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Kristy McNichol

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Kristy McNichol
McNichol in 1991
Christina Ann McNichol

(1962-09-11) September 11, 1962 (age 61)
Years active1970–2001
Known forLittle Darlings
Empty Nest
Only When I Laugh
PartnerMartie Allen
RelativesJimmy McNichol (brother)
Kellee Maize (niece)

Christina Ann McNichol (born September 11, 1962) is an American former actress. Beginning her career as a child actress, she rose to fame in 1976 with her portrayal of teenaged daughter Letitia "Buddy" Lawrence in the TV drama Family for which she won two Emmy Awards. Subsequent roles included Angel in the film Little Darlings, Polly in Only When I Laugh, and Barbara Weston in the TV sitcom Empty Nest.[1] McNichol retired from acting in 2001.

Early life, family and education[edit]

McNichol smiling
McNichol in 1976

McNichol was born on September 11, 1962, in Los Angeles, California,[2] the daughter of James and Carolyn McNichol. Her father was a carpenter and her mother worked odd jobs to support the family, including as a secretary, cosmetics salesperson, and movie extra. McNichol is Scottish/Irish on her father's side and her mother is of Lebanese descent.[3]


She appeared with her brother Jimmy McNichol in commercials and later, on her own, in guest appearances on such other series as Starsky & Hutch, The Bionic Woman, Love, American Style, and The Love Boat, thanks to family friend Desi Arnaz. Her first stint as a series regular came in the role of Patricia Apple in the short-lived television series Apple's Way (1974).

In 1976, she was cast as Letitia "Buddy" Lawrence in the television drama series Family (1976–80). She was nominated for the Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Dramatic Series three years in a row (1977–79), winning in 1977 and 1979.[4][5][6] In 1980, she was nominated for the Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for Family.

In 1977, she appeared in the TV special The Carpenters at Christmas, performing several musical numbers with the duo. In 1978, Jimmy and she made their foray into music, recording the album Kristy and Jimmy McNichol for RCA Records (AFL1-2875). Produced by Phil Margo and Mitch Margo, it included the singles "He's So Fine" (a cover of The Chiffons' 1963 hit), which peaked at number 70 on the Billboard chart and "Page by Page". The McNichols promoted the album at New York's Studio 54 discothèque with other celebrities. In 1978, McNichol performed with Jimmy in a second Carpenters' holiday special, titled The Carpenters: A Christmas Portrait.[7]

Publicity photo of child actress Kristy McNichol promoting the September 28, 1976 premiere of the second season of the ABC television series Family.

McNichol was one of the bigger teen stars of that era. She appeared on talk shows such as The Mike Douglas Show and Dinah!, and made several appearances on Battle of the Network Stars and other celebrity-based sports shows. In 1978, she starred in the acclaimed TV movie Summer of My German Soldier.[8]

McNichol began her film career in 1977 in Black Sunday, but her scenes were cut. In 1978, she starred with Burt Reynolds and Sally Field in the black comedy The End.[9]

In 1980, she played one of the leading roles in the hit coming-of-age movie Little Darlings, which also starred Tatum O'Neal, with Matt Dillon and Cynthia Nixon in supporting roles. Her performance was acclaimed by many reviewers, including those who disliked the film.[10] Later in 1980, she appeared with Dennis Quaid and Mark Hamill in The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia, for which she received a six-figure salary—unprecedented for a teenager. In 1981, she co-starred in Neil Simon's Only When I Laugh and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress.[11]

McNichol was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actress for her performance in the 1982 movie The Pirate Movie.[citation needed] The same year, she suffered an emotional breakdown while playing the lead role in the comedy-drama Just the Way You Are that was being filmed in France. She later told People magazine that she could not sleep and she cried the entire time she was in France. She had nightmares when she did sleep and she cried on set. She did not return to the production after Christmas to finish the movie; filming had to be interrupted for a year while McNichol recovered. She later said that the breakdown had been caused by the pressures of her childhood career,[12] as well as the pressure to hide her sexuality from the public.[citation needed].

In 1986, McNichol appeared in Women of Valor, a TV movie about American nurses in a World War II Japanese POW camp. She made two theatrical films in 1988: You Can't Hurry Love and Two Moon Junction.

In the same year, she began the role of Barbara Weston on Empty Nest, a spin-off of The Golden Girls. She left the show in 1992 after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder but returned for its final episode in 1995. It was her last on-screen performance. However, she later voiced characters in the animated TV series Extreme Ghostbusters (1997) and Invasion America (1998).[13]

Later life[edit]

McNichol smiling
McNichol in 2009

In June 2001, McNichol announced that she had retired from acting. Her publicist released this statement:

A lot of people have wondered what I've been up to. I retired from my career after 24 years. My feeling was that it was time to play my biggest part – myself! I must say that it has been the best thing that ever happened to me. So many fans are disappointed that I'm not currently acting; however, some may not realize that the process I'm in at this time is necessary and vital for my personal happiness and well-being.[14]

After her retirement, McNichol taught acting at a private school in Los Angeles and devoted much of her time to charity work.[15] In 2012, McNichol ended years of speculation when she revealed that she is a lesbian and has lived with her partner Martie Allen since the early 1990s. She made the statement in the hopes that her openness would help young people who are bullied because of their sexual orientation. McNichol also made it clear in the same statement that she has no plans to return to acting.[16][13]



Year Title Role Notes
1978 The End Julie Lawson
Like Mom, Like Me Jennifer Gruen Television movie
Summer of My German Soldier Patty Bergen
1979 My Old Man Jo Butler
1980 Little Darlings Angel Bright First lead role in a theatrical release
Blinded by the Light Janet Bowers Television movie
1981 The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia Amanda Child
Only When I Laugh Polly Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture
1982 White Dog Julie Sawyer Unreleased in the United States
The Pirate Movie Mabel Stanley
Aladdin and the Magic Lamp The Princess Voice
1984 Just the Way You Are Susan Berlanger
1985 Love, Mary Mary Groda-Lewis Television movie
1986 Dream Lover Kathy Gardner
Women of Valor T.J. Nolan Television movie
1988 You Can't Hurry Love Rhonda
Two Moon Junction Patti Jean
1989 The Forgotten One Barbara Stupple Final theatrical film (as of 2022)
1990 Children of the Bride Mary Television movie
1991 Baby of the Bride
1993 Mother of the Bride


Year Title Role Notes
1973 Love, American Style Steffi Episode: "Love and the Unsteady Steady"
1974–1975 Apple's Way Patricia Apple 15 episodes
1975 ABC Afterschool Special Jenna McPhail Episode: "Fawn Story"
1976 Nina Beckwith Episode: "Me & Dad's New Wife"
Starsky & Hutch Meg Episode: "The Hostages"
Sara Unknown Episode: "Grandpa's Girl"
The Bionic Woman Amanda Cory Episode: "The Ghost Hunter"
Starsky & Hutch Molly Edwards Episode: "Little Girl Lost"
1976–1980 Family Letitia "Buddy" Lawrence 86 episodes
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (1977, 1979)
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
1977 The Love Boat Linda Morley Pilot
Kelly Episode: "Graham and Kelly"
ABC Afterschool Special Carlie Higgins Episode: "The Pinballs"
1978 Starsky & Hutch Joey Carston Episode: "The Trap"
1988 Murder, She Wrote Jill Morton Episode: "Showdown in Saskatchewan"
1988-1992, 1995 Empty Nest Barbara Weston 100 episodes
1991–1992 The Golden Girls Episodes: "Witness", "A Midwinter Night's Dream"
1997 Extreme Ghostbusters Girl in Sub Voice; episode: "Dry Spell"
1998 Invasion America Sgt. Angela "Angie" Romar 13 episodes



  1. ^ Bloch, Jon P.; Naser, Jeffrey (2006). The Everything Health Guide to Adult Bipolar Disorder: Reassuring Advice to Help You Cope. Everything Books. p. 47. ISBN 9781605503417. Retrieved January 23, 2015.
  2. ^ Leszczak, Bob (2015). From Small Screen to Vinyl: A Guide to Television Stars Who Made Records, 1950-2000. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 180. ISBN 9781442242746.
  3. ^ Wu, Jessica (2012). Feed Your Face: The 28-day plan for younger, smoother skin and a beautiful body. Little, Brown Book Group. p. 182. ISBN 978-0-7481-3215-7.
  4. ^ "29th Emmy Awards Nominees and Winners". emmys.com. Retrieved September 30, 2020.
  5. ^ "30th Emmy Awards Nominees and Winners". emmys.com. Retrieved September 30, 2020.
  6. ^ "30th Emmy Awards Nominees and Winners". emmys.com. Retrieved September 30, 2020.
  7. ^ The Carpenters: A Christmas Portrait (1978) Complete TV Special. December 19, 1978. Event occurs at 9.9 minutes in. Archived from the original on 2021-11-13. Retrieved July 10, 2020.
  8. ^ "Summer of my German Soldier (1978)". TCM.com. Turner Classic Movies (TCM). Retrieved 22 July 2018.
  9. ^ Kay, Glenn (3 November 2015). "Blasts From the Past! Blu-ray Review: THE END (1978)". Cinemastance.com. Cinemastance. Retrieved 3 November 2015.
  10. ^ Ebert, Roger (March 25, 1980). "Review of 'Little Darlings'". RogerEbert.com. Retrieved May 26, 2015.
  11. ^ "Winners & Nominees : Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture 1982". GoldenGlobes.com. Golden Globe Awards. Archived from the original on March 8, 2021. Retrieved August 2, 2018.
  12. ^ Haller, Scot (April 3, 1989). "Cover Story: 'I Was Crying All the Time'". People. Vol. 31, no. 13. Retrieved February 22, 2017.
  13. ^ a b Hickey, Patrick Jr. (9 January 2012). "Kristy McNichol Comes Out of the Closet to Fight Bullying". nbcmiami.com. NBC 6 South Florida. Retrieved March 26, 2019.
  14. ^ "Where Are They Now? Kristy McNichol". MSN. Archived from the original on 2013-11-11. Retrieved 2014-06-29.
  15. ^ Sandra Brennan (2009). "Movies: Biography forKristy McNichol". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2009-03-24.
  16. ^ "Kristy McNichol, 'Empty Nest' and 'Family' Actress, Comes Out as Lesbian in People Magazine". HuffPost. January 7, 2012. Retrieved May 26, 2015.

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