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What The Cast Of The Facts Of Life Is Up To Now

When veteran TV actor Charlotte Rae's "Diff'rent Strokes" housekeeper character Mrs. Garrett was spun off into her own series, no one could have predicted what it would become. "The Facts of Life" premiered on NBC in 1979 and introduced the world to Peekskill, New York's Eastland Academy — an all-girls private school that ended up playing host to one of the longest-running shows of the 1980s.

Initially, critics weren't too kind to "The Facts of Life." Tom Shales of The Washington Post called it a "formula for mediocrity," but audiences embraced the show and its themes of adolescent growing pains, making it a bona fide hit. The show had its own growing pains in Season 1, with a huge cast of characters being squeezed into just 30 minutes of airtime per episode. By Season 2, the girls were pared down from seven to a core four, and all the other adults in the room were pushed out to give Rae her spotlight back.

More than four decades have passed since the show's premiere, but "The Facts of Life" remains a true classic, with talks of reboots having circulated in recent years and a temporary revival via ABC's "Live in Front of a Studio Audience" series. While actors like Rae, Cloris Leachman, and Alex Rocco have sadly left us, many of the show's stars remain active today. Let's take a look at what happened to the rest of the cast, what they're up to now, and what the show has meant to them.

Lisa Whelchel - Blair Warner

When former Mouseketeer Lisa Whelchel auditioned for the part of Blair Warner on "The Facts of Life," she brought an attitude and energy that compelled the writers to rewrite major aspects of the character to fit her performance. Whelchel recalled that when she returned after getting the part, Blair "was no longer a naive fast-talking girl from Texas, she was a very snobby, rich girl from New York" (per The Facts of Life: The Lost Girls). Whelchel has spoken quite fondly of her time on the show, though she claims to not remember her onscreen kiss with soon-to-be star George Clooney (per The Hollywood Reporter). 

Per Whelchel's official website, she got married several months after the show ended in 1988 and spent the next several years at home raising three children. "I left showbiz to be a stay-at-home wife and mother and that has been my favorite role yet," she says on the site. Whelchel has still appeared in a number of movies and shows since, however, including two films with old co-star Kim Fields — 2014's "For Better or Worse" and 2019's "You Light Up My Christmas." She even competed on season 25 of "Survivor." Always one to revel in nostalgia, she's hosted the MeTV memorabilia show "Collector's Call" and recently dazzled audiences by singing the theme to "The Facts of Life" for the ABC special "Live in Front of a Studio Audience."

Kim Fields - Tootie Ramsey

As the daughter of actor Chip Fields, Kim Fields proved to be a chip off the old block, starting her acting career off at a very young age and quickly earning acclaim. By the time she strapped on the roller skates to play Tootie on "The Facts of Life" (where her actor mother played her TV mother onscreen), she was a seasoned veteran. Being on the show for its entire run gave Fields a "proud" foundation, both on personal and professional levels, "to go on to be the actress that I have been blessed to become (per The Facts of Life: The Lost Girls).

Fields was able to move beyond the shadow of Tootie when she joined the cast of "Living Single" as Regina Hunter for 118 episodes (where her mother once again played her mother), and more recently as the matriarch of "The Upshaws" on Netflix. In between, she's popped up in everything from a Boyz II Men music video, "The Division" (alongside Nancy McKeon), and even "Cobra Kai." A wearer of many hats, Fields has also branched out into directing — lately amassing 26 episode credits on "House of Payne" — and producing. She even reunited with her "Facts" sisters for the 2019 Lifetime movie "You Light Up My Christmas." Married twice and a mother of two, Fields found time to tussle with "The Real Housewives of Atlanta," compete on "Dancing with the Stars," and author the memoir "Blessed Life: My Surprising Journey of Joy, Tears, and Tales from Harlem to Hollywood."

Mindy Cohn - Natalie Green

In a personal essay written for HuffPost in 2013, Mindy Cohn relayed how she wound up being cast in "The Facts of Life." Looking to bring some authenticity to the show, Norman Lear, Alan Horn, and Charlotte Rae made a visit to the Westlake School for Girls and interviewed some of their students for story and dialogue ideas. One of the students was enticed by getting out of class — and the offer of free donuts — and "accidentally serendipitously became a teenage sitcom star on one of the most popular television shows of the 1980s." Rae was particularly taken by Cohn, and despite her having no acting experience, she had a new part written specifically for the young star.

Cohn proved to be a natural. Over the course of a long career, she's brought her talents and bubbly charm to other shows and movies like "The Boy Who Could Fly," "The Help," and "The Secret Life of the American Teenager" (alongside Molly Ringwald). Cohn is perhaps most famous for voicing "Scooby-Doo" mainstay Velma Dinkley in numerous movies and series since 2002. She also isn't above poking a little fun at herself, be it via appearances on TLC's "What Not to Wear" or the Food Network's "Worst Cooks in America." Fans can keep up with her day-to-day by listening to her podcast, "Mondays with Mindy"

Nancy McKeon - Jo Polniaczek

In the Season 2 cast shake-up of "The Facts of Life," a new character was added to the mix — a streetwise girl on scholarship named Jo. In an interview for the Biography Channel, producer Al Burton recalled that a Hallmark greeting card ad featuring Nancy McKeon landed her on NBC's radar. She eventually auditioned opposite Charlotte Rae for the Jo Polniaczek role, and the rest is TV history. McKeon told Entertainment Weekly that nine years working on the show was "quite a chunk of time" of her "formative years," but that the memories endured. "I'm happy that other people found joy in watching the show or help in watching the show or whatever, and my life is so completely better for having had that experience," McKeon said.

After the show wrapped, she starred in the TV movie "A Cry for Help: The Tracey Thurman Story." She later returned to series work with shows like "Can't Hurry Love" (which she also produced) and "The Division" (as Inspector Jinny Exstead). McKeon directed a couple of episodes of "The Division" as well, and the 1999 short film "A Wakening." While she famously dated her "High School U.S.A." and "Poison Ivy" co-star Michael J. Fox in the '80s, McKeon met her future husband, Marc Andrus, thanks to her old friends at Hallmark. The mother of two took time off from acting while raising her family, but she's since returned — reuniting with her "Facts" sisters in "You Light Up My Christmas," co-starring in "Panic," and shaking a leg on "Dancing with the Stars."

Mackenzie Astin - Andy Moffett

Being the son of actors Patty Duke ("The Miracle Worker") and John Astin ("The Addams Family") and the brother of Sean Astin (The Lord of the Rings), it only made sense that Mackenzie Astin would join in on the family vocational fun. With a handful of roles under his belt, Astin came on board "The Facts of Life" midway through season 6 as foster child Andy Moffett, and he'd stay until the end of the series. Astin told EW it was like being "a kid in a candy store, and once they changed the shop from Edna's Edibles to Over Our Heads, it actually was a candy store. So being a kid there, it was perfect."

After the show wrapped — and the failure of 1987's "The Garbage Pail Kids Movie" – Astin gave up acting for a few years. He returned to the industry in the early '90s and appeared in the films "Iron Will," "Wyatt Earp," "The Last Days of Disco," and Lifetime's "Safe Room." He's also acted on a wide array of shows, including "Mad Men," "Scandal," "Homeland," "You," and HBO's "Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty." Apparently, Astin tries not to be too choosy about projects. He revealed in an interview with told Icon vs. Icon that he looks for "something that I can believe in, but I will take what pays the rent!" Astin married in 2011, is still close with his family, and remains a diehard Los Angeles Dodgers fan.

Felice Schachter - Nancy Olson

Queens native Felice Schachter auditioned for the role of Kimberly on "Diff'rent Strokes," but she later became the first of the Eastland girls to join the cast of "The Facts of Life." She later recalled that she "had a lot of input into creating the character of Nancy. At that time of my life, I was very boy crazy" (per The Facts of Life: The Lost Girls). In the original "Facts of Life" pilot, Nancy was one of the main characters, but when the series was picked up, her part had been made much smaller. Schachter wound up being largely pushed out of the show after Season 1, but she still had positive things to say about her experience in her Biography Channel interview.

Schachter went on to graduate from Brown University and returned to the industry, working as a production coordinator on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" and as a co-producer on the movie "30 Years to Life," among other jobs. Schachter eventually got her masters in education with a concentration in special needs and became an ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) therapist in New York, where she continues to live today (per The Facts of Life: The Lost Girls).

Julie Piekarski - Sue Ann Weaver

Lisa Whelchel wasn't the only Mouseketeer to head off to Eastland Academy, as Julie Piekarski also enrolled as Sue Ann Weaver, friend and rival to Blair. There ended up not being room enough for both characters, and while Piekarski "loved being on the show," she told Rewind It Magazine that "when they went to cut the cast, it wasn't like a major, devastating shock, because life does go on." Piekarski did go on to make appearances in Seasons 2, 3 and 8, and she's still close with her former castmates.

During the rest of her early '80s career, Piekarski co-starred in a few TV movies — including "The Best of Times" with Crispin Glover and Nicolas Cage — and on series like "Quincy M.E." and "Three's Company." She also did her fair share of commercials, and even Hallmark cards. At the same time, she was completing a degree at UCLA in business and communications, and when she got married and had kids, she knew that she "wanted to raise a family away from the craziness of Hollywood," (per gojimmygo.net). Piekarski settled back home in St. Louis and kept busy with her family, but she still found time to do industrial films and acted as a spokesperson. Now that her kids are grown up, Piekarski has dabbled in local stage productions and even returned to the screen in the 2016 film "The Importance of Doubting Tom" and the 2021 mini-series "Pilot Season" (per gojimmygo.net).

Julie Anne Haddock - Cindy Webster

Julie Anne Haddock had a promising start to her young career, playing Robert Duvall's daughter in "The Great Santini" and booking guest spots on "Wonder Woman," "Little House on the Prairie," and "Hello, Larry." She then landed the role of Cindy Webster on "Facts of Life," giving her a shot at TV stardom. After the cast reshuffled for Season 2, however, she didn't quite fit into the show's new plans, and her tomboy role was swapped out for the Jo Polniaczek character, played by Nancy McKeon. She did return for the reunion episode "The Little Chill" in Season 8, which Haddock said "was like going back home" in the documentary "The Facts of Life Behind Closed Doors."

Haddock appeared on "Gimmie a Break!" and a pair of "Boone" episodes and then headed off to college to get a degree in sociology. After that, she decided that "the entertainment industry wasn't for me anymore. It became kind of different from what I remember," and she started working in marketing and advertising (per The Facts of Life: The Lost Girls). Known today as Julie Haddock Becker, the proud mother loves to cook, reminisce about "The Facts of Life," and catch up with old cast members.

George Clooney - George Burnett

George Clooney booked his first recurring role on the comedy "E/R" (not to be confused with his later drama series "ER"), and after it was canceled, he was put on another Embassy Television series –"The Facts of Life." Clooney played handyman George Burnett on the show. In a 1985 interview with Merv Griffin, he called the series "Perfect. You come out from Kentucky, you get a show with five ladies. What could be better?" He later gushed about Charlotte Rae on "Home and Family," saying that she was "funny and kind" and that she "made a very young, not very skilled actor feel very much at home."

After 17 episodes, Clooney hung up his toolbelt but continued building his resume on network TV, including credits on the first season of "Roseanne." In the mid-1990s, his star began to shine brighter as he played Dr. Doug Ross on "ER" and appeared in films like "From Dusk Till Dawn" and "One Fine Day." He famously (or infamously) played the Dark Knight in "Batman & Robin" and went on to work with acclaimed directors like the Coen Brothers ("O Brother, Where Art Thou?"), Terrence Malick ("The Thin Red Line"), and Steven Soderbergh ("Ocean's Eleven"), racking up eight Academy Award nominations and two wins. Clooney has since branched out into producing, writing, and directing. He's married to international lawyer Amal Clooney and has two children. It's safe to say that he's by far the biggest star to come out of "The Facts of Life."

Sherrié Austin - Pippa McKenna

In early 1987, NBC aired "The Facts of Life Down Under" — a TV movie where the gang visits their sister school in Australia. That fall, an Australian exchange student named "Franny" came to enroll at Eastland, only to be later revealed as a runaway named Pippa. In an interview with EW, actor Sherrié Austin said that she didn't have much acting experience when she landed the part and that she had "never heard of the show." Despite that, Austin's Pippa proved to be a unique addition and stuck around for the rest of the season.

Austin had a few other acting roles after "Facts," but she soon transitioned to a career in music. She left Hollywood for Nashville and later released her debut solo album, "Word," in 1997 (per AP). Austin has released several albums since and worked with other stars like Blake Shelton and Tim McGraw. She's currently the SVP of Artist Development for GoLong Entertainment. When it comes to her time on "The Facts of Life," Austin seems happy to let the past stay in the past. "I'd love to not even get into it," She told the Quad-City Times in 2001 when asked about the series. "It kind of overshadows everything else I do, and it was such a long time ago."

Molly Ringwald - Molly Parker

Molly Ringwald was already a young star of the stage when she was cast in "The Facts of Life." Her character, Molly Parker, was one of the original seven core girls. When the cast was pared down after Season 1, Ringwald was originally slated to be kept on, but that decision later changed. "They changed their minds and then fired me," Ringwald said in a 2019 interview with EW, "which was kind of hard as a 12 year old girl." She was given the option to return to the series from time to time in a smaller role but found that idea "humiliating" and never went back.

Of course, Ringwald soon became one of the bright young stars of the 1980s, shining in huge hits like "Sixteen Candles," "The Breakfast Club," and "Pretty in Pink." In the '90s, she appeared in shows like the Stephen King miniseries "The Stand" and films like Cindy Sherman's "Office Killer." Ringwald has kept true to her teen stardom roots by co-starring in modern films and TV shows like "Teaching Mrs. Tingle," "Not Another Teen Movie," "The Secret Life of the American Teenager," the "Kissing Booth" series, and "Riverdale." She's also acted in many stage productions, written several books and essays, and performed musically, even covering "Don't You (Forget About Me)" – the song made so famous by "The Breakfast Club."

John Lawlor - Steven Bradley

John Lawlor played Eastland headmaster Steven Bradley on "The Facts of Life." The adoptive father of several children was right at home on set, but alas, Lawlor didn't make it to Season 2. In the 2020 documentary "The Facts of Life Behind Closed Doors," he said that "to be remembered for something you did 40 years ago is kind of cool" and called it "a point of pride."

After "The Facts of Life," Lawlor's career included steady supporting work on other hits like "Newhart," "Highway to Heaven," "Knots Landing," and "Breaking Bad," as well as films like "Wyatt Earp" and "Gold." He's also worked behind the camera, earning assistant director credits on such films as John Boorman's "Excalibur," Russell Mulcahy's "Highlander," and Mike Hodges' "A Prayer for the Dying." Lawlor took a step back from acting in the late '90s and focused on his family, but he couldn't stay away from the industry for long. In more recent years, he's had major roles in a number of projects, including the 2017 Netflix mini-series "Godless."

Pamela Adlon - Kelly Affinado

Pamela Adlon almost entered the sitcom world on a planned "Facts of Life" spin-off called "Jo's Cousin," and while that series never made it to production, Adlon's audition helped land her a part on the main show in Season 5 (per EW). She ended up playing Kelly, a bit of a troublemaker who eventually stops shoplifting and starts turning her life around. Unfortunately, the character was dropped after the end of Season 5.

Though "The Facts of Life" didn't exactly work out as planned, Adlon nevertheless went on to have a spectacular career. She appeared in various other series like "The Redd Foxx Show" and "Down the Shore," but voice acting soon became her main focus. Adlon is probably best known for providing the voice of Bobby Hill on "King of the Hill," who she called "the best character I've ever played" in an interview with The New York Times. Her other voice credits include "101 Dalmatians: The Series," "Rocket Power," "Big Mouth," and "Tuca & Bertie," among many others. She's even lent her talents to video games like "Grim Fandango" and the "Pajama Sam" series.

Adlon has also kept up her live-action work with series like "Californication" and "Better Things." She's racked up seven Emmy nominations and one win, as well as a Peabody Award. Adlon even started a podcast in 2022, and she's constantly working on new projects.

Geri Jewell - Geri Tyler

Being born with cerebral palsy was not something that hindered Geraldine "Geri" Jewell's dreams. Pen pal encouragement from Carol Burnett was motivation to become a comic, and the young star eventually caught the eye and ear of Norman Lear. That landed her on "The Facts of Life" as Blair's cousin Geri. The breakthrough role was a "stepping stone to the mainstreaming that we're seeing today with people with disabilities in the industry," Jewell told The Hollywood Reporter in 2014."We have a long way to go, but I was first, and I am very proud of having that be a part of who I am."

Jewell made 12 appearances on the series between Season 2 and Season 5, but her run ended after her contract wasn't renewed (although Lisa Whelchel tried in vain to keep her on the show). She persevered, appearing on shows like "Sesame Street" and "21 Jump Street." After running into David Milich at a pharmacy, she landed the acclaimed role of Jewel on HBO's "Deadwood." She told Ability Magazine that Milich "put me back on the map," and she later appeared on "Glee" and in the film "Carol of the Bells." According to her website, Jewel is also a "motivational speaker and trainer in the areas of diversity, disability and GLBT issues." In 2011, she released the autobiography "I'm Walking As Straight As I Can: Transcending Disability in Hollywood and Beyond," which contains a forward by Mackenzie Astin's mother Patty Duke.