She played Jo in The Facts of Life. See Nancy McKeon now at 56.

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When The Facts of Life– an offshoot of Different strokes focused on an all-girls boarding school – returned for its second season in 1980, but was without four of its original cast members (including a young, brunette Molly Ringwaldwho played Molly Parker). In their place was a surprising addition to the cast in the form of a motorcycle-riding Bronx-born tomboy named Jo Polniaczek.

During her seven seasons playing rough Jo, Nancy McKeon would lead characters Tootie (Kim Fields), Blair (Lisa Radel) and Natalie (Mindy Cohn) Closer Together (about the punishment the five received after stealing the school’s van to drink at a local bar); argument with Blair; and intimidate men with their mechanical talents. Neither her acting career nor her connections to her facts of life However, co-stars would end the show in 1988. Read on to find out what happened to McKeon over the decades that followed, and where she stands now at the age of 56.

READ NEXT: She continued playing Natalie The Facts of Life. See Mindy Cohn now at 55.

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Unlike co-stars Fields and Cohn, McKeon chose not to get a college degree. Instead, she sought to hone her craft with additional acting training The Facts of Life completed. She continued acting, appearing in a number of made-for-television movies in the late 1980s and early ’90s and producing a few of those movies of the week through her production company, Forest Hills Productions. In the late 90’s she even fulfilled an ambition to direct and lead the short film an awakeningwhich she also wrote and produced.

“I just thought I’ll take what my tuition would have been and I’ll keep it short,” she recalled on Cohn’s podcast. Mondays with Mindy.

The film was released in 1999 and won two festival awards. While McKeon would primarily stick to acting for years to come, she later directed two episodes of The corporate division while also appearing on the series and hoping to direct more in the future, she told Cohn.

Nancy McKeon in 1996
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In a 2012 vanity fair Oral history of the series friends, Lori Opendenformer NBC casting director revealed that the choice of who to play Monica Geller came down to just two actresses: “Nancy McKeon, from The Facts of Lifealso read for [Courteney Cox’s] Part. She showed a great performance. [NBC President] labyrinth [Littlefield] To let [co-creators] Martha [Kauffman] and David [Crane] make the call. They went for a walk and came back and said Courteney.”

Instead, McKeon starred in her own sitcom. Can’t hurry love, which ran for one season in 1995 before being canceled despite solid ratings. She had another one-season run, starring alongside Midwesterner Jane Sokol Martha Stewart– esk Jean Smart on style & substance in 1998 before landing the role of Inspector Jinny Exstead on the Lifetime crime drama The corporate divisionwhich she played from 2001 to 2004.

Marc Andrus and Nancy McKeon in 1996
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McKeon – who is dating Michael J Fox for three years in the ’80s and was previously engaged to a hockey player Luc Robaille— met film technician Markus Andres on the set of the TV movie A mother’s gift 1995. They married eight years later and moved to a ranch in the Austin, Texas area, where they raised daughters aurora (born 2004) and Harlow (born 2006) before selling it in 2020, according to her appearance on Cohn’s podcast. (McKeon’s brother, the late Alice actor Philip McKeoneventually joined her and lived outside of Austin until his death in December 2019.) While Andrus was active in the Austin film industry, McKeon acted sporadically in the girls’ younger years, choosing to focus on caring for them .

“I have two little girls, and my main job is here with them, so if I decide to resign, the timing has to be right,” she said in a 2011 interview with Tulsa World.

In the early 2000s, that timing only allowed McKeon an occasional TV movie until 2009, when she landed a recurring role on the Disney Channel sitcom Sonny with a chance as the mother of the title character, a teenage comedian played by a boy Demi Lovato.

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Nancy McKeon and Val Chmerkovskiy on Dancing With the Stars in 2018
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After the end of Sonny with a chance In 2011, McKeon left screens until 2018, when she returned as a contestant in season 27 of Dancing with the starsin competition with pro Val Khmerkovsky. She followed that appearance with a cameo in the Lifetime film you light up my christmas with former facts of life Co-Star Fields. In her most recent role, McKeon played the mother of a teenager who entered a dangerous post-high school competition in the 2021 Amazon Prime thriller panicbased on the young adult novel series by Lauren Olivier.

Kim Fields and Nancy McKeon in 2020
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Despite her absence from a recent facts of life Reunion, McKeon is still close friends with her former co-stars. Her castmates grieved alongside McKeon after her brother’s death in 2019, McKeon took part in a series of conversations Fields recorded in honor of her 2020 birthday, and Whelchel said they all keep in touch through a group chat called “sisters.” ‘ thread.”

“We went through our formative years together,” McKeon said of their bond Mondays with Mindy. “We really were sisters … in my heart we still are.”

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