The Stars Of Eight Is Enough – Then And Now

During the 20th century, there were several sitcoms centered on large families growing up in everyday America. One of the most popular was Eight Is Enough. It followed the life of the Bradford family and was based on syndicated newspaper columnist, Tom Braden. Eight is Enough ran from March 15, 1977, to May 23, 1981, for a total of five seasons and jump-started the careers of several young actors including Grant Goodeve, Willie Aames, and Ralph Macchio. Now, find out what happened to the Bradfords after all these years.

Dick Van Patten – Then

dick van patten wearing a jersey while talking
Lorimar Productions/MovieStillsDB
Lorimar Productions/MovieStillsDB

Dick Van Patten played the patriarch of the Bradford family on Eight Is Enough. Thomas “Tom” Bradford Sr. was based on a syndicated newspaper columnist named Tom Braden. Throughout the series, he became a widower and helped raise eight children.

Before working on Eight Is Enough, Van Patten was a child actor on the stage, screen, and radio where he was called Dickie Van Patten. He was known for roles in Freaky Friday, Mama, and Insight before he joined the cast.

Dick Van Patten – Later

dick van patten wearing a sailor hat
Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images
Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images

As his career progressed, Van Patten went on to star in Spaceballs, Arrested Development, and much more. Some fans may not know that he was a big animal lover and he co-founded Natural Balance Pet Foods in the 80s. He also founded National Guide Dog Month, which raised awareness for guide dogs across America.

Van Patten remained married to his wife Patricia Pool from 1954 to his passing on June 23, 2015, after suffering a diabetic stroke. He earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1985 and had a Golden Palm Star in Palm Springs dedicated in his honor in 2008.

Diana Hyland – Then

diana hyland in a photo
Art Zelin/Getty Images
Art Zelin/Getty Images

Diana Hyland played the matriarch of the Bradford family for the first season. She was based off the wife of the newspaper columnist named Joan. Hyland made her acting debut at the age of 19 in an episode of Robert Montgomery Presents and would often be seen in guest roles in various shows such as The Twilight Zone and The Invaders.

Before landing the role of Joan Bradford on Eight Is Enough, Hyland starred in 5 films, 73 TV shows, and originated the role of Heavenly Finley in Tennessee Williams’ play, Sweet Bird of Youth, on Broadway.

Diana Hyland – Later

John Travolta and Diana Hyland sighting in LA
Tom Wargacki/WireImage/Getty Images
Tom Wargacki/WireImage/Getty Images

A year before she landed the role of Joan Wells Bradford on Eight Is Enough, she played John Travolta’s mother in The Boy in the Plastic Bubble. The two ended up falling in love and stayed together until her passing from breast cancer on March 27, 1977. She was 41-years-old.

Her passing was written into the show and caused Tom to become a widower in the second season. Eight Is Enough ended up being her last role, but she did win a posthumous Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actress in The Boy in the Plastic Bubble.

Betty Buckley – Then

betty buckley in a wedding outfit with dick van patten
Lorimar Productions/MovieStillsDB
Lorimar Productions/MovieStillsDB

After Diana Hyland’s untimely passing, Eight Is Enough needed to find a new love interest for Dick Van Patten’s character. The show decided to go with Betty Buckley as Sandra Sue “Abby” Mitchell Abbott Bradford. Her character was a widowed schoolteacher who tutored one of the kids at the Bradford house.

Abby and Tom fell in love and got married in the fourth season. Her character ends up getting a Ph.D. in education and becomes a counselor at the local high school. Buckley got the role because of her portrayal of the sympathetic high school gym teacher in the hit teen movie Carrie (1976).

Betty Buckley – Later

Betty Buckley attends the world premiere of
Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images
Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

Not only is Betty Buckley a film and TV actress, but the 73-year-old is also an iconic Broadway star. She originated the role of Grizabella in Cats, which earned her the Tony Award for Featured Actress in a Musical in 1983. Her other Broadway credits include Sunset Boulevard, 1776, Pippin, and The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

Buckley has also released 18 solo albums and has toured across the world. She currently lives on a ranch in Texas with several rescue animals, participates in NCHA cutting horse competitions, and teaches master classes in song interpretation.

Grant Goodeve – Then

grant goodeve in the 70s
Lorimar Productions/MovieStillsDB
Lorimar Productions/MovieStillsDB

Fans of Eight Is Enough may notice that Grant Goodeve didn’t appear in the pilot episode. That’s because his part of David Bradford, the eldest brother, was originally played by Mark Hamill. Hamill stepped down after the pilot to appear in Star Wars, so the part went to Goodeve.

Beginning in the third season, the show’s theme song was slowed down and sung by Goodeve. He soon became a teen idol of the late 70s and early 80s, along with several other male cast members from the show.

Grant Goodeve – Later

Grant Goodeve attends the premiere of Showtime's
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Goodeve is now 68-years-old and has continued his career in entertainment. After Eight Is Enough he starred in One Life to Live, Twin Peaks, Crimes of the Past, and many more TV shows and movies. He also has voiced several characters in six different video games.

In 1989, he and his family moved to the Pacific Northwest where he completed several acting jobs. Fans of HGTV may remember him as the former host of If Walls Could Talk and Homes of Our Heritage. Goodeve remains active in his Seattle church where he works in an itinerant music ministry.

Lani O’Grady – Then

lani o'grady wearing a red striped shirt
Lorimar Productions/MovieStillsDB
Lorimar Productions/MovieStillsDB

Lani O’Grady was best known for her role of Mary, the eldest daughter of the Bradfords. As the series progressed, viewers were able to see her character work her way to becoming a doctor. O’Grady started acting when she was 13-years-old with a role on a TV show called The High Chaparral.

Some of her jobs before landing the role of Mary Bradford included parts on Headmaster, Cage Without a Key, and Harry O. Also, O’Grady had a signature low-pitched voice that came during early childhood.

Lani O’Grady – Later

lani o'grady with her brother in the 80s
Melanie Mitchell/Pinterest
Melanie Mitchell/Pinterest

After five seasons on Eight Is Enough, O’Grady did some guest spots on TV shows (The Love Boat, Quincy, M.E.) and starred in some TV movies (The Kid with the Broken Halo). In the early 1990s, she became a talent agent and retired from acting due to agoraphobia, panic attacks, and memory blackouts.

Unfortunately, O’Grady had an untimely passing on September 25, 2001 at the age of 46. The man in the photo is her brother Don Grady. He is an actor and musician best known for The Mickey Mouse Club and My Three Sons.

Laurie Walters – Then

laurie walters posing for a photo in the 70s
Lorimar Productions/MovieStillsDB
Lorimar Productions/MovieStillsDB

Laurie Walters was born in San Francisco on January 8, 1947, and played the second eldest daughter, Joan “Joanie” Bradford, on Eight Is Enough. In reality, she was older than all of the Bradford kids and the actress who played her stepmother.

Her first on-screen role was in 1973’s The Harrad Experiment and she also acted in Warlock Moon and Harrad Summer before getting her role on Eight Is Enough. Before she started acting, she planned on studying wildlife conservation in college.

Laurie Walters – Later

laurie walters at a theater premiere in 2019
Michael Tullberg/Getty Images
Michael Tullberg/Getty Images

After Eight Is Enough ended, Walters continued acting through the 80s and 90s and can be seen in Columbo, Highway to Heaven, Cheers, and more. At the turn of the century, Walters retired from professional acting and went back to her first passion of wildlife conservation by becoming an environmentalist.

Walters hasn’t left acting behind entirely because she continues to do theatre work across Southern California. Also, she’s in charge of film acquisitions for Ironweed Films, a subscription-based film service focused on independent documentaries and short films.

Susan Richardson – Then

Susan Richardson at home circa 1979
Robin Platzer/Getty Images
Robin Platzer/Getty Images

Fans of Eight Is Enough may remember actress Susan Richardson who played the fourth eldest child, Susan Bradford Stockwell. Her character famously had a double wedding with her father and stepmother in the fourth season. Richardson started acting in plays in high school and moved to Hollywood when she was 19-years-old.

Some of her early roles included small parts in American Graffiti, A Star Is Born, Happy Days, and The Streets of San Francisco. She had a daughter in early 1980 and her pregnancy was written into the show.

Susan Richardson – Later

susan richardson giving an interview
Inside Edition/CBS
Inside Edition/CBS

Richardson kept acting throughout the 1980s in shows such as The Runaways, One Day at a Time, CHiPs, Fantasy Island, and The Love Boat. After the birth of her daughter, she gained almost 100 pounds and was afraid she would lose her acting jobs.

This led her to go down a difficult life path. Both the National Enquirer and The Huffington Post published interviews where she said she was experiencing hard times in her senior years. She lives in an unheated trailer with a rotting floor, developed diabetes, suffered three strokes, and lost her teeth from a digestive condition.

Dianne Kay – Then

dianne kay posing for a photo in the 70s
Lorimar Productions/MovieStillsDB
Lorimar Productions/MovieStillsDB

Dianne Kay almost didn’t get the part of Nancy Bradford, the fifth child in the Bradford family. Kimberly Beck played Nancy in the pilot episode, but she was fired after ABC wasn’t happy with her performance. Kay replaced Beck in the following episode.

Before landing the role of Nancy on Eight Is Enough, Kay had bit parts in The Kids From C.A.P.E.R., Starsky & Hutch, and Dog and Cat. Also, Kay had a leading role in Steven Spielberg’s unsuccessful 1971 film called 1941.

Dianne Kay – Later

Actress Dianne Kay attends a signing
David Livingston/Getty Images
David Livingston/Getty Images

Although she hasn’t acted in the 21st century, she continued to find jobs throughout the 80s and 90s in projects such as Reggie, Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper, and Andy Colby’s Incredible Adventure. Now at 67-years-old, she continues to live in Los Angeles with her husband with whom she shares a son.

Kay received good news in 2011 when she found out she was in remission following a battle with kidney cancer. That same year she was featured in a documentary called The Actor’s Journey.

Connie Newton-Needham – Then

connie newton needham posing for a photo in 1978
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The actress who played Elizabeth Bradford, the sixth oldest Bradford child, started out using her maiden name of Connie Newton. She switched her last name to Needham after she got married at the start of season four. This was her first acting role and she wasn’t even 18 when she was cast.

She was born on December 5, 1959, in Anaheim, California, and is a trained ballet dancer. During the show, she dated Willie Aames who was her TV brother. She ended up marrying David Needham, one of the show’s set designers.

Connie Newton-Needham – Later

connie needham with her daughter in 2003
Albert L. Ortega/WireImage/Getty Images
Albert L. Ortega/WireImage/Getty Images

Similar to the rest of her castmates, Needham retired from acting long ago. Before she retired, she appeared in TV shows such as Fame, L.A. Law, and Ellen. Needham went through a divorce to David Needham in 2005, but the two had two daughters named Kimberly and Taylor.

In 2009, Needham found out she had ovarian cancer. Luckily, she made a full recovery. Since she’s also a trained dancer, she spends her time teaching dance classes in Costa Mesa, California.

Willie Aames – Then

willie aames posing for a photo in the 80s
Maureen Donaldson/Getty Images
Maureen Donaldson/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Aames was born on July 15, 1960, in Newport Beach, California, and worked as a child actor in the late 60s in shows such as Gunsmoke, The Wonderful World of Disney, Adam-12, and The Courtship of Eddie’s Father.

One of Willie Aames’s most iconic roles was as the seventh child, Thomas “Tommy” Bradford Jr. on Eight Is Enough. An actor named Chris English played Tommy in the pilot, but he was let go after ABC didn’t like his performance. The most memorable thing to happen to his character was that he became a singer in a rock-and-roll band.

Willie Aames – Later

Willie Aames attends Chiller Theater Expo Winter 2017
Bobby Bank/Getty Images
Bobby Bank/Getty Images

Aames hasn’t slowed down since his days of being a child star. He is also remembered for playing Buddy Lembeck on Charles in Charge and the title character in Bibleman. Fans of the Hallmark channel may recognize him from his various roles in their TV movies including Harvest Moon, Dater’s Handbook, Every Christmas Has A Story, and Love on the Menu.

According to his IMDb bio, he is now an award-winning, platinum-selling writer, producer, and director. Also, he spent five years becoming a 6-star cruise director and visited over 127 countries.

Adam Rich – Then

adam rich as a kid
Lorimar Productions/MovieStillsDB
Lorimar Productions/MovieStillsDB

Adam Rich was born on October 12, 1968, and is mainly known for his role of the youngest child Nicholas Bradford on Eight Is Enough. Rich grew up in Granada Hills, a suburb of Los Angeles, and played tons of sports including swimming, skateboarding, football, and baseball.

One of his distinct physical characteristics was his “pageboy” haircut. The look became so popular when he was on the show that it inspired tons of parents to give their young sons the same hairdo. Rich was one of the show’s top stars and became known as “America’s little brother.”

Adam Rich – Later

adam rich as an adult
Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images
Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images

Eight Is Enough was only the third role for Rich and he continued to regularly act throughout the 1980s in projects such as The Devil and Max Devlin, Tukiki and His Search for a Merry Christmas, and Dungeons & Dragons.

As he grew up, he started making some poor decisions including dropping out of high school and robbing a pharmacy. Rich has mostly stayed out of the spotlight as an adult, but will occasionally make personal appearances and ideate script ideas for film and television.

Jennifer Darling – Then

jennifer darling with dick van patten
Lorimar Productions
Lorimar Productions

One of the recurring characters on Eight Is Enough was Jennifer Darling as Donna. Darling was born in Pittsburgh and started training to be a dancer at three years old at the Gene Kelly Dance Studio. She spent her childhood learning to sing, act, and dance and booked her first professional role when she was seven on the TV series You Are There.

Her training in singing, dancing, and acting paid off because she soon became an actress on Broadway in shows such as How Now Dow Jones, Maggie Flynn, and Fire.

Jennifer Darling – Later

jennifer darling holding a signed poster of the teenage mutant ninja turtles
Varon Panganiban/Flickr
Varon Panganiban/Flickr

After her time on Eight Is Enough, Darling continued to act in TV and movies such as Half Nelson, Supercarrier, and L.A. Law. Darling ended up becoming quite an accomplished voice actress and has almost 200 projects under her belt. She can be heard in Aladdin, A Bug’s Life, Madagascar, The Little Mermaid, and much more.

In the photo, she is holding a signed illustration of her character Irma from the popular cartoon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Her most recent role was in the Final Fantasy video game franchise.

Janis Paige – Then

Actress Janis Paige attends USO Gala Honoring James Doolittle on April 27, 1981
Ron Galella/Getty Images
Ron Galella/Getty Images

Hollywood star Janis Paige appeared in five episodes of Eight Is Enough as the family’s Aunt Vivian. After graduating high school, she moved to Hollywood and worked as a singer and a pin-up model. Fans of Paige will likely remember her from her early days of stardom from films starring Dennis Morgan, Jack Carson, and Doris Day.

In the 50s, she had her own sitcom called It’s Always Jan. Broadway enthusiasts will likely remember Paige from iconic shows such as The Pajama Game, Here’s Love, Mame, Gypsy, and Desk Set.

Janis Paige – Later

janis paige attends a commemoration ceremony in 2017
Tara Ziemba/Getty Images
Tara Ziemba/Getty Images

Since she was born in 1922, Paige is one of the last surviving stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood. In the early 2000s, Paige noticed that her voice was cracking, which led to severe vocal chord damage. It got so bad that she was barely able to talk.

Luckily, she worked with a voice teacher who helped her regain her singing voice. Paige was last seen in the 2021 documentary Journey to Royal: A WWII Rescue Mission. Also, she is an alternate board member of the Songwriters Guild of America.

Michele Greene – Then

michele greene wearing a purple velvet outfit in the 80s
Ron Galella/Getty Images
Ron Galella/Getty Images

Michele Greene had a recurring role on Eight Is Enough as a character named Jill. This was her third role as an actress after filming two episodes of Dorothy and an episode of Laverne & Shirley. Greene grew up in Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

She decided to get into acting while she was attending Fairfax High School in Los Angeles after taking a drama class to overcome her shyness. This led her to attend the University of Southern California to train as an actor in their drama program.

Michele Greene – Later

michele greene at an autograph signing in 2019
Bobby Bank/Getty Images
Bobby Bank/Getty Images

About five years after her role on Eight Is Enough, Greene was cast as Abby Perkins in L.A. Law. Her work was so well-received that she earned a Best Supporting Actress Emmy nomination. After the show, she tried her hand at a music career and acted on other TV series such as Bones, JAG, Nip/Tuck, and Big Love.

Greene’s fans may not know that she is bilingual and that she has released two bilingual albums. She is also working as an author and has written several young adult novels.

Ralph Macchio – Then

ralph macchio in the early 80s
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

In the show’s last season, Ralph Macchio played Abby’s orphaned nephew Jeremy Andretti for 19 episodes. This was his first on-screen acting role and he was about 19-years-old at the time. Macchio grew up in Long Island, New York, and got into show business at an early age.

He started taking tap dancing classes by the time he was three and was eventually discovered by a talent agent when he was 16-years-old. Playing Jeremy Andretti on Eight Is Enough led to some unique acting opportunities.

Ralph Macchio – Later

ralph macchio in 2019
Rich Polk/Getty Images
Rich Polk/Getty Images

The 1980s launched Macchio into superstardom. After Eight Is Enough, he was cast as Johnny Cade in The Outsiders, Daniel LaRusso in The Karate Kid franchise, Billy Gambini in My Cousin Vinny, and many other projects.

Macchio continues to act and can most recently be seen in the Cobra Kai TV series, which is a continuation of The Karate Kid films. Fans of The Karate Kid might find it interesting that Macchio has the yellow 1947 Ford convertible used in the film sitting in his garage.

Mark Hamill Had A Role But Walked Away

Mark Hamill Entering Taxicab, NYC, 1977.
Frank Edwards/Fotos International/Getty Images
Frank Edwards/Fotos International/Getty Images

Mark Hamill is a huge Hollywood star, thanks to playing Luke Skywalker in George Lucas’ epic film franchise Star Wars. But as mentioned previously, before Hamill appeared on the big screen wielding a lightsaber he was tapped to play the role of David Bradford on Eight is Enough! He even filmed the pilot for the show and signed a five-year contract.

He wasn’t terribly thrilled about the show to begin with, and then got into a car accident the same night the pilot aired. His facial injuries were reason enough to leave the show. Hamill then signed on to Star Wars, and the rest is history.

Willie Aames Was In A Real-Life Band

Taping of
Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images
Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

During the time that Eight Is Enough was filming, Willie Aames was also playing in a band as the guitarist and lead singer. He called the group “Willie Aames & Paradise,” and they appeared on the show.

They made other appearances as well, including on American Bandstand, The Mike Douglas Show, The Easter Seals telethon, United Cerebral Palsy Telethon, and Kids Are People, Too. The band’s biggest song was “You’re The Only One That I Ever Needed.”

Dick Van Patten Learned Of The Show’s Cancelation From Reading It in the Newspaper

Dick Van Patten
Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images
Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images

Even though Eight is Enough was a success, ratings eventually dropped and the show was canceled. Oddly enough, one of its biggest stars only found out about the cancelation after reading it in the newspaper!

Dick Van Patten heard the news just like fans at home — by seeing it in print. According to the New York Times, the antics of some of Van Patten’s younger co-stars also contributed to the show’s cancelation.

The Show’s Real-Life Inspiration Was A Columnist Named Thomas Braden

Former Cia Executive
Bettmann / Contributor
Bettmann / Contributor

Although it might be hard to believe, Eight is Enough was based on a real person’s life, a syndicated newspaper columnist named Tom Braden. His autobiography, Eight Is Enough: A Father’s Memoir of Life with His Extra-Large Family, was published in 1975.

Braden certainly had an interesting life. He was also a former combat soldier in the British Army, an official in the American CIA, and later, a co-host of the CNN show Crossfire. He passed away in 2009.

Many Reality TV Appearances For Willie Aames

aames-tv
NBC
NBC

Willie Aames has racked up quite an extensive list of reality television appearances over the years. He was in Season 2 of Celebrity Fit Club, Season 8 of Celebrity Fit Club: Boot Camp, and Season 1 of MacMillan River Adventure.

He also appeared in a 2000 episode of the Bob Saget-hosted game show 1 vs. 100. Other celebrities to appear on the episode with Aames were Todd Bridges, Allison Sweeney, and Nadia Comaneci.

Karen Grassle As Caroline Ingalls

LittleHouse2-21029-52437
NBC
NBC

When she landed the role of Mama Ingalls, Karen must have thought her career was going places. She played matriarch Caroline Ingalls for the entirety of the show’s run. After watching her on TV you probably thought she’d been acting her whole life; however, it was her first proper acting role. She was an absolute gem of a discovery for the Little House casting directors.

The role of Caroline was one that required a strong actress with a lot of range, and for many years she was the glue that held the show together. During the show’s run, Karen also appeared in other programs. She starred in an episode of Gunsmoke and appeared in the comedy film Harry’s War.

Karen Grassle Now

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Michael Bezjian/WireImage
Michael Bezjian/WireImage

Karen continued to act even after the end of the show, and she still performs to this day. Karen has appeared in several films and TV shows since moving on from her role as Caroline Ingalls. Among her credits are Hotel and two episodes of the hit crime show Murder, She Wrote. She also appeared alongside Kevin Costner in his 1994 Western Wyatt Earp.

Additionally, Karen reprised her role as Ma Ingalls in the TV movie Little House: The Last Farewell. It was the last of three Little House movies and centered on the family reuniting against a development tycoon. Since the turn of the millennium, Karen has started to explore her love of theater and has been endorsed as the face of Premier Bathrooms.

Melissa Sue Anderson As Mary Ingalls

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NBC
NBC

When she took the role of Mary Ingalls, Melissa was already a pretty established name in the acting world. She won the part at the tender age of 12, but she had already appeared in Bewitched and The Brady Bunch! That’s a CV any seasoned actor or actress would be proud of, never mind a child who was not yet a teen.

Though she was successful prior to the show’s debut, there’s no doubt that Little House on the Prairie turned Melissa into a household name. The 163 episodes of the show that she appeared in developed her craft and enhanced her reputation. During the run of the show, she also managed to secure roles on The Love Boat and The Hanna-Barbera Happy Hour.

Melissa Sue Anderson Now

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peggyfigge/pinterest
peggyfigge/pinterest

By the time Little House on the Prairie had wrapped, Melissa was almost 20 and had big things ahead of her. The Canadian starlet went straight out of prime time TV and into her first movie role, a slasher-horror film called Happy Birthday to Me. She has over 57 acting credits to her name and currently has a movie, The Brits Are Coming, in post-production.

In addition to continuing to perform as an actress, Melissa has also become a published author. In 2010, the now 54-year-old released her autobiography, entitled “The Way I See It”. The book chronicles her early life and career, particularly her experiences on Little House, as well as how her personal life was affected by the role.

Shannen Doherty as Jenny Wilder

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NBC
NBC

Believe it or not, teen idol Shannen Doherty was actually a Little House on the Prairie cast member. She played the role of Jenny Wilder in the ninth and final season of the show. At the age of 11, Shannen took the role, and it was one of the earliest performances of her career.

Prior to playing Jenny Wilder she had made appearances in three other shows, including The Phoenix, and Voyagers! The character of Jenny was a boon for Shannen, and she went on to portray her in three subsequent TV movies. Michael Landon is widely credited with helping Doherty win the role after he saw her appearance on Father Murphy.

Shannen Doherty Now

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Amanda Edwards/WireImage
Amanda Edwards/WireImage

One of the biggest stars to have come from Little House on the Prairie, Doherty went on to star in Beverly Hills 90210 and cement herself as a teen icon. Not content with taking over the teen high school market, Shannen also hit fame again in the late ’90s as the star of ensemble fantasy-drama series Charmed. She also appeared in cult Kevin Smith films Mallrats and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.

More recently, Doherty made headlines after revealing her diagnosis and battle with breast cancer. She has become a spokesperson for the illness and has been very candid about her experiences.

Alison Arngrim as Nellie Oleson

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NBC
NBC

Alison rose to fame as a child actor when she won the part of Laura Ingalls’ nemesis, Nellie Oleson. The role thrust the sassy Alison into the spotlight, and Nellie became a huge part of the fabric of the show. The character proved so popular that after her departure in season seven, she was brought back for the ninth and final season.

Alison had one credit to her name pre-Little House, and that was in the 1974 feature film Throw Out the Anchor! During her stint on the show, she amassed other credits as well. Like many of her co-stars, she appeared on The Love Boat as well as Fantasy Island.

Alison Arngrim Now

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Tristar Media/Getty Images
Tristar Media/Getty Images

Since the show ended, Alison has continued to act sporadically but has also transitioned into the arena of stand-up comedy. She has poked fun at her role on the show during stand-up routines but looks back fondly on the role. She also recorded a comedy album titled “Heeere’s Amy”.

Alison has also dedicated much of her time to a number of charitable causes. She is a survivor of abuse from her childhood and has dedicated time and effort towards trying to help others who went through similar situations. Arngrim is still good friends with her Little House co-star Melissa Gilbert, and the two keep in regular contact even today.

Dean Butler as Almanzo Wilder

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NBC
NBC

Dean Butler stole the hearts of women everywhere when he portrayed Laura’s handsome future husband, Almanzo Wilder. It was a big role for Butler, and only his second credited acting appearance, after TV movie Forever. Dean played the character for 65 episodes from seasons six through nine. He also had an appearance on The Love Boat while on the show.

You can see from the picture exactly why Dean was such a heartthrob and beloved by fans. Laura finally got her man after years of pining for him. Butler had a bunch of appearances during his stay on Little House, including three TV films reprising his role as Almanzo. He also appeared on Fantasy Island and Here’s Boomer.

Dean Butler Now

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Bobby Bank/Getty Images
Bobby Bank/Getty Images

His role on Little House on the Prairie kicked off a successful and memorable career for Dean, in which he has appeared in numerous films and TV shows. He is perhaps best known to modern audiences for playing the role of Hank Summers, father of Buffy, on smash-hit cult fantasy show Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

He also had a foray into theater, appearing on stage in several of Stephen Sondheim’s shows. You might recognize him from Into the Woods or West Side Story if you’re a keen theater-goer! Butler is married to actress Katherine Cannon, whom he met during an audition.

Jason Bateman as James Ingalls

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NBC
NBC

Shannen Doherty isn’t the only big name star to make a start on Little House. Jason Bateman actually had a role on the show in seasons seven and eight, playing the role of James Ingalls. The character was an orphan who was adopted by the Ingalls family, and it was his first acting role, following a short span appearing in advertisements.

It was pretty clear, even from Jason’s short stint on the show, that he was destined for big things. In fact, he is arguably the most successful actor to come out of the show, aside from some notable guest stars. Those 21 episodes propelled him to greatness, and his career exploded after the show.

Jason Bateman Now

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Bobby Bank/Getty Images
Bobby Bank/Getty Images

Since the show has ended Jason’s career has blossomed, and most of us know him as the lead in comic masterpiece TV series Arrested Development. He has also successfully branched out into film, starring in movies such as Horrible Bosses, Tropic Thunder, The Gift, and Identity Thief.

Jason continues to be one of the most bankable names in Hollywood. He is still very active in the film and TV industry. His most recent works include Office Christmas Party and Central Intelligence. Arrested Development was also resurrected by Netflix for one season in 2016. Jason has a hit Netflix show, Ozark.

Matthew Labyorteaux as Albert Ingalls

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NBC
NBC

Matthew Labyorteaux (sometimes spelled as Matthew Laborteaux) is best known for his role as Albert Quinn Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie, which was also his breakthrough role. Unlike most of the characters in the Ingalls family, Albert Ingalls was not based on a real-life character from the semi-autobiographical Little House on the Prairie books.

Instead, Albert was a character created specifically for the show, first appearing in its fifth season as the adopted son of the Ingalls family. Labyorteaux would go on to play the character for the rest of the show’s run for a total of five seasons.

Matthew Labyorteaux Now

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maryroucoul0639/Pinterest
maryroucoul0639/Pinterest

After Little House on the Prairie went off air, Matthew continued to act with guest appearances on many shows, including Highway to Heaven which was written, directed, and produced by Michael Landon, who also starred in, wrote, produced, and directed Little House on the Prairie. Matthew also had a number of voice-over roles, including some voice work on the Disney film Mulan.

A video game aficionado, Matthew became the U.S. Pac-Man champion in 1982 with a score of 1,200,000. Matthew and his brother, Patrick, founded the Youth Rescue Fund in 1992, a charity organization that helps young people in need and is partnered with Los Angeles Youth Supportive Services.

Kyle Richards as Alicia Edwards

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NBC
NBC

The so-cute-you-can’t-even-stand-it Alicia Edwards appeared on the show in seasons two, three, six and eight. She was portrayed by 6-year-old Kyle Richards. The job was not Kyle’s first acting role, as she previously appeared in an episode of the show Police Women. However, this was her first regular role and one that would end up launching her career as an actress.

During her stint on the show, Kyle also had a number of other roles in TV and film. She appeared in The Car, Eaten Alive, and, most famously, Halloween. By the time she finished on the show, at the age of 13, Richards had over 20 credits to her name. She was a seasoned pro by industry standards.

Kyle Richards Now

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Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images
Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

Kyle has seen her career go in a number of different directions since she left the show. In later years her acting has taken her into a number of different genres in film and television. For instance, she had a 21 episode stint on hit medical drama ER, as well as 12 episodes on Down to Earth.

But if you recognize Kyle and you’re struggling to place her it’s probably because of her role in The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. She has starred in the reality show since it first aired in 2010 – a whopping 138 episodes! She also appeared as a contestant on The New Celebrity Apprentice, the show hosted by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Madeleine Stowe As Annie Crane

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NBC
NBC

You may not be aware, but actress Madeleine Stowe actually had a role on the show. She appeared in the season seven episode “Portrait of Love”. This was an early role for Stowe, who hadn’t yet branched out into mainstream films. She is one of the best-known and most successful stars to have appeared on the show.

Her role was as a blind artist named Annie Crane who faced conflict when her birth mother wanted to make contact. The role was a complex one, and the performance showed the depth and ability Stowe possessed as an actress, even at a young age. Her pre-Little House credits — Baretta, The Nativity, and The Amazing Spider-Man (the TV series) — had already gone a long way to cementing her talent.

Madeleine Stowe Now

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Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic
Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic

There have been a few actors and actresses to appear on the show who have gone on to have very successful careers. And Madeleine has had one of the most successful of all. Since her guest appearance on Little House, she has gone on to appear and star in a lot of different projects. Most notably, she played the female lead in 1995 sci-fi noir film 12 Monkeys.

In recent years, Stowe has made the transition into television as many mainstream actors have started to do. She first had a major role in the drama series Revenge, playing the role of Victoria Grayson. She has also starred as Lillian in the 12 Monkeys TV show on the Syfy network.

Michael Landon as Charles Ingalls

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NBC
NBC

Before starring on Little House on the Prairie, Michael Landon was best known for his starring role on the hit western series Bonanza. Michael broke into writing and directing while on Bonanza, a talent that served him well once he starred as Charles Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie.

By then, Michael had become something of a heartthrob, despite rumors that he was difficult to work with. He ended up writing, producing, and directing Little House on the Prairie in addition to having a starring role. Because of Michael, Little House on the Prairie became the iconic and memorable show that it is today.

Michael Landon Later

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Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Sadly, Michael passed away in 1991 from pancreatic cancer at the young age of 54. He left behind an incredible legacy, including writing, producing, directing, and starring in another hit show, Highway to Heaven. Landon was voted one of TV Guide’s 50 Sexiest Stars of All Time.

In the year that he died, Michael appeared on the cover of Life magazine, talking about his life, career, and his battle with cancer. He is interred in a family mausoleum in Culver City, California. His headstone says, “He seized life with joy. He gave to life generously. He leaves a legacy of love and laughter.”