List of The Facts of Life characters
This is a list of characters from the NBC sitcom The Facts of Life.
|First appearance||Movin' In (Diff'rent Strokes)|
|Last appearance||The Facts of Life Reunion|
|Portrayed by||Charlotte Rae|
|Occupation||Housekeeper, housemother, dietitian, Registered Nurse, businesswoman|
|Spouse(s)||Robert Garrett (divorced)
Dr. Bruce Gaines (1986–2001; his death)
|Children||Alex Garrett (son)
Raymond Garrett (son)
|Relatives||Beverly Ann Stickle (sister)
Andy Moffet (nephew)
Three brothers (names unknown)
Doris Garrett (daughter-in-law)
Edna Ann Garrett Gaines (better known to television viewers as Mrs. Garrett or Mrs. G) was played by actress Charlotte Rae from 1978 to 1986.
Edna Garrett was the youngest child in a large family, born and raised on a farm near Appleton, Wisconsin. Her exact age was never disclosed during the series, but on several occasions, it was hinted or implied that she was somewhere in her fifties. On Diff'rent Strokes, she was the housekeeper to the Drummond family in New York City after Willis and Arnold's mom Lucy died. In 1979, she took a job as house mother at the Eastland School for Girls in Peekskill, New York (Kimberly Drummond attended Eastland). Over the years, Mrs. Garrett's role on The Facts of Life changed. At first she was merely a live-in supervisor for the girls of Eastland; in the second season she became their in-house dietitian who managed the school's cafeteria.
Mrs. Garrett was married twice, divorced (first marriage), and widowed (second marriage); one early episode showed Mr. Garrett coming to town to woo her and reconcile, but he was unsuccessful because Edna felt that his gambling problem would always be an obstacle. She had two sons, a singer/songwriter/carpenter named Alex (Tom Fitzsimmons) (born 1953) and an accountant named Raymond (Joel Brooks). Raymond helped her raise funds and secure commercial space so she could open her own gourmet food shop, Edna's Edibles, in the fall of 1983. The girls, who had previously lived with Mrs. Garrett at Eastland, and worked with her in the kitchen to pay off various restitution-related expenses (see below), moved into an apartment above "Edna's Edibles" and continued to work for Mrs. Garrett in the shop (this time on the payroll). In the fall of 1985, Edna's Edibles was extensively damaged by fire; it was rebuilt as a gift shop called "Over Our Heads." Since the insurance on Edna's Edibles had lapsed by the time of the fire, the girls contributed their insurance claim checks to help rebuild, effectively making Mrs. Garrett and the girls equal partners in the business.
Edna Garrett was a mentor to the girls at Eastland, functioning in loco parentis. At times the girls would take her for granted, and forget that Edna herself had problems. Many times Edna would lash out at the girls when they got careless with her. In one episode, she actually fires them from "Edna's Edibles" when their irresponsible behavior ends up costing her $500 in fines after a dismal health inspection. She hires them back the next day when the girls promise her that they will be more responsible at their jobs. She also fires George, when he falls behind on his work constructing "Over Our Heads," but they later make up. Mrs. Garrett is a Democrat. She is also against censorship, such as book banning.
Mrs. Garrett remarried in 1986. She and her new husband, Dr. Bruce Gaines (Robert Mandan), rejoined the Peace Corps to work in eastern Africa. (Charlotte Rae did not want to continue with the series). Edna was replaced by her sister, Beverly Ann Stickle (Cloris Leachman). However, in the reunion movie that aired in 2001, Mrs. Garrett reunited with the three girls (Blair, Natalie, and Tootie) at a hotel owned by Blair and which was run by her son Raymond. It was also revealed that Mrs. Garrett and Tootie were widows. Its revealed that she was in a romantic relationship with a ship captain.
Mrs. Garrett also appears on the Hello, Larry episode "The Trip", the first of three crossovers between Diff'rent Strokes and Hello, Larry. Although she doesn't appear in the other two, Charlotte Rae still receives credit.
|First appearance||Rough Housing|
|Last appearance||The Facts of Life Reunion|
|Portrayed by||Mindy Cohn|
|Occupation||Student, businesswoman, writer, journalist|
|Spouse(s)||Harper Jason (fiancé)|
|Relatives||Dr. Sy Green (father; deceased)
Evelyn "Evie" Green (mother)
Ellen Manheim (biological mother)
Mona Green (paternal grandmother)
Natalie's most defining physical attribute was that she was large-figured, but she had a healthy self-image, once quoted as saying, "Who wants to be a skinny pencil? I'd rather be a happy Magic Marker!"
Natalie is Jewish, as Mindy Cohn is in real life; and her faith was featured in several episodes. In one, she celebrated Hanukkah while the others celebrated Christmas. Her heritage was highlighted when her father, Dr. Green, died unexpectedly; Natalie's bottled-up grief was a continuing storyline.
Although she wasn't a mold-fitting "traditional beauty," Natalie was involved in many storylines regarding sex. In an early episode, she dated a boy who spread a rumor that Natalie was easy. In another episode, she was almost sexually assaulted on the way back from a costume party. In the controversial episode "The First Time," toward the series' end, she became the first of the girls to have sex when she slept with her boyfriend Snake on their one-year anniversary. A budding writer, she wrote for the Eastland School newspaper.
Natalie graduated from Eastland in 1985, in the Season 6, Episode 25, "Bus Stop," and took a year off before college to travel across the country in a bus, leaving family and friends dismayed because she was postponing Princeton. At the year's end, she decided to attend Langley College, and she became a reporter for the local newspaper in Peekskill. She went to New York City towards the end of the series and decided to stay and pursue her writing career. The episode in which she checks out the SoHo loft she will eventually call home features Richard Grieco and David Spade as her future roommates. (The episode, which aired in 1988, was originally set up for Mindy Cohn to transition into a spinoff series, but the plans never materialized.) In the TV-movie, The Facts of Life Reunion, she is revealed to be involved with two different men; none of whom knew of the other. Her boyfriends Robert and Harper were willing, for a short time, to compete for her heart. Though her friends deemed Robert the winner, Natalie eventually choose Harper. While her now ex, Robert accepted this and parted with Natalie on good terms.
Natalie was the only one of the girls who was adopted. In one episode, Blair successfully tracked down Natalie's birthmother, but Natalie—who realized that her adoptive parents were her true parents, even though they weren't biologically related to her—refused to answer the phone and hear the results of the search, instead inviting her friends to taste the cake "my mother made." However, thanks in part to an argument with her adoptive mother during a 1982 episode, the subject arose again, and it was her adoptive mother who finally told Natalie who her biological mother was. Natalie tracked her down and met her, but as before, she still considered the mother who had reared her to be her mother.
Natalie also appears in two episodes of Diff'rent Strokes: "The Slumber Party" and "The Older Men".
|First appearance||The New Girl, pt. 1|
|Last appearance||The Beginning of the Beginning|
|Portrayed by||Nancy McKeon|
|Occupation||Student, businesswoman, teacher, social worker, police officer|
|Spouse(s)||Rick Bonner (1988-present)|
|Children||Jamie Bonner (daughter)|
|Relatives||Charlie Polniaczek (father)
Rose Polniaczek (mother)
Josef Polniaczek (paternal grandfather)
Sal Largo (uncle)
Celeste Largo, neé Polniaczek (aunt; deceased)
Bud Largo (cousin)
Paul Largo (cousin)
Terry Largo (cousin)
Mike Polniaczek (cousin)
Joanna "Jo" Marie Polniaczek Bonner was played by Nancy McKeon. Jo was first introduced in the second season in 1980, at around 15 years old, arriving at the Eastland Academy on her motorcycle. She almost immediately formed a dislike for Blair Warner; Jo found Blair stuck-up, and Blair found Jo short-tempered, bossy, classless, and manly. In a memorable introduction, Blair introduced herself to Jo, to which Jo replied, "Charmed; I'm Gloria Vanderbilt." Jo is Polish American.
Jo convinced the gang to steal the school van and use fake IDs to buy drinks at a bar. The van was wrecked and the girls were forced to work in the Eastland cafeteria to make up the repair costs; this was from the second season two-part premiering in November 1980 "The New Girl Part 1". In the second episode "The New Girl Part 2", the girls were also placed on house probation and were forced to live in a room adjoining Mrs. Garrett's for a year; when the punishment expired, all four girls found other living arrangements, but were responsible for cleaning and painting their former room. While painting, their friendship began to rekindle, culminating into an all-out paint fight, which severely damaged the hardwood floor, requiring expensive repairs. The girls, once again close friends, decided to move back in together and continued to work in the kitchen to pay off the bill for the damaged floor.
Blair's attitude toward Jo worsened when Blair's boyfriend asked Jo to a country club dance. However, Blair stood up for Jo when her would-be love interest tried to assault and humiliate her on the ninth green. When asked why Blair stood up for Jo, Blair stated, "At least when I insult her, I know what I'm talking about!" Another problem for Jo came when she shoplifted a blouse for Mrs. Garrett's birthday; Mrs. Garrett was subsequently arrested when she went to exchange the blouse for the smaller size, not knowing the garment was stolen.
Early on, Jo's sailor boyfriend, Eddie Brennan (actor Clark Brandon), came to Eastland and convinced her to marry him. They planned to elope to West Virginia, where the marriage age was lower, but Mrs. Garrett and Blair tracked her down at a nearby motel to stop her. Jo had by that point already begun to change her mind when she realized just how difficult teenage marriage would be. Jo returned to Peekskill without Eddie. Eddie visited again the following season, but things had changed between them. They were moving in different directions, and keeping the long distance relationship going was proving to be very difficult, so they decided to see other people for the time being. Eddie returned late in the fifth season, now an officer in the Navy, but Tootie discovers he was married to a girl in Italy. Clark Brandon who played Eddie Brennan (Jo's boyfriend)'s last appearance was from the twenty-third fifth season episode "Seems Like Old Times".
Sometime later, in the fifteenth fourth-season episode "Teacher's Pet", Jo developed a friendship with her 26-year-old English teacher, Miss Gail Gallagher (played by Deborah Harmon), who was raised in a similar environment to that of Jo. Gail inspired Jo to think about becoming a teacher herself and Jo went as far as to calling her by her first name. When Jo learned from Blair that Gail was quitting Eastland, she became very disappointed, believing that the reason was for a higher-paying job. She was then crushed when she found out from Mrs. Garrett that it was because of something unthinkable – terminal illness. Jo was so shocked that she stopped going to Gail's class and shunned her completely. She tried to keep herself busy with things that would distract her from thoughts of Gail and went as far as breaking her evening curfew. When Mrs. Garrett and Tootie confronted her about her strange behavior, she managed to overcome the shock and fear and come to terms with Gail. Jo associated the fact that Gail's dying with her friend Gloria's death.
Many of Jo's stories revolved around her tomboyish ways. Jo got into verbal spars with girls who didn't think she was "feminine enough," and boys (including some of her boyfriends) were threatened by her mechanical aptitude, which she displayed by getting a job at a local garage.
In the later seasons, Jo's tomboyish image softened considerably, as she and the girls were growing up and was rarely raised as an issue again. Her relationship with Blair became more friendly as time went on (Jo would even refer to Blair as her best friend by the last season), although the two still argued, traded wisecracks and made fun of each other from time to time. Jo graduated from Eastland as valedictorian of her class, and attended Langley College with Blair, graduating with a degree in education. In one flashback-heavy episode; the ninth sixth season episode "Dear Apple", Jo relayed her latest ongoing spat with Blair to a computer, which analyzed the data and concluded that Jo should stop being friends with Blair. At the end of the episode, Jo quietly threw the computer's printout away. In the last season, Jo married Rick Bonner, a concert musician, and she asked Blair to be her maid of honor.
Jo did not appear at the reunion TV special because it was stated that she was now a police officer and was working; however, Rick and their daughter Jamie did attend. This also coincided with Nancy McKeon's role as a policewoman in the drama series The Division since the reason she couldn't participate in the reunion was a conflict in her working schedule.
|First appearance||The Girls School (Diff'rent Strokes)|
|Last appearance||The Facts of Life Reunion|
|Portrayed by||Kim Fields|
|Occupation||Student, businesswoman, actress, talk show host|
|Spouse(s)||Jeff Williams (husband; deceased)|
|Children||Tisha Williams (daughter)|
|Relatives||Harrison "Rifle" Ramsey (father)
Paula/Diane Ramsey (mother)
Marshall Ramsey (brother)
Ethel (maternal grandmother)
Sylvia Parker (aunt)
Brian Parker (former uncle)
Dorothy "Tootie" Ramsey Williams was played by Kim Fields. She was the youngest of the main characters at the age of around 11, and the only African-American girl. She and her family hailed from Washington, D.C.. She attended Eastland Academy for most of the show's run. Tootie's most-remembered attributes were her penchant for rollerskates (at first used by Facts of Life producers to mask Fields' short stature), her gossipy nature, and her braces. In real life, Kim Fields had to wear braces for three years, finally having them removed in January 1985. A lot of Tootie's gossip got her and her friends in trouble, and she was noted for her catch phrase, "We are in trou-ble!"
Tootie was involved in many very special storylines. For example, Tootie befriended a boy named Fred who insisted that she only associate with black people, in an attempt to realize "her true roots." In another episode, Tootie was chosen by a photographer to model for newspaper advertisements but was instead lured into a borderline kiddie porn operation and was saved by Mrs. Garrett at the last minute. During a trip to New York City, Tootie was almost strong-armed into prostitution before Mrs. Garrett found her and took her home. In another episode, she struggled with the race issue again when her best friend Natalie dated a relative of hers and Tootie intervened, causing conflict between Natalie and herself. Tootie's favorite singer is Michael Jackson's older brother Jermaine Jackson.
Tootie helped Mrs. Garrett with her bakery, Edna's Edibles, after school and then worked full-time at the gift shop Over Our Heads after she graduated from high school in 1986.
In the 2001 The Facts of Life Reunion TV movie, Tootie had attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London to pursue an acting career, was a Hollywood-based talk show host, and was the single mother of Tisha, a 10-year-old (fathered by her longtime boyfriend and later deceased husband, Jeff Williams). After her visit, Tootie (who now preferred to be called "Dorothy") decided to quit her talk show, "Wake Up With Dorothy", and move to New York to take up the theater, but not before becoming the co-owner of the Peekskill Playhouse. Tisha Williams remained behind to attend Eastland Academy and continue the family tradition.
In addition to the Diff'rent Strokes episode "The Girls School" that serves as the pilot for The Facts of Life, Tootie also appears in "The Slumber Party", "The Bank Job", "First Day Blues" and "The Team".
|First appearance||The Girls School (Diff'rent Strokes)|
|Last appearance||The Facts of Life Reunion|
|Portrayed by||Lisa Whelchel|
|Relatives||David Warner, Jr. (father)
Monica Warner Eloise Hoffdale, neé Blair (mother)
Meg Warner (sister)
Bailey Hoffdale (half-sister)
Geri Warner/Tyler (cousin)
Carlton Blair (maternal grandfather; deceased)
David Warner, Sr. (paternal grandfather)
Blair Warner was played by Lisa Whelchel. She was about 14 at the series' beginning; an episode in the 1985–1986 season centered on her 21st birthday.
At the series' beginning in 1979, Blair was portrayed as very rich and very rebellious. She was seen smoking cigarettes, drinking beer, and enjoying great popularity with boys; unlike many of her classmates, she was looking to lose her virginity. When the show was retooled in 1980, all instances of her rebellion were either dropped or given to the new character of Jo Polniaczek, and Blair was rewritten as an unashamedly spoiled "Daddy's Girl," whose business alone could have kept Bloomingdale's and Neiman Marcus afloat.
Blair was very vain and believed that she was perfect in every way, but she was also funny, kind-hearted, and loving to Mrs. Garrett and her friends, especially Jo Polniaczek. She also got good grades, won school awards, was crowned Harvest Queen for 3 straight years, and even convinced a guy to move from Switzerland to attend school near her (when asked about it, Blair dryly remarked, "I've done it before.") Blair's delusions of grandeur were usually played for laughs when Natalie, Tootie or Jo would make sarcastic remarks about her "beauty", "perfect" personality, or "naturally blonde hair". Blair felt she was more important than "regular" people because she was the heiress to her father's multimillion-dollar business, Warner Textile Mills. Any crisis at Eastland would usually prompt a suggested solution from Blair, preceded by her catch phrase: "I just had another one of my brilliant ideas!" More often than not, though, her "brilliant ideas" were actually quite the opposite. She eventually developed a more down-to-earth attitude, especially after she suffered a car accident (after falling asleep at the wheel) that left her slightly scarred, spoiling her "perfect" beauty.
Blair's parents (played by Nicolas Coster and Marj Dusay) were divorced on June 14, 1973, and although she didn't usually show it, Blair wished that she had a nuclear family like all of her friends. Later in the series, her mother remarried (for the fourth time) and gave birth to a baby girl (Bailey). Blair had misgivings about her mother's pregnancy but fell in love with baby Bailey as soon as she saw her.
Another secret Blair kept from her friends was that her cousin Geri (played by comedian Geri Jewell) had Cerebral palsy. She was not embarrassed by her cousin, but rather jealous of her, since Blair was used to being the center of attention. Mrs. Garrett told Blair not to lash out against Geri because of her jealousy, and Blair joined Geri, a successful comedian, onstage at an impromptu comedy show Geri threw at the Eastland Academy. Blair's big sister Meg visited Eastland to tell her little sister that she's going to become a nun in "Best Sister Part 1" and in "Best Sister Part 2" it's revealed that Blair is an atheist because she asked God to not allow her parents' divorce to become final in 1973, but her parents split up nevertheless. In real life Lisa Whelchel is a Christian.
Blair attended Eastland, and upon graduating in 1983, attended nearby Langley College. She worked with Mrs. Garrett at Edna's Edibles and, later, Over Our Heads. After graduating from Langley, she enrolled in law school. In the series finale, she purchases the financially troubled Eastland Academy and turns it into a co-educational school.
Blair's chief foil was Jo. The two made no secret of their mutual dislike: Jo found Blair spoiled and snobbish; Blair thought Jo was classless and crude. However, more than once Blair stuck up for and stood by Jo in her time of need (and vice versa), and eventually the two developed a much friendlier relationship. In one episode, Jo even declares Blair as her official best friend.
In the episode "Legacy," Blair, initially enthusiastic about a library being built with her family's funds and named after her late maternal grandfather, Judge Carlton Blair, thus immortalizing the name "Blair", was horrified to learn her grandfather had been a member of the Ku Klux Klan. The revelation devastated Blair and made her question all her assumptions about her supposed "superiority," even though Jo assured her "You're not prejudiced; you're a snob." She almost withdrew the library funding to avoid commemorating her grandfather but finally agreed to let it be built so long as it was not given the "Blair" name.
In addition to the Diff'rent Strokes episode "The Girls School" that serves as the pilot for The Facts of Life, Blair appears in "The Older Man".
Note: Actress Geri Reischl ("fake Jan" of The Brady Bunch Hour) was given the role of Blair Warner in the television pilot Garrett's Girls (later renamed The Facts of Life), but was forced to give it up due to her contract with General Mills.
|First appearance||Rough Housing|
|Last appearance||The Little Chill|
|Portrayed by||Julie Anne Haddock|
Cindy Webster was played by Julie Anne Haddock. She was around 12 years old at the beginning of The Facts of Life. Cindy was an athletic tomboy, who, at the start of the series, was worried she wasn't "normal". The first episode of The Facts of Life, which aired in Summer 1979, focused on Cindy, who was concerned that she might like girls, after hearing disparaging remarks from snobby Blair. The episode tackled a sensitive issue during an era when lesbianism was rarely talked about on television, although reaction from modern-day critics has been mixed. Stephen Tropiano, writing in 2002, wrote: "While the episode is not really about homosexuality per se, it seems to deliver a contradictory message. On the one hand, wise Mrs. Garrett dispenses Cindy some good advice when she explains the value of being yourself [...] yet there is a sense of relief that Cindy is heading down the road to heterosexuality because she's fallen for a guy she met at the dance."
On the series, Cindy's best friend and roommate was Sue Ann Weaver, and the pair appeared together frequently in many early episodes, including in an episode where the two girls fight over a racing competition ("Running", 1980). Cindy also does gymnastics and tries out for Harvest Queen at Eastland. She attends Journalism class with Blair, Jo and Sue Ann. The character of Cindy Webster was gradually written out of the show between Summer 1980 and Winter 1982, with the character making only a few appearances during seasons two and three. However, she reappeared in the 1986 reunion episode "The Little Chill"; it was revealed in that episode that Cindy had become a model, and was now known professionally as Cindy Baker.
Beverly Ann Stickle
|Beverly Ann Stickle|
|First appearance||Out of Peekskill|
|Last appearance||The Beginning of the End|
|Portrayed by||Cloris Leachman|
|Spouse(s)||Frank Stickle (divorced)|
|Children||Andy Moffet (adoptive son)|
|Relatives||Edna Garrett-Gaines (sister)
Dr. Bruce Gaines (brother-in-law; deceased)
Alex Garrett (nephew)
Raymond Garrett (nephew)
3 brothers (names unknown)
Beverly Ann Stickle was played by Cloris Leachman.
Beverly Ann was first seen in the fall of 1986, after Mrs. Garrett married and moved to Africa to serve in the Peace Corps. In reality, actress Charlotte Rae's contract had expired, and she did not want to continue with the series. At the time, The Facts of Life was still lucrative for NBC, and NBC president Brandon Tartikoff chose to renew, but only with a new mother figure at the helm.
Beverly Ann, Mrs. Garrett's divorced sister, moved in with the girls as Mrs. Garrett wanted someone to keep an eye on them as she had. She became the property owner for Mrs. Garrett's house and the boutique store, Over Our Heads. Beverly Ann's role expanded from confidante to mother when she legally adopted Over Our Heads worker Andy (Mackenzie Astin), who was being shuffled from foster home to foster home.
She mentioned that she was named after her grandfather, Boris Ann.