim Reid's role as disc jockey Venus Flytrap has certainly stood out as one of the most memorable characters in "WKRP in Cincinnati." Following his over 80 episodes in "WKRP in Cincinnati," Reid had no problem transitioning into other television roles. He landed a role in the popular CBS show "Simon & Simon," playing the part of Lt. Marcel "Downtown" Brown. Following that show's success, Reid was able to secure his own show, "Frank's Place," which aired one season on CBS (per IMDb). Despite its short run, the show was nominated for two Emmy Awards (via The Television Academy). 

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Reid continued to appear on camera, playing key roles in the sitcom "Sister, Sister" and 1990's TV miniseries adaptation of "It." But at the same time, Reid and his wife Daphne shifted to focus much of their efforts on production. The couple opened the first African-American-owned film production studio in the United States since the 1930s. New Millennium Studios opened its doors in 1997, bringing film productions of many recognizable films and television shows to their Petersburg, Virginia location (via African American Registry). After successful productions of Hollywood films like "Hearts in Atlantis" and Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln," Reid and Daphne sold the studio property in 2015 (per NBC 12).

Jan Smithers

The role of Bailey Quarters was played by up-and-coming actor Jan Smithers. Smithers, who also had a successful career as a model before "WKRP in Cincinnati" (via TV Guide), had racked up some solid screen time in shows throughout the 1970s that included "Starsky and Hutch" and "Love Story." She appeared in almost every episode of "WKRP in Cincinnati," playing the nemesis of station manager Herb Tarlek. Though her character is sometimes overshadowed by her on-screen counterpart Jennifer (played by Loni Anderson), the character's battles with her male coworkers elevated her status among fans. As the show progressed in its run, the Montreal Examiner reported in 1982 that Quarters is finally considered an equal in her male-dominated workplace by the fourth season.

Smithers has only a handful of acting credits after the end of "WKRP in Cincinnati" in 1982. She appeared in two episodes of her then-husband James Brolin's show "Hotel" in 1984 and 1986, and had small roles in "Murder, She Wrote," "Mike Hammer," and "The Love Boat" around the same time (via IMDb). Her last credit on camera is in the 1987 film "Mr. Nice Guy." The actor retired from acting in the late 1980s so that she could be a full-time mother to the daughter she shares with Brolin. She told Newsweek that she never came out of retirement after their daughter, Molly, grew into adulthood, choosing to continue to channel her energy toward family.

Loni Anderson

Perhaps no one is more memorable in "WKRP in Cincinnati" than the character of Jennifer Marlowe, the station's receptionist and probably the character with the sharpest wit. Loni Anderson plays the blonde bombshell role in a way that arguably reverses the blonde stereotypes of the time, developing a character that is as intelligent as much as she is striking. As one of only two main female characters in the show, Anderson's portrayal of Jennifer is almost singlehandedly able to balance the sometimes-piggish behavior of some of her male coworkers. For her efforts in the CBS series, Anderson was nominated for two Primetime Emmys (per IMDb).

After the end of "WKRP in Cincinnati," Anderson stayed active as an actor and appeared in dozens of television shows and movies, including regular roles in "Nurses," "Easy Street," and "Partners in Crime." She also reprised her role as Jennifer in "The New WKRP in Cincinnati" from 1991 to 1993. Though her career has yielded fewer roles over the last two decades, she is still active on screen. Anderson's most recent credits include a small part in the TV series "Baby Daddy" in 2016, a role in the 2017 TV movie "Love You More," and a recurring role as Frances in the TV series "My Sister Is So Gay" from 2016 to 2020 (via IMDb).

Anderson also made plenty of tabloid headlines in the years following "WKRP in Cincinnati," mostly focusing on her marriage to acting legend Burt Reynolds. The pair began dating during the height of "WKRP in Cincinnati" in 1981 and were one of the more talked about Hollywood couples throughout the decade. They were wed in 1988 in a marriage that could be best described as rocky and tumultuous. Years after their 1994 divorce, Reynolds told People that he regretted the marriage as well as the decision to marry an actor.