Catching Up With the Cast of 1970's "Family"
An early brainchild of Aaron Spelling, Family began in 1976 and ran until 1980. The show was a dramatic television series that chronicled the trials and tribulations of the Lawrence family.
Family was an emotionally charged dramatic television series, and it set a standard that most TV shows have yet to measure up to. It's been some time since Family went off the air, and now is as good a time as any to play catch-up with the beloved cast members of the iconic 70s TV show.
The veteran actor James Broderick played the role of Doug Lawrence, who was the fiercely dedicated patriarch of the Lawrence family,
Before Family, James Broderick was a character actor who appeared in more than fifty television projects.
He is also the father of popular ‘80s actor, and Sarah Jessica Parker’s husband, Matthew Broderick. James Broderick appeared in five other television projects since the show ended, but he succumbed to cancer in 1982.
Sada Thompson was a highly respected actress who has appeared before television cameras since the mid-1950s.
She graced the set of Family, playing the character Kate Lawrence, the ever-wise matriarch of the Lawrence family.
Since its final episode, in 1980, Sada Thompson kept herself busy with guest-starring roles in series like The Love Boat (‘90s revival version), and Law and Order.
Sada Thompson recently passed away from lung cancer on May 4, 2011.
Gary Frank was the handsome young blonde actor who played Willie Lawrence, the only son in the Lawrence household (another son was deceased at the start of the show).
After the show ended, Gary Frank has continued to be a familiar face to television audiences. Gary has appeared in a multitude of television guest spots over the years.
Today, he has mostly faded into obscurity.
Quinn Cummings was added to the cast in later seasons. Her role as the adopted waif, Annie Cooper, was intended to replace some of the luster lost by the fact that Buddy Lawrence (Kristy McNichol) was growing up.
When Quinn Cummings was hired on to the cast of Family, she was fresh from an Academy Award nominated performance, alongside Marsha Mason and Richard Dreyfuss, in Neil Simon’s film, The Goodbye Girl (1977).
She was looked upon as a gifted child actor and expectations for her future success were high.
However, Quinn Cummings drifted away from the Hollywood scene. Later in life, she decided to go into business as the inventor of a line of baby slings. She is also the owner of a highly enjoyable blog called The QC Report.
Meredith Baxter (Birney)
Meredith Baxter Birney was the spoiled older sister of the Lawrence clan, although she was married and lived outside of the house for most of the show, her presence was always felt.
Today, Meredith Baxter (sans Birney) is easily the most well-known member of the cast of Family.
She went on to another successful television role as Alex P. Keaton’s (Michael J. Fox) mom in the blockbuster ‘80s TV show, Family Ties
Baxter has managed to stay relevant over the years through her reign as one of Lifetime TV's most recurring movie stars.
Today, Meredith Baxter is in her mid-sixties and she recently caused a bit of a media stir when she announced that she is a lesbian, who has been dating women for the past seven years (Well, you go girl!).
Leticia “Buddy” Lawrence was the undisputed focal point of this show. Although the other Lawrence family characters faced trials and tribulations that were breakthrough issues on television, Buddy’s issues were by far the most engrossing.
Kristy McNichol was surrounded by veteran actors and budding young stars, which was great for her career. However, having already had TV appearances on other programs, she was the breakaway star before the show even started.
After her four-year stint on Family ended in 1980, she went on to star in feature films like Little Darlings (1980) opposite Tatum O’Neal, and Only When I Laugh (1981) with Marsha Mason.
Kristy McNichol also went on to become a teen heartthrob and a late 1970’s, early 1980s, pop culture icon.
She had a second dose of TV fame on the Golden Girl’s spinoff series, Empty Nest, where she starred alongside Dinah Manoff and Richard Mulligan.
Sadly, for many adoring fans, Kristy McNichol retired from television after Empty Nest ended in 1995, citing a diagnosis of bipolar disorder as the reason for her departure from Hollywood.
However, she trumps Meredith Baxter in the lesbian media stir department, most people in the know have known for years that McNichol is gay.