Nancy McKeon starred on Facts of Life where she became a lesbian icon. She is now on Instagram and Twitter.
For those of you who are into late-night classic television, Nancy McKeon might be a recognizable face. She starred in the 1980s sitcom, The Facts of Life, and it is a series that has found reruns over the years.
But since McKeon starred in the sitcom, her life has been filled with rumor and innuendo. So let’s see what is real and let’s see what’s truly been made up along the way.
NANCY MCKEON WAS BORN IN NEW YORK IN 1966
Nancy McKeon was born on April 4, 1966, in Westbury, New York. Her career started early when she began to model baby clothing at the young age of 2 for the Sears & Roebuck catalog. Her family, which included actor Philip McKeon, moved to Forest Hills when Nancy was still a young child.
Nancy McKeon started her acting career in 1977 with an episode of Starsky and Hutch. The following year, she was seen on an episode of Fantasy Island and then grabbed herself a role in the TV movie, A Question of Love.
The next year, in 1979, she was seen in the TV series Stone, an episode of The Love Boat, and then McKeon started doing something that she would do occasionally throughout her career – voice acting. She provided “additional voices” for the animated series, Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo.
As Nancy McKeon was slowly building her young career, she got the opportunity, in 1978, to appear in an episode of the sitcom Alice. The series starred Linda Lavin as the title character but what was special about this was that the series also starred Nancy’s brother Philip. He played Alice’s son Tommy and was also a regular cast member for the sitcom’s entire nine-season run. Nancy even went back to the series for one more episode in 1981.
Nancy McKeon’s career was starting to blossom. She was gaining more and more notice, which brought her more parts. This all led to her big break in 1980.
NANCY MCKEON STARS ON THE FACTS OF LIFE
The first season of The Facts of Life aired in 1979 and it had a vastly different cast than it had in seasons 2-9. The series itself was a spinoff from another well-known sitcom, Diff’rent Strokes. In Diff’rent Strokes, Charlotte Rae played the Drummonds’ housekeeper Edna Garrett, and it was this character who would be the lead in The Facts of Life.
The first season of The Facts of Life followed Edna as she transitioned from Drummond housekeeper to housemother of a dormitory at Eastland School, an all-girls academy. Actually, the pilot episode of The Facts of Life was the prior year’s season finale of Diff’rent Strokes in which Kim Drummond (the late Dana Plato) asked Mrs. Garrett to help make costumes for a student play she was in at her school.
Nancy McKeon was not involved in the sitcom’s first season. There were only three holdouts from the first season that made it to Season 2, those being Charlotte Rae, Lisa Welchel (Blair Warner), Kim Fields (Tootie Ramsey), and Mindy Cohn (Natalie Green). By Season 2, the producers of the show felt there were too many characters for a 30-minute sitcom, so they decided to get rid of a few.
The first season had four other actresses, Julie Anne Haddock, Julie Piekarski, Felice Schachter, and Molly Ringwald. Yes, *that* Molly Ringwald, who starred in major hits like Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Pretty in Pink. All four were let go after the first season although Haddock, Piekarski, and Schachter all made recurring appearances in Seasons 2 and 3.
In the first season, the pilot episode had Welchel’s Blair insinuate that one of her classmates, Haddock’s Cindy Webster, was a lesbian. Perhaps this is what many thought about Nancy McKeon’s character when she was introduced in Season 2. McKeon made her first appearance on The Facts of Life as tomboy Jo Poiniaczek, the new student from The Bronx who arrives at the school on scholarship.
Nancy McKeon’s character was introduced in Season 2 of Facts of Life
To cut back on the many characters, the series plot had the four girls, Blair, Tootie, Natalie, and Jo, have a run-in with the law that eventually forced them to be separated from the rest of the girls from the school. It had them live in the same spare room, which was located right next to Mrs. Garrett’s bedroom.
Of course, Blair and Jo are at opposite ends of the personality spectrum, which is what drives the early episodes. After a couple of years, though, they begrudgingly start becoming friends, ending up as best friends by the series finale.
Not only did Nancy McKeon and her The Facts of Life crew enjoy nine seasons, but the series also spawned two made-for-TV movies. The first was the 1982 TV movie, The Facts of Life Go to Paris and the second came the following year in the TV movie, The Facts of Life Down Under. Both enjoyed success on the small screen.
Not only did The Facts of Life make stars out of Nancy McKeon, Lisa Welchel, Kim Fields, Mindy Cohn, and Charlotte Rae, but it also gave a start to one A-list star. George Clooney joined the cast in Season 7 and became a recurring character in Season 8. The series also brought along Cloris Leachman in Season 8 to take the place of Charlotte Rae, who went on to a guest role in Season 8 and did not appear in the series’ final season.
NANCY MCKEON’S JO WAS A LESBIAN ICON
It most definitely began with Nancy McKeon’s portrayal of Jo Poiniaczek and not only did it follow her character, despite her being involved with men in the series, but it also was an unfounded rumor that has followed Nancy McKeon throughout her life. Be that as it may, it is well documented that Nancy McKeon was a lesbian icon. This information was something McKeon was not aware of at the time.
Back in 2004, Nancy McKeon was taking part in an interview when she was asked by TVGO, “Did you know Jo from Facts of Life is a lesbian icon?”
McKeon answered by saying, “I haven’t heard that, but I think that’s a wonderful thing. I think that was helpful to girls our age to have that kind of a role model, to see a girl who was strong and standing up for what she believed in, living her life on her own terms and not bowing to peer pressure and becoming a cookie-cutter person. And it was great to go to work and speak your mind all day long. I got the greatest lines and comebacks!”
NANCY MCKEON ONCE DATED MICHAEL J. FOX
In 1983, while Nancy McKeon was still going strong with The Facts of Life, she made a TV movie called High School U.S.A. In it, she starred with the likes of Crispin Glover, Todd Bridges, Dana Plato, Anthony Edwards, Bob Denver, Tony Dow, and Michael J. Fox, who led the film.
For three years after McKeon met Fox on the set, the pair dated. They kept the relationship low-key, with McKeon telling Biography, “He and I were very private people,” she explained. “We didn’t tell a lot of people, and we kind of kept to ourselves.”
NANCY MCKEON WAS ALMOST MONICA GELLER ON FRIENDS
Nancy McKeon was a pretty big deal because of her role in The Facts of Life. It opened up a number of different opportunities for her, ones that would eventually slip through her fingers, though not for anything she did.
McKeon was once up for the lead role in the TV series Working Girl, which was based on the 1988 film starring Melanie Griffith, Harrison Ford, and Sigourney Weaver. Unfortunately for her, the role went to the unknown-at-the-time, Sandra Bullock.
Perhaps, though, the toughest pill to swallow was the fact that Nancy McKeon was this close to grabbing the coveted role of Monica Geller on the hit series, Friends.
According to former NBC head of casting, Lori Openden, the choice to play Monica came down to Nancy and Courteney Cox. Openden explained, “Nancy McKeon, from The Facts of Life, also read for Courteney’s part. She gave a terrific performance. Warren let [creators] Marta [Kauffman] and David [Crane] make the call. They went off for a walk and came back and said Courteney.”
To her credit, Nancy McKeon holds no grudges. She even told the Albany Daily News, “I have no hard feelings. The role went to the right person. Courteney was brilliant. Now, I can’t see anybody else playing the role, not even myself.”
SHE HAD A NUMBER OF DIFFERENT ROLES AFTER FACTS OF LIFE
When The Facts of Life ended in 1988, it wasn’t the end of McKeon’s career. On the contrary, she was quite a busy actress. For the next decade, Nancy McKeon was a steady face on television. She starred in series such as Can’t Hurry Love, Style & Substance, Touched by an Angel, The Division, and as Demi Lovato’s mother in Sonny with a Chance.
She also found time in TV movies like Love, Honor, & Obey: The Last Mafia Marriage, A Mother’s Gift, Boys & Girls, In My Sister’s Shadow, and Category 6: Day of Destruction.
NANCY MCKEON IS MARRIED WITH TWO CHILDREN
In 2003, Nancy McKeon married Marc Andrus, a film technician. The couple met while McKeon was filming the Hallmark movie, A Mother’s Gift, which was filmed eight years prior to their marriage. As she has with all of her past relationships, her wedding with Andrus was a small, private affair consisting of only 20 guests.
They moved their private life from Los Angeles to a ranch outside of Austin, Texas where they have raised two children, one born in 2004 and the other in 2006.
HER BROTHER PHILIP DIED IN 2019
Nancy McKeon’s life was recently thrown a sad curve in 2019 when her brother Philip passed away at the young age of 55. When his passing was announced, there was no official cause of death reported. The only thing ever said about his death was that Philip had been battling a long illness.
NANCY MCKEON IS ON INSTAGRAM AND TWITTER
Nancy McKeon keeps herself pretty busy on social media. She has both Instagram and Twitter accounts and keeps them fairly up-to-date. She includes her family in some of her posts, as you can see below.
She also includes posts with Linda Lavin, whom she has known for decades.
Nancy McKeon is also active on her Twitter account.
SHE IS NOT CURRENTLY ACTING
When Sonny with a Chance ended in 2010, Nancy McKeon stepped away from the Hollywood spotlight. In fact, she didn’t return to that spotlight for almost a decade when she finally appeared in a 2019 TV movie called You Light Up My Christmas.
After that, McKeon was seen in the 2021 TV series, Panic. There is nothing currently on Nancy McKeon’s filming calendar, but that doesn’t mean there soon won’t be.