Though it started as a Diff’rent Strokes spin-off, The Facts of Life arguably became more popular than its parent program. Following the lives of Mrs Garrett and her ragtag bunch of boarding school girls, the show gained lasting fans throughout a total of nine seasons and became one of NBC’s highest-rated sitcoms.
Three decades later, then, and while the students of Eastland Academy may look a lot different they’re still as sweet as ever. However, they’ve all come a long way since leaving the school behind.
20. Charlotte Rae (Mrs Garrett)
Originating the role of Mrs Garrett on Diff’rent Strokes, Charlotte Rae proved an actress strong enough to lead her own show. Nevertheless, the star grew tired of the spotlight and left to pursue other projects in 1986. Now aged 90, Rae recently appeared in 2015’s Ricki and the Flash and beat a cancer scare in 2009.
19. Cloris Leachman (Beverly Ann Stickle)
After Rae’s departure from the show, producers called on The Mary Tyler Moore Show alumna Cloris Leachman to fill the void. As Mrs Garrett’s sister Beverly Ann Stickle, Leachman proved an ample replacement, but the series would only last a further two seasons. Following this, though, the actress had a recurring role on Malcolm in the Middle.
18. Lisa Welchel (Blair Warner)
After beginning her career as a Mouseketeer, Lisa Welchel moved on to play the entitled Blair Warner in 1979. Despite this strong starring role, the actress distanced herself from Hollywood upon the show’s 1988 end. Subsequently, Welchel dedicated most of her time to motherhood, but she nevertheless reappeared as a contestant on 2012’s season of Survivor.
17. Kim Fields (Tootie Ramsey)
Famed for her catchphrase “we are in trou-ble!” Kim Fields played Eastland Academy’s resident rascal Tootie Ramsey. Cast at only nine years of age, Fields embodied the part until the show’s very end. And since then, she has starred alongside Queen Latifah in Living Single.
16. Mindy Cohn (Natalie Green)
While Mindy Cohn certainly enjoyed playing The Facts of Life’s Natalie Green, the actress didn’t always have the easiest time on set. In particular, the star admitted to People magazine in 2013 that producers pushed her to maintain an unhealthy amount of weight for the role. Nowadays, though, she can be heard voicing Velma in the Scooby-Doo franchise.
15. Molly Ringwald (Molly Parker)
Although she was cast in the show’s original roster of stars, Molly Ringwald didn’t appear on The Facts of Life for long. In fact, her character Molly was written off after just one season. However, Ringwald had the last laugh, as leading roles in Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink made her a huge star during the ’80s.
14. Jenny O’Hara (Emily Mahoney)
Like her co-star Molly Ringwald, Jenny O’Hara didn’t quite make the cut. Indeed, her character Emily Mahoney only appeared in the show’s first four episodes. Thankfully, O’Hara fared better in later life, completing a seven-year stint in King of Queens in 2007.
13. Geri Jewell (Geri Tyler)
As she was born with cerebral palsy, Geri Jewell would break new ground when she was cast as Blair’s cousin Geri in 1980. In fact, her casting in Facts made her the first visibly disabled person to regularly appear in a prime time show. While she still acts, Jewell now primarily works as a motivational speaker.
12. Pamela Adlon (Kelly Affinado)
Having originally auditioned for a Facts spin-off, Pamela Adlon eventually ended up playing Kelly Affinado from 1983 to 1984. Since then, the actress is probably best known for voicing Bobby Hill on King of the Hill. However, she can also be seen on Louie and in her own show, Better Things.
11. Lauren Tom (Miko)
Like many budding actresses, Lauren Tom made her screen debut on The Facts of Life. Cast as Miko in two 1982 episodes, Tom would later forge a long career in film and TV. And, while she gained the most acclaim for voicing Futurama’s Amy, Friends fans may recognize her as Julie, Ross’ short-lived girlfriend.
10. Mackenzie Astin (Andy Moffett)
One of the few boys cast on the show, Mackenzie Astin was introduced as business-minded Andy Moffett during the show’s sixth season. And after starring in 65 episodes in the series, Astin would go on to appear in shows like Lost and House. He’s also had film roles, including a part in 1994’s Wyatt Earp.
9. Nancy McKeon (Jo Polnaiczek)
Brought on in season two as a replacement for Molly Ringwald, Nancy McKeon played a pivotal part on the show. As the tough tomboy Jo, McKeon helped balance the cast and bring out the show’s trademark warmth. After the show’s end, meanwhile, the actress had a starring role in The Division; she last appeared on screen in 2011.
8. Julie Piekarski (Sue Ann Weaver)
In a similar fashion to her co-star Lisa Whelchel, Julie Piekarski starred on The New Mickey Mouse Club before being cast in The Facts of Life. Appearing as Sue Ann Weaver for 17 episodes, Piekarski would later try her hand as a TV reporter. She has now settled into domestic life.
7. Julie Anne Haddock (Cindy Webster)
Another actress who never made it past season one, Julie Anne Haddock had a short-lived stint as tomboy Cindy Webster. Perhaps motivated by this early failure, Haddock gave up acting shortly afterwards. She now works in fundraising and is known by her marital name, Julie Anne Becker.
6. Jami Gertz (Boots St. Clair)
Following a brief role as Boots St. Clair in the fifth season of Facts, Jami Gertz appeared in films like Sixteen Candles and The Lost Boys. But, while she almost nabbed the role of Rachel in Friends, the star doesn’t really need the work. Thanks to her marriage to entrepreneur Antony Ressler, Gertz is worth an estimated $2 billion.
5. Eve Plumb (Meg Warner)
As The Brady Bunch’s middle child Jan, Eve Plumb had already experienced life on one of America’s biggest sitcoms. So she must have felt right at home when she briefly appeared on Facts as Meg Warner in 1983. These days, Plumb still acts but also enjoys a second career as a still-life painter.
4. Juliette Lewis (Terry Rankin)
Besides its roster of main stars, Facts also featured a few now-familiar faces in early roles. Before Cape Fear and Natural Born Killers made her famous, Juliette Lewis had a small role as Terry Rankin in the show’s final season. These days, though, she can be seen in ABC’s Secrets and Lies.
3. Mayim Bialik (Jennifer Cole)
During the show’s final episode, Mayim Bialik made a pre-fame appearance as Jennifer Cole. Weirdly enough, the actress was even scheduled to star in a Facts of Life spin-off that ultimately never took flight. Despite this early setback, Bialik would later helm the ’90s series Blossom; she currently stars as Amy in The Big Bang Theory.
2. Seth Green (Adam Brinkerhoff)
In a strange twist of fate, the Facts finale also featured a young Seth Green in a formative role. Like Bialik, Green would go on to star in further TV shows like Family Guy and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He also co-created the animated comedy Robot Chicken, which took home an Emmy in 2016.
1. George Clooney (George Burnett)
Every budding actor needs their break, and hopeful star George Clooney made a big impression as George Burnett, a handyman. Appearing in 17 episodes between 1985 and 1987, the actor’s early role launched him into the stratosphere and to a mega-successful career in blockbuster films – some of which you may just have seen!