Mindy Cohn wasn't an auditionee for the show. When the producers visited a girls' school to see how the girls interacted, she was a social magnet just being herself, and they created Natalie based on Cohn. She was then tested in the role.
When she left after the seventh season, Charlotte Rae recommended Cloris Leachman to replace her. Rae and Leachman were classmates at Northwestern University and were roommates when they were young struggling actors in New York City.
The character Jo was suggested by then-NBC Chief Fred Silverman after he had seen the film "Little Darlings". He felt a streetwise scholarship student would contrast well, and add conflict, against the rich, spoiled Blair character.
Kim Fields was only nine years old when she started playing Tootie, who was supposed to be twelve. In an effort to make her appear taller (and older) her character was always in roller skates for the first year of the show.
During the final season, producers made a controversial decision to shake things up by having one of the girls lose their virginity. Initially Blair was to be the character, but Lisa Whelchel protested it as the idea went against her deep-seated Christian beliefs. Whelchel further explained she didn't want her character to be seen as such an improper role model for the show's young viewers. Mindy volunteered to have her character lose her virginity instead because writers felt it was time for one of the characters to experience this and Natalie was in a long term relationship so Mindy felt it made sense for it to be her and the writers agreed.
For the second season, the entire concept and plot of the show was changed from a large boarding house of several young girls, to a tighter knit group of older adolescent women. This was done since the producers felt that a plot change from comic relief to serious adult issues would help boost ratings. The cast of girls was reduced to only four, including the new character of "Jo".
Eastland was located in the Westchester County town of Peekskill, New York, which is located roughly forty miles north of Manhattan. With a commute of less than forty five minutes to Manhattan, this explains the relative ease in which Manhattanite Blair and Bronx-born Jo are able to go home as often as they do, and also helps to explain the continuous interaction between the Drummond family and Mrs. Garrett after her departure from their household.
Originally, the premise of the series was that Edna Garrett, the housekeeper on Diff'rent Strokes (1978), became the headmistress at the school that Kimberly Drummond (Dana Plato) attended. But after the pilot episode, the producers decided to keep Plato on Diff'rent Strokes (1978) and there was never any mention of Kimberly being a student at Eastland again and Mrs Garrett became the house mother
Midway throughout the sixth and seventh seasons, Charlotte Rae had missed several episodes due to her health problems. This led her leaving the show at the end of the seventh season, although she did make two more guest appearances at the beginning of the eighth season.
During the course of the show it was revealed that Mrs. Garrett and Beverly Ann hailed from Appleton, Wisconsin; Blair and Natalie hailed from Manhattan; Jo hailed from the Bronx, and Tootie from Washington D.C.
During the last season, David Spade was in an episode that was supposed to be turned into a spin-off series called "Big Apple Blues" about college roommates living in New York City but it never materialized.
During the 9 year run of the series the producers made multiple attempts to Spin Off "The Facts of Life" by producing 6 Back-Door Pilots that were to serve as possible pilots for a new series. In chronological order the episodes are "Brian and Sylvia" "The Academy" "Jo's Cousin" "The Big Fight" "Big Apple Blues" and the Two part series finale "The Beginning of the End" and "The Beginning of the Beginning" In the end none of these attempts was successful.
Even though Kimberly Drummond never ended up at Eastland like the original plot of the series had planned, the show still was connected to the "Different Strokes" universe with Mr. Drummond and Arnold making a few guest appearances. In addition, some of the Facts Of Life characters, mostly Tootie, made crossover appearances on Diff'rent Strokes in which they were seen visiting Kimberly.
The girls made frequent topical references on the show, name-checking celebrities and mentioning different current and historical events in a humorous context. These came from the writers; cast members often didn't actually know who or what their lines were about, or what made them funny. Years later, Mindy Cohn discussed watching reruns, and laughing all the harder because now she understood the jokes.
The character of Blair, was originally conceived as a down-home charming Texas girl. However, during her audition for the role Lisa Whelchel read several of Blair's lines sarcastically. Producers were so impressed by Whelchel's audition that they re-wrote the character to be that of a self-involved New York blue blooded socialite.
Mindy Cohn met Lucille Ball when she was out to dinner with Cloris Leachman. Miss Ball grabbed her hand and said "You and that Tootie remind me of me and Viv. You are a very funny lady Miss Cohn. You keep it up 'cuz you have a lot to offer!"
In the first season, there were seven students in the main cast. After the first season, the producers decided to drop four characters from the main cast: Molly Parker (Molly Ringwald), Cindy Webster (Julie Anne Haddock), Sue Ann Weaver (Julie Piekarski) and Nancy Olson (Felice Schachter). But Haddock, Piekarski, and Schacter continued to appear occasionally until the third season.
In early episodes Natalie and Blair had to tape down their developing chests so their appearance remained that of adolescents. Lisa Whelchel said later, "The facts of life were not allowed on 'The Facts of Life'."
After The Facts of Life, Kim Fields starred in another sitcom about 4 young women living together, growing up and getting through life together called Living Single. She played Regine, the primadonna-ish one (cut from the same cloth as Blair Warner.) In one episode she tells another woman visiting the apartment that she looks familiar, and asks her what school did she go to. The woman says "Eastland." Then Kim/Regine smiles, looks directly into the camera and says "Never heard of it!"
"The First Time" episode, which featured a storyline having one of the girls lose her virginity, was supposed to happen in one of the earlier seasons, two or three, and it was supposed to focus on Blair, not Natalie. Lisa Welchel vetoed the idea, due to her strong Christian beliefs, and the idea was tabled for a few years anyway, till the last season when the producers brought up the idea again. Lisa Welchel again refused; but this time Mindy Cohn jumped in and said her character could be the one that loses her virginity. Then Whelchel famously boycotted the episode, saying it was sending the wrong message to the young girl audience; although ironically she did appear in episodes where the girls experimented with drugs, drinking and shoplifting.
Blair was initially portrayed as the "bad girl" of the series. When the show was retooled for the second season and Nancy McKeon joined the cast, Jo took over the "bad girl" persona. At the same time, Blair was transitioned into her more familiar vain, spoiled rich girl image.
According to the recent Entertainment Weekly article on The Facts of Life there was at one point an anti-gay joke in the script, where one of the male characters was slammed for being effeminate. But Charlotte Rae vetoed the joke, saying "we do not make fun of people's sexuality on this show".
In an interview with Dish Nation Kim Fields says she was close friends with Janet Jackson when she was a kid, starring on Facts of Life. She said she, Michael and Janet all went to Disneyworld together during that period, and it was one of the highlights of her life.
Over the course of the series, Eastland was shown having four Headmasters, Mr. Bradley, Mr. Harris, Mr. Parker and in the final episode, Blair. In addition, the Diff'rent Strokes episode which served as a Pilot for the series featured a Headmaster named Mr. Crocker.
When Diff'rent Strokes became an instant hit, it was also at the time one of NBC's few viable series. As a result,Fred Silverman believed that the network could capitalize from a Diff'rent Strokes spin off. It was ultimately determined that Charlotte Rae had the proper ability and experience to be able to carry her own series. In addition, it was felt that since Mrs. Garret wasn't central to Diff'rent Strokes her departure wouldn't negatively effect the series.
Originally the school was to be called Eastlake Academy, a take on the name of Westlake Academy, a LA area school that was said to be the inspiration for the show. The Eastlake name was used in the Diff'rent Strokes episode which introduced the series.
Geri Reischel, best known as "Fake Jan", was offered the role of Blair but couldn't take the role due to her contract with General Mills. Eve Plumb (the real Jan Brady) appeared as Blair's sister, Meg, in season 4.
Lisa was sent to a fat farm during a couple of the hiatuses, because as the "pretty one" she was seen as getting too fat. Conversely, Mindy Cohn was told she was getting too thin, because she was the "fat one", so they forced her to wear baggy clothing. Comedienne Joan Rivers mocked the cast members as "The Fats of Life", and this was picked up by some tabloid newspapers.
Tootie wore roller skates for the whole first season. She wore them inside, outside, walking up and down the stairs, even riding a horse in a flash flood in one episode. When she showed up for season 2 for the first episode "The New Girl ", she wasn't wearing roller skates, and no one said a word! They never mentioned her skates again except once, 6 years later, in the "Little Chill" reunion episode when one of the girls suggested bringing them out for old times sake.
In a recent Huffington Post article Mindy Cohn lamented that she could not audition for Saint Elmo's Fire while she was on Facts of Life in 1985 because NBC would not let her out of her contract. She was up for Wendy Beamish, the role that went to Mare Winningham. She said she missed out on many opportunities because of Facts of Life's rigorous schedule for 9 nine years.
Actor Thomas Byrd played two different characters on episodes of Facts of Life. Both of these characters were boyfriends of Blair, coincidently enough. In "Different Drummers" he played Leo, a mentally disabled musician that befriends Blair. In "Sign a Little Help From My Friends" he played Nick, a drug addict that is dating Blair.
Nancy McKeon appeared in a Hallmark commercial where she had to cry on cue in 1979-1980 when producers spotted her. The producers were retooling the show at this point and NBC Chairman Fred Silverman who had just seen the summer hit "Little Darlings" had suggested finding a Kristy McNichol type to round out the new cast, when the casting director spotted Nancy. It was at this point they decided to cast her as Jo.
During the first season there was always clapping at the end of the first segment. This was the format for all Norman Lear sitcoms, where the first segment was treated like the first act of a play; the clapping was supposed to signify the end of that first act. Then, as with all his other sitcoms in 1980, Lear changed his format, and they stopped adding pre-recorded clapping at the end of each segment. You can see the change in format on all his shows that season, Archie Bunkers Place, The Jeffersons, Different Strokes, and One Day at a Time.
Here's the rarely seen or heard second verse to the Facts of Life theme song, which can be found on Gloria Loring's LP "Shot in the Dark": When there's someone that you care about, Who really isn't there enough to slow you up, When you're growing up. When you let him flirt and then you hurt, waiting 'cause your date is late for showing up, then you're growing up! Well it's more than just the birds and the bees, you need someone telling you please! There's only one conclusion There will always be confusion over you! You-hoo-hoo-hoo! It takes a lot to get 'em right, when you're learning the facts of life!
The Diff'rent Strokes gang pay Mrs. Garrett a visit in the pilot episode "Rough Housing". As they're leaving, Mr. Drummond asks Mrs. Garrett, "This house mothering thing. It isn't permanent, is it?" "Oh no!" she says. "I'll be back! I promise!" As we all know Mrs. Garrett doesn't keep that promise because she never does return to the Drummonds.
"The New Girl" , the episode where Jo and Blair finagle their way into a bar, with fast talking and phony I.d.s, because of a bet over who can allure the most men, was inspired by the hit movie "Little Darlings", which had just come out a couple months before this episode aired and was a big hit. NBC programming chairman Fred Silverman had even suggested hiring a Kristy McNichol type to round out the revamped cast, which is why Nancy McKeon was there.
Both George Clooney and Mackenzie Astin come from famous families: George is the nephew of Rosemary Clooney, the famous singer, and Mackenzie is the son of Oscar winning actress Patty Duke and TV actor John Astin.
In Big Fish Little Fish Jo and Blair do a ventriloquist act at the party. In real life Lisa Welchel did have a ventriloquist act before she signed on to Facts of Life. She sang We Go Together from Grease with a dummy and appeared on many talk shows circa 1977. Clips of this can be seen on YouTube.
Mindy Cohn didn't actually audition for the show. She met Charlotte Rae and the Tandem producers when they were at Westlake School for Girls doing research for the show. Charlotte met Mindy at this point, when they were talking to some of the students trying to get a feeling for boarding school life, and fell in love with her. She convinced the producers to add her into the show even though she wasn't originally one of the characters in the cast, and she told them to call her "Natalie" after an old friend of hers from childhood that Mindy reminded her of.
According to a Biography documentary about The Facts of Life, when head writers Margie Peters and Linda Marsh were hired at the beginning of the second season to help revamp the show, they had a list of complaints to Tandem Productions and NBC about the show during the first season that they wanted changed. First was that the girls were too "sexed up" during the first season; their clothing was too tight and revealing, and that the show almost looked like "kiddie porn" as a result. Second was that it was unrealistic that Tootie would wear roller skates 24/7 even in the house, and that her character came off as a racist caricature as a result. Third was that there were too many characters for the audience to keep track of. They thought too many of the girls were interchangeable and tended to blend together in the audience's minds, and that some of them had to be eliminated. Marsh and Peters were the main reason that much of the cast was fired from the first season, that Tootie lost the roller skates in Season 2, and that the girl's costumes and style of dress became more conservative in Season 2 as well.
George Clooney would go on to a appear in Roseanne as Booker, Roseanne's boss and Laurie Metcalf's bofriend, a year after he was fired from Facts of Life. After that it was ER, and then the movies, and then A-List stardom.
All the cast members sang a song on the show. They all performed numbers in "Christmas in the Big House", and Natalie and Tootie both sang "Wash That Man Right Out Of My Hair" from South Pacific in "Green Eyed Monster". Mrs. G/Charlotte Rae, sang the theme song in Season 1.
Diff'rent Strokes/Facts of Life Crossover episodes: "Rough Housing" , "School for Girls", " New Girl Part I," "New Girl Part 2", " The Sleep Over", "Bought and Sold" , "The Bank Job", "The Older Man", "First Day Blues" and "The Wedding."
Felice Schacter was the first girl cast. The Tandem producers promised her a role after she was turned down for the Kimberly Drummond role on Different Strokes. She was also the first girl who was fired when the show was rebooted the second season.
At the end of "Cupid's Revenge" Natalie, after waiting all episode for her date Snake to appear, and when he finally beeps her in his car off screen at the tail end, breaks the fourth wall and talks directly to the audience. She says "You'll just have to trust me!" to the audience that suspects that she might have made up Snake like Blair accused her of; ala Jan Brady's George Glass; or like Tootie did in the "Dear Me" episode. This is the only time someone breaks the fourth wall in the series.
Both Lisa Welchel and Nancy McKeon were up for roles on Friends after Facts of Life wrapped; Lisa was approached to play Rachel and Nancy auditioned for and was being considered for Monica. Ironically, Lauren Tom, who played the reoccurring character Miko on Facts of Life, wound up with a role on Friends; she played Ross's love interest Julie for one season.
When Charlotte Rae was originally asked by Norman Lear to be on "Different Strokes", an NBC production, she had to decline, complaining that she was still stuck in an exclusive contract with CBS. Norman Lear bet her a nickel he could get her out of the contract, and used his pull as the Executive Producer of such big CBS moneymakers as "All in The Family", "One Day At a Time" and "The Jefferson's" to void the contract with CBS. Charlotte Rae wound up paying him a nickel for the deed.
Mayim Bialik starred in the last episode "The Beginning of the Beginning", which was meant to be a spin-off episode with her and co-stars Juliette Lewis and Seth Green playing the next generation of Eastland students and Lisa Whelchel/Blair stepping into the mentor role that Mrs. Garrett previously played. This was in 1988, the same year Mayim Bialik starred in "Beaches".
The "Sex Object" episode where the normally innocent Natalie pretends to be promiscuous to attract everyone's attention is similar to the "Barbara's Emergence" episode on One Day at a Time where Barbara pretends to be slutty for a few days to attract the attention of boys. Ironically, Natalie would be the first character on Facts of Life to lose her virginity, making the "Sex Object" episode prophetic.
In addition to featuring 3 members of the cast who are Academy Award winners, 3 members of the Facts of Life cast were also arrested. The Diffrent Strokes kids were all arrested for criminal activities, and they all also made guest appearances on the Facts of Life.
Both "Dope", the episode when Sue Anne experiments with drugs, and "Breaking Point", the episode when new student Cynthia kills herself, rarely get shown in reruns due to the controversial subject matter.
The show moved from Wednesdays to the Saturday Night comedy block, so it dropped its serious issue oriented tone and became broader, more slapstick oriented, to fit in with shows like "The Golden Girls". It was at this point that Geri Jewell, who used to be a recurring character, was limited to one or two appearances, to fit in with the comedy heavy format. She was told that every time she appears it becomes a "very special episode," and they were trying to be less serious. For this reason, she decided not to return to the show.
At one point on the TV show "Roseanne" the Connor family is sitting around watching "The Facts of Life" and Dan says "You know, this show was really the 80s version of 'Friends' if you think about it! " That comment is particularly ironic since both Lisa Whelchel and Nancy McKeon were both seriously being considered for roles on 'Friends' ! (Nancy was up for Monica and Lisa was up for Rachel!) This is also ironic because George Clooney would star on both Facts of Life and Roseanne! He even did an episode of 'Friends'.
Though the Facts of Life was a Norman Lear production, and though it was a popular and successful show, still the longest running program featuring an all female cast, Norman Lear never put his name on the credits, opting for the more generic "Tandem Productions," and he also never mentions it in interviews.
The other Facts of Life alum to star in a John Hughes movie, besides Molly Ringwald, who starred in Sixteen Candles, Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink after doing one season of Facts of Life, was Alexis Kenin, who played Jesse on the " New York New York" episode, and then later starred in Pretty in Pink with Molly Ringwald, where she played one of Molly's friends.
Continuing the Facts of Life/ John Hughes connections, after Molly Ringwald and Alexis Kennin who both starred on Facts of Life and Pretty In Pink, is Jami Gertz, who played Boots St. Clair, a recurring character on the Facts of Life in 1983 and 1984, and then in 1984 starred in Sixteen Candles with Facts of Life alumn Molly Ringwald. In addition to this Tony Longo, who played Hacksaw on The Facts Of Life episode "Slice of Life" also appeared in Sixteen Candles. And Billie Bird, who played Molly Ringwald's grandmother in Sixteen Candles also appeared on The Facts of Life. And yet another Facts of Life/John Hughes connection is Todd Bridges who of course starred in the parent series to Facts of Life, Different Strokes, and also made appearances on The Facts of Life pilot and the "Bought and Sold" episode was also approached by John Hughes to appear in Breakfast Club to star alongside former Facts of Life co-starred Molly Ringwald.
The Facts of Life episode "Legacy", where Blair learns her grandfather Carlton Blair was in the Ku Klux Klan, and has to decide if money from his estate should go to build a library at Eastland, is very similar to the Different Strokes episode "The Ancestor" where Phillip learns one of his ancestors was a slave trader, and has to decide if money from his estate should be used to build a community center.
Nancy McKeon's character was originally going to be named "Foxy". That was until head writers Linda Marsh and Margie Peters vetoed the idea. Then NBC network Executive Producer Fred Silverman, seeing that there were 4 girls and a house mother in the cast suggested Jo. This was a reference to Jo March from Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, also a story about 4 girls and a house mother. Everyone, including Marsh and Peters, liked that idea and it stuck.
Janet Jackson was a featured recurring character on Different Strokes, Charlene Dupree, Willis's girlfriend. (Todd Bridges was dating Janet Jackson in real life during this period). Jermaine Jackson was also featured in an episode of Facts of Life, which featured Kim Fields' Tootie as an obsessed fan of the pop singer. Tootie was also a Michael Jackson fan. Kim Fields was too, and Fields mentions in interviews one of the highlights of her young life was going to Disney world with both Janet, who was a friend of hers, and Michael.
Kim Fields has said in interviews that Joan Rivers' "Fats of Life" jokes hurt her feelings. Lisa Welchel has also said in interviews that when show producers asked her to go to fat farms during the show's production her feelings were hurt; as well as doing the Macy's Thanksgiving parade and having a fan shout "Hey Blair you're getting fat!" at her.
Mindy Cohn has said in interviews that she got a letter from a girl who was suicidal, who then happened to watch the Breaking Point episode and decided not to kill herself because of the inspirational message of the show.
It's significant Molly Ringwald did not return for the "Little Chill" reunion episode when all the other girls did. Molly was in essence fired from the show during the 1980-1981 season. She went from being a series regular during the 1979-1980 season to a reoccurring character who made only one appearance during the next season, before then vanishing all together. She has said this was "humiliating." She had the last laugh because as everyone knows she became a superstar during this period, starring in three classic John Hughes movies. In 1986, when they shot the "Little Chill" episode Molly was on the cover of Time Magazine.
David Coburn would play Carl, Tootie's dance partner and Fred's rival in the "Who Am I" episode. He would also play Jimmy in the Different Strokes episode "The Slumber Party", where he was Willis's friend and one of Tootie's rivals. He would also go on to play Captain Planet in the Captain Planet TV series for many years.
Tootie calls Blair a gem in Emily Dickinson, she says Blair's been a gem of a maid after she's blackmailed Blair into doing personal chores for her after learning Blair plagiarized her poem. Blair calls Tootie a gem in the Who am I episode when Tootie makes a dress for her.
Both Lisa Welchel and Nancy McKeon were considered for parts on Friends. In addition to this Warren Littlefield, who was a producer who was instrumental in developing Facts of Life for NBC, was also instrumental in developing Friends for NBC. Also actresses Juliette Lewis, Lauren Tom and Helen Hunt all made appearances on both Facts of Life and Friends.
Both Kim Fields and her mother Chip appeared on Facts of Life; they played Tootie Ramsey and Mrs. Diane Ramsey, her mother, respectively. They also both made appearances on Good Times; another Norman Lear production, Chip played the recurring character Linella Gordon, who was Penny's (aka Janet Jackson's) abusive mother. Kim Fields played Kim, a character named after herself, and a friend of Penny's, in the Snow Storm episode. Chip Fields had also auditioned for Thelma Evans and been turned down when the show was in preproduction.
In the "New York New York" episode which aired in 1982 Alexa Kennin played the reckless and edgy character Jesse. This was Jo's best friend from the Bronx, who was somewhat aggressive and had violent tendencies, even engaging in a near act of vandolism in the community center where they hung out; and who was prejudiced to other minority groups in the episode. Alexa Kennin would tragically die just three years after this episode aired; and she would appear in "Pretty in Pink" with fellow Facts of Life alumn Molly Ringwald, postuhamously.
Head writer Margie Peters and show star Mindy Cohn both have said in interviews that a young girl who was watching the show wrote them letters saying she was planning to kill herself, even hiding away sleeping pills for the occasion, until she watched the "Breaking Point" episode, which dealt with the suicide of one of the characters and the aftermath and had a strong anti-suicide message. This convinced her to not go through with it.
In Biography's Cast Confessions, a tv documentary about the making of The Facts of Life, show producers jokingly said they hired Robert Romanus to "deflower" Natalie in The First Time episode since he'd had some experience doing that to Jennifer Jason Leigh in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. This is a reference to how Mike Damone, his character in Fast Times, has a shocking romantic interlude with Jennifer Jason Leigh's Stacey Hamilton character early in the movie. Romanus also goes on to joke about this in the documentary, saying that "he's had some experience deflowering girls in the movies", and that's part of why he was hired to play Snake, Natalie's boyfriend in Facts of Life. While the joke is funny, film geeks will know it's actually not true though. Mike Damone does not deflower Stacey in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Ron the stereo salesman does.
During the second seasons episode Sex Symbol we see Tootie's roller skates propped up on her bunk bed. It's the only time during the entire series when we see the roller skates when she's not wearing them, and it's a nod to the first season when she wore them for the entire season.
The Source is an episode where Natalie makes up a story about an Eastland student getting an abortion. She wins acclaim and respect from her fellow students, only to get in trouble with the administration later when she is forced to admit the story is a fabrication. This is all based on and inspired by a real incident, when Janet Cook, a journalist for the Washington Post, made up a story about a heroin addict named Jimmy. She won the Pulitzer prize in 1981 for the story, only to be found out later, humiliated and exposed by the press as a fraud, stripped of her Pulitzer and fired from The Washington Post. WKRP in Cincinnati did a similar episode called Dear Liar also inspired by the Janet Cook incident where Bailey Quarters fabricates a story about a young hospital patient named "Bobby", only to be exposed later on and has to deal with the reprecussions of her dishonesty.
In Advanced Placement Natalie is desperate to go to college. Langley offers her chance to take a college class, while she's still a high school student, and she jumps at the opportunity, becoming super active on the Langley College campus, even trying to graduate Eastland early and become a full time Langley student. This is ironic because in Bus Stop, which aired just a year later, she decides she doesn't want to go to college at all!
Alex Rocco, who played Jo's dad, Charlie Polniaczek, was best-known for playing career criminals (casino boss Moe Greene in "The Godfather", assassin Thomas Callender on "Starsky & Hutch", and others). On "The Facts of Life", he played an ex-convict who'd put his mob-connected past behind him.
Part of Lisa Welchel's objections to The First Time was that she felt it glorified pre-marital sex among young people and sent the message such activity was okay. This was something of a contrast to earlier depictions of misbehavior or indiscretions by the girls as they involved story morals and/or resulted in negative consequences, which was not the case with The First Time.
Welcome Back Kotter was the inspiration and prototype for Facts of Life, which was basically supposed to be girls version of Kotter called Garrett's Girls with Charlotte Rae standing in for Gabe Kaplan as the lead, and Kim Fields, Mindy Cohn and Lisa Welchel the distaff Sweathogs. However, Facts of Life turned out to be much more successful than Kotter, lasting 9 seasons compared to Kotter's 4, becoming NBC's longest running sitcom up to that point, and still holding the record as the longest running show of any type with an all female cast
During the nine years it was on the air Facts of Life never won or was nominated for a single Emmy; except Charlotte Rae who was nominated for a 1982 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series. She lost to Carol Kane who won for her portrayal as Simka Dahblitz on Taxi, (Episode: "Simka Returns"), (ABC).
Greg Bradford played the recurring role of Steve on The Facts of Life. He also appeared as a dancer in the movie Grease (1978). Pamela Adlon played the recurring role of Kelly Affinado on Facts of Life. She appeared as an extra in Grease 2 (1982).
In a recent New Yorker essay Molly Ringwald weighed in on the huge sexual harassment scandal rocking Hollywood currently in the wake of allegations against deposed movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. Although she did not specify receiving any abuse on the set of Facts of Life, she did describe being sexually harassed on a studio set when she was thirteen. She said a crew member pushed up against her in an inappropriate and sexual way.
Helen Hunt, who appeared in the episode "Dope" stayed friends with Mindy Cohen over the years, and eventually took her to get her mammogram. They did detect a malignancy and Ms. Cohn is currently undergoing treatment for this.
Pamela Adlon teamed up with Louis CK the comedian on several projects after Facts of Life including the FX series "Better Things". Later she disconnected from Louis CK after he became embroiled in his own controversy.
The Big Apple Blues episode, when Tootie and Natalie live in a loft for a few days in New York with a bunch of twenty somethings, is a lot like a Friend's episode. (It's ironic that on Roseanne in one episode Dan says Facts of Life was the 80s version of Friends! This would be true for many different reasons including that the Big Apple Blues episode is eerily prophetic of Friends. )
Andy and Pippa start a rock band in season 9 called "The Witches of Eastland". The name is a spoof on "The Witches of Eastwick", which is a popular movie which had just come out starring Jack Nicholson, Michelle Pfeiffer, Susan Sarandon and Cher.
Pamela Adlon who played Kelly on Facts of Life from 1983 to 1985 appeared in Louis CK's film I Love You Daddy. The film was shot before the scandal with Louis Ck broke, and it was mostly abandoned by it's distributor in the wake of the scandal. Ms. Adlon also severed ties with Louis Ck during that time; although she did attend the premier on November 17th.
Warren Littlefield was one of the executive producers at NBC who oversaw The Facts Of Life when it was being developed for the ratings challenged station. Later, Facts of Life wrapped, and all the people involved in it would go off in different directions: Kim Fields, who played Tootie on Facts of Life, would go on to star in Living Single for FOX, a new show about a clique of twentysomethings living in the same building in New York, forming kind of an erzast family, geared towards a black audience. Warren Littlefield, still a producer for NBC, liked Living Single so much he decided to produce his own version of the show for NBC, geared towards a more mainstream, mostly white, audience. This show became Friends, and soon became not only a massive hit for NBC, but also one of the most successful shows of all time. Friends went head to head with Living Single on the Thursday night lineup and competed for much of the same audience in the mid 90s. Living Single star Queen Latifah would complain to the media about her new competition, and then would later comment on the irony that Friends was in many ways a reboot of Living Single. Both Lisa Whelchel and Nancy McKeon were being considered for Friends while it was in development; Nancy McKeon auditioned for Monica, and Lisa Welchel was being considered for Rachel. Neither one of them got the part, but ironically Lauren Tom, who played the reoccurring role Miko on The Facts of Life, would wind up playing Julie, Ross's on again off again girlfriend, who was locked in a love triangle with Rachel, on Friends. Also ironically, Aisha Tyler, a talk show personality and actress, also played one of Ross's girlfriends, who was also locked in a love triangle with Rachel. Aisha was brought to the show in part because of complaints from various critics that the show did not have enough black or racially diverse characters. Oprah Winfrey famously complained on her show that she'd "like to see a black Friend". Aisha's presence was meant to offset the ongoing complaints that Friends was racist. Later, Aisha Tyler, would become one of the hosts of The Talk, a talk show for women. On one of the episodes of The Talk the guest host for the day was Facts of Life star Lisa Welchel, who was dressed in her authentic Eastland uniform as Blair. In honor of the guest host and Facts of Life Aisha would dress up as Tootie from Facts of Life, further underscoring the strange connection between these shows.
It is well known that both Nancy McKeon and Lisa Welchel were being considered for roles on Friends, for Monica and Rachel, respectively. It is less known that there were actors who appeared on both shows, like Lauren Tom, who played the recurring character Miko, the foreign exchange student, on Facts of Life and then the recurring character Julie, Ross' girlfriend on Friends. Juliette Lewis also appeared on both shows. She appeared on the final episode of Facts of Life as new Eastland student and resident bad girl Terry Rankin. She also played Rachel's friend Debbie Ebstein on an episode of Friends.
It would have been funny if Jo and Roy wound up becoming boyfriend/girlfriend at some point, after Jo cruelly rejected Roy for so many years! She does in fact date him at one point in the "Cupid's Revenge" episode; they go to a Peekskill dance together.
In the "New York New York" episode Dana Kimmel, who plays Blair's friend Deana Becker, says of Jo's friend Jesse "Honestly! This one is right out of the Sweathogs". This is a reference to "Welcome Back Kotter", which is ironic since "Facts of Life" was designed to be female version of "Welcome Back Kotter". They even nicknamed the show "Kotter Girls" when it was in development.
Nancy Mckeon's tough tomboy character Jo was inspired by Kristy MacNichol's similarly tough and tomboyish character Angel in Little Darlings. In that movie one of her best friends was played by Alexa Kennin. This is ironic because in the "New York New York" episode Jo's best friend is also played by Alexa Kennin.
In the Flash Flood episode Blair falls for Headmaster Steven Bradley, even telling him she loves him at one point. Ironically, just a couple episodes earlier, in the Like Mother Like Daughter episode, Blair thinks her mom is having an affair with Mr. Bradley. It turns out they are just flirting with each other. Blair seems to forget this when she develops a crush on Mr. Bradley in the Flash Flood episode. The puppy love crush with Mr. Bradley wouldn't be the only time Blair would get in a situation like this with one of her teachers on the show. In Rumor Has It she gets accused of having an affair with her law school professor by the other students.
Before Facts of Life Cloris Leachman starred for several seasons on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, where she shot to fame and won many emmys in the process, even starring in her own highly rated spinoff Phyllis. Cloris wasn't the only Facts of Life actor to star in an MTM production; Helen Hunt, also an Oscar and Emmy winner like Cloris, starred in The Facts of Life episode Dope, where she plays an Eastland student who gets expelled for getting caught with Marijuana on Campus. Helen also starred as Murray's daughter for one episode on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. John Lawlor who played Headmaster Steven Bradley for one season on Facts of Life also starred in another MTM production, Phyllis, ironically enough, with Cloris Leachman.
The First Time episode when Natalie loses her virginity was the highest rated episode on the Series. Natalie losing her virginity was promoted heavily during NBC's sweeps period in 1988; it's no wonder there was such a strong reaction.
Pamela Adlon, who played the recurring Kelly on Facts of Life from 1983 to 1985, went on to star in the Louis CK penned FX dramedy Better Things. She won a Golden Globe nomination for her work on the show in 2017 despite the controversy surrounding it's creator Louis CK.
Pamela Adlon, who played the recurring character Kelly on Facts of Life from 1983 to 1985, went on to star in the Louis CK penned FX dramedy Better Things. She won a Golden Globe nomination for her work on the show in 2017 despite the controversy surrounding it's creator Louis CK.
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
In "Sex Object" Natalie pretends to be promiscuous to break away from her innocent, goody-two-shoes image. Ironically, Natalie would be the first of the regular cast to lose her virginity in "The First Time" episode 8 years later.