List of Diff'rent Strokes characters

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This is a list of characters from the NBC sitcom Diff'rent Strokes.

Main characters[edit]

Character Portrayed by Seasons
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Phillip Drummond Conrad Bain Main
Arnold Jackson Gary Coleman Main
Willis Jackson Todd Bridges Main
Kimberly Drummond Dana Plato Main Recurring
Edna Garrett Charlotte Rae Main Guest
Sam McKinney Danny Cooksey Main

Phillip Drummond[edit]

Phillip Drummond
First appearance Movin' In (Diff'rent Stokes Pilot)
Last appearance The Front Page
Portrayed by Conrad Bain
Gender Male
Occupation Investor
Spouse(s) 1st wife (died)
Maggie McKinney Drummond (1984-)
Children Kimberly Drummond (daughter)
Willis Jackson (adopted son)
Arnold Jackson (adopted son)
Sam McKinney (stepson)
Relatives Mrs. Drummond (mother)
Mr. Drummond (father)
Sophia Drummond (sister)
Anna Van Drummond (cousin)
Hans Van Drummond (nephew/Anna's son)
Nationality American

Phillip Drummond is a fictional character on the hit television series, Diff'rent Strokes, he was portrayed by Emmy Award nominee and Golden Globe winning television actor, Conrad Bain, who previously worked on the All in the Family spinoff Maude (1972-1978).

Phillip is a friendly, wealthy white widower, who runs Trans-Allied, Inc., and was born December 3, 1931 in Manhattan, New York.

Phillip has a daughter, named Kimberly, and two adopted African American sons, Willis, and his younger brother Arnold Jackson. He also had a somewhat eccentric older sister named Sophia. Arnold and Willis's mother, Lucy Jackson, worked as a housekeeper for Phillip Drummond many years ago, but her death-bed wish was that Mr. Drummond would take care of her two sons. In the first episode of the series, Phillip welcomes Arnold and Willis into his home. Arnold quickly becomes attached to his new environment, but Willis nearly ruins it for him by hastily deciding that he and Arnold will move back to Harlem.

Phillip starts planning some "quality time" with the family by telling both Arnold and Willis that the whole family will be going on fun trips together. Arnold wants to agree, but Willis destroys his fun, and bosses him around.

The next night, after taking advice from Mrs. Garrett, Phillip decides to create "Family Fun Time" with magic tricks (that never worked) and dancing, but when Willis informs that it was time for him and Arnold to leave for Harlem, Phillip surprises them with a truckload of toys. Arnold becomes very happy, but Willis feels Phillip is trying to buy their love. Afterwards, Phillip confronted Willis for the first time, pointing out that he may have overdone it on his efforts to make the boys feel welcome, but it was purely out of live, and chastises Willis for his unwillingness to get to know them, implying that he is being selfish. However, the next morning, Phillip is surprised to find Willis in his hot tub (which he told the boys they could use anytime), where Willis explains that he'd done some thinking and soul searching, thus paving the way for Phillip and the boys to start a new relationship together.

Phillip had dated several women, and would later get re-married to Maggie McKinney, a television aerobics instructor (Dixie Carter from 1983-1985 and Mary Ann Mobley from 1985-1986). Maggie subsequently introduced her son by her ex-husband, Sam McKinney (Danny Cooksey), to the family.

Phillip Drummond is the only character to appear in every episode of the series.

Kimberly Drummond[edit]

Kimberly Drummond
First appearance Movin' In (Diff'rent Strokes Pilot)
Last appearance Bulimia
Portrayed by Dana Plato
Aliases Kim Drummond
Gender Female
Family Phillip Drummond (father)
Unnamed Mother (deceased)
Arnold Jackson (adopted brother)
Willis Jackson (adopted brother)
Sam McKinney (stepbrother)
Maggie McKinney Drummond (stepmother)

Kimberly Drummond is a fictional character on the popular television series, Diff'rent Strokes, and was portrayed by Dana Plato from 1978 until 1986, near the end of the show's eighth season.

Kimberly Drummond is the only biological child and daughter of wealthy widower, Philip Drummond (Conrad Bain). She was born on Park Avenue in New York on October 22, 1964. Kimberly was shown as a caring, loving big sister to both Willis and Arnold, but as a wealthy, coming of age teenager, she suffered from various problems including from season 6 which involved in a two-part very special episode on the dangers of hitchhiking that she was a victim of sexual assault by a deranged man.

Kimberly was always shown as a loving older sister to both Arnold and Willis, and had suffered problems throughout the series run: in one episode, no one in the Jackson/Drummond Family knew that she was suffering from bulimia.

Arnold Jackson[edit]

Arnold Jackson
First appearance Movin' In (Diff'rent Strokes Pilot)
Last appearance The Front Page
Portrayed by Gary Coleman
Gender Male
Occupation High School Student
Title Moppet
Family Lucy Mae Jackson (mother) (1938-1977)
Henry Jackson (father) (d. 1975)
Phillip Drummond (adopted father)
Kimberly Drummond (adopted sister)
Willis Jackson (older brother)
Sam McKinney (stepbrother)
Maggie McKinney Drummond (stepmother)
Myrtle Waters (distant cousin)
Nationality African American

Arnold Jackson is a breakout character on the television series Diff'rent Strokes. He was portrayed by Gary Coleman.

Arnold John Jackson is the younger brother of Willis Jackson (Todd Bridges), and was born in Harlem, New York City on July 19, 1970. Arnold is a "precocious moppet," who was practically known for his catch phrase, "Whatchoo talkin' 'bout Willis?, which became a part of popular culture and in 2006 was included in TV Lands "The 100 Greatest TV Quotes and Catch Phrases" special.[1]

Arnold's father died in 1975, and his mother died in 1977. His mother worked as a housekeeper for a wealthy White widower, named Philip Drummond (Conrad Bain). Before her death, his mother expressed her wish for her 2 boys to be cared for by Mr. Drummond. He agreed, and in 1979, he officially adopted Willis and Arnold.

Arnold is the main character in the television series. In many episodes, he is shown as being a selfish younger brother, or coming up with or being suckered into some scheme to keep out of trouble or obtain his desire of the episode. When the boys first moved in with Mr. Drummond, Willis wanted to move back to Harlem, while Arnold was satisfied with their new surroundings. Willis eventually changed his mind, and they decided to stay with "Mr. D.," as the boys initially referred to him.[2]

In another episode, Arnold has to fight a school bully named "The Gooch," so that he will not pick on him anymore. However, Mr. Drummond does not want Arnold fighting the bully, and ultimately decides that Arnold must make peace with "The Gooch." Arnold, however, listens to his brother, Willis, who tells him to fight back. This ended with Arnold getting a black eye, and both boys getting in trouble.

Arnold is best friends with Dudley Johnson (played by TV actor Shavar Ross), who, like Arnold, was adopted. Dudley appeared in many episodes and both were involved in various schemes throughout the series. Steven Mond also played Robbie, Arnold's other best friend, who once pressured him to drugs. In one episode, Arnold had to have an appendectomy but is too scared to see the doctor.

Willis Jackson[edit]

Willis Jackson
First appearance Movin In (Diff'rent Strokes Pilot)
Last appearance The Big Bribe
Portrayed by Todd Bridges
Gender Male
Occupation High School/College Student
Family Lucy Mae Jackson (mother, 1938-1977)
Henry Jackson (father, d. 1975)
Arnold Jackson (younger brother)
Kimberly Drummond (adopted sister)
Phillip Drummond (adopted father)
Sam McKinney (stepbrother)
Maggie McKinney Drummond (stepmother)
Myrtle Waters (distant cousin)
Nationality African American

Willis Jackson is a fictional character on the popular late 1970s-early 1980s television series, Diff'rent Strokes, and he was portrayed by Todd Bridges.

Willis James Jackson is the older brother of Arnold. He was born in Harlem on April 27, 1965. The boys' late mother was a housekeeper named Lucy, for a wealthy White man, named Phillip Drummond, and her deathbed wish was that he would take care of her two kids, and Philip Drummond officially adopted them in late 1979. Willis's catch phrase is "Say what?"

Willis was portrayed alternately as rebellious and responsible. In one episode, Willis joins a gang named "The Tarantulas." He buys a gang member's jacket, and tries to hide it from Kimberly and Mr. Drummond. When Arnold finds—and tries on—the jacket, Mr. Drummond thinks Arnold has joined the Tarantulas. This forces Arnold to tell Mr. Drummond the truth, despite his fear that Willis will become furious at him. Arnold and Mr. Drummond find Willis in a holding cell at the police station, after being arrested, but when Willis tries to tell him what happened, Mr. Drummond becomes very angry at Willis. The police officer tells Mr. Drummond that Willis was not involved, and that he tried to tell the other gang members to stop spraying graffiti on a wall. Willis, nevertheless, does not escape punishment, and Mr. Drummond grounds him.

In another episode, Willis invited his old best friends from Harlem. After a little cheering up from his sister, Kimberly, Willis uses his new wealthy lifestyle to "charm" his friends. When a conflict erupts, they walk out on both Arnold and Willis. However, everyone makes peace later on.

Willis also had a girlfriend, named Charlene DuPrey, portrayed by Janet Jackson of both the television shows Good Times and Fame. Jackson only appeared from the show's third season (1980–1981) until early 1984, through the show's sixth season.

Bridges' role as Willis Jackson started to fade, because of casting changes in the 1984-1985 season, when Danny Cooksey was added as Sam McKinney, his and Arnold's new younger stepbrother. Bridges did not appear as often in the show's final season, though his name remained in the opening credits.

Edna Garrett[edit]

Edna Garrett is a fictional character on the television series Diff'rent Strokes and Facts of Life. She was portrayed by Charlotte Rae.

She was the housekeeper for wealthy widower, Phillip Drummond.