Whatever Happened to the Discarded Cast of 'The Facts of Life'?
The Facts of Life premiered on NBC on August 24, 1979. The show was a spin-off of the highly successful 70s sitcom Diff'rent Strokes. The Facts of Life starred Mrs. Garret (Charlotte Rae), who was the housekeeper for the Drummond household in Diff'rent Strokes.
Charlotte Rae carried the role onto The Facts of Life with the premise of her character being the housemother at an all girls boarding school called Eastland. The initial title of the show was set to be Garret's Girls, but that title fell through.
The show had a successful run for nearly a decade. It survived an early cut of most of the cast and later on it even carried on without its lead character. Through it all, we were able to bond with the cast. So, let's catch up with the girls and find out what they're up to today.
Felice Schachter (Nancy Olson)
Felice Schacter was the first actress, after Charlotte Rae, to be cast on The Facts of Life. She had initially auditioned for the role of Kimberly Drummond on Diff'rent Strokes, but she lost the role to Dana Plato.
We mostly remember the raven-haired beauty by her exploits with her boyfriend, Roger. Her character was a highly impressionable, boy crazy teen. In the beginning, Nancy was a strong character, but somewhere along the line in the first season, the character began to fade into the background to another character's foreground, Blair Warner, who was played by Lisa Whelchel.
By season 3, the role of Nancy was demoted from a main role to recurring role, and her character was completely written out by season 4, although she did return as a guest in season 8.
Felice Schachter's last acting credit to date is in the role of a waitress in the film 30 Years to Life in 2001, alongside Tracy Morgan and Erika Alexander. She served as a co-producer in the film Anne B. Real (2003), which relates the story of a female rapper's struggle to that of Anne Frank. The latest update on Felice reflects that she is a special education teacher in New York City.
Julie Piekarski (Sue Ann Weaver)
Julie Piekarski's role of Sue Ann Weaver was the one that was most competitive and the natural frenemy of the Blair Warner role. Unfortunately, the character was next in line to be cut by season 3.
After the show, Julie Piekarski all but left the Hollywood scene. She returned to her native St. Louis and she served as a reporter for KPLR-TV for a while. She settled down and married a dentist by the name of John Probst, and the couple had three children.
The most current update for Julie shows that she returned to the silver screen with a small role in a 2016 movie called The Importance of Doubting Tom, and she and her husband were divorced in 2017.
Julie Ann Haddock (Cindy Webster)
Julie Ann's Cindy Webster was arguably the prettiest girl on the set, but she was cast to be the tomboy. In fact, the first episode of The Facts of Life deals with the character struggling to understand her sexuality as she thought she might be a lesbian, because of her boyish hobbies and her overall familiarity and friendliness with other girls.
Unfortunately, the character of Cindy was axed by the 3rd season as well. After the show, Julie Ann Haddock completely extracted herself from Hollywood. The rare times she appeared in anything, it was as herself by way of her fleeting fame on The Facts of Life. As with most of the other departed cast, she did agree to return for a reunion episode in season 8, but that was the extent of her acting roles.
After the show ended, Cindy went to college and earned a degree in sociology. At last check, she was working in the corporate world, strategizing fund raising efforts for non-profit corporations.
Molly Ringwald (Molly Parker)
Molly Ringwald's Molly Parker was a sweet, charismatic girl who was as cute as a button. During the first and second season, Molly's presence was a bright spot everywhere she went. So, it was unbelievable when Molly's role was cut along with the others.
Of course, Molly Ringwald's dismissal from The Facts of Life would turn out to be a positive event, because Ringwald went on to become probably the most popular teen film actress of the 80s.
With starring roles in mega-hits like Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, and The Breakfast Club, Molly Ringwald's success far eclipsed her days on the show. Today, the twice married actress has a daughter and a set of twins, and she still has an active and flourishing career in Hollywood.
Jenny O'Hara (Miss Emily Mahoney)
Miss Mahoney was the commonsensical teacher at Eastland who was only shown for the first four episodes of the series. I'm not sure why they wrote out the character, because she wasn't given time to develop.
The actress who played Miss Mahoney is Jenny O'Hara. O'Hara had a long list of acting credits before The Facts of Life and she's continued to act steadily ever since her time on the show ended. Modern day audiences will probably most easily recognize her as the vehicle for the antagonist in the 2010 M. Night Shyamalan film, Devil.
Most recently, Jenny O'Hara had a recurring role as Bryna in the award-winning Amazon Prime series Transparent from 2015-2019. She's currently in two projects in post-production.
John Lawlor (Steven Bradley)
The headmaster of the Eastland School for girls was played by veteran actor John Lawlor. Mr. Bradley played the role of the quasi-stern Mr. Bradley for the first two seasons of the show.
After Lawlor was given the axe, he, like O'Hara, continued to work steadily in television and film projects. His last acting credit to date was the recurring role of Elmer Knowland in the 2017 TV mini-series Godless.
The Surviving Cast of The Facts of Life & a New Edition
Beginning in season 3, The Facts of Life cast was completely retooled. It was sad to see the original cast members leave, but the decision to cut the cast in half turned out to be a good move for the show.
The surviving cast included Charlotte Rae as Mrs. Garrett, Lisa Whelchel as Blair Warner, Kim Fields as Tootie Ramsey, and Mindy Cohn as Natalie Green.
The show needed an edgy character to round out the cast, so they went on a hunt to find the perfect actress. NBC executive Brandon Tartikoff spotted Nancy McKeon in a Hallmark commercial and he knew he had to have her on the show, so that is how her character, Jo Polniaczek, came to fruition.
In the season 8, most of the cut central characters, except for Molly Ringwald, returned for a reunion episode titled "The Little Chill." There we learned that Nancy was about to become a mother, Sue Ann was moving up the corporate ladder, and Cindy had become a model.
The Facts of Life enjoyed a successful ride for almost a decade, ending its run on May 7, 1988. The central characters who were cut never expressed any ill-will toward the surviving cast members or the show in general, and we wish them the best of luck in all their future endeavors.