Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: Albany Daily News. Posted by Lexi Schwartz
Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Lexi Schwartz
The Facts of Life
Currently Known For:
1977 - 1990
April 4, 1966
The Facts of Life
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“Normally, I don’t watch myself because I’m not very objective.” Despite already appearing on soap operas like The Secret Storm and Another World, Nancy McKeon didn’t truly make a lasting impression in Hollywood until 1980 when she debuted on the second season of The Facts of Life as Jo Polniaczek. With her character foiling the rich and rebellious Blair Warner, Nancy immediately found her niche among audiences as she debuted on the series as the motorcycle-driving, bossy and short-tempered Jo. Spending the next eight years on what would become one of the longest running sitcoms of the 1980s, Nancy continued to work in Hollywood but never recaptured the same success she enjoyed on The Facts of Life. Instead, the 51-year-old has found greater fulfillment as a wife and mother of two with only sporadic appearances in television and film over the last three decades. Advertisements:
Born on April 4, 1966 in Westbury, New York where her father, Don, owned a travel agency and her mother, Barbara, stayed home to raise her and her older brother, Philip, Nancy’s foray into acting came by accident all because her mother couldn’t find a babysitter. With Philip’s piercing blue eyes and blond hair, a client at the travel agency urged Don to let his son try his hand at acting and modeling. On a whim, Don agreed as Barbara researched local agencies. Unable to find a babysitter for the young Nancy, she took Philip to an audition with Nancy tagging along. “The strange thing is that the agent went down the line at this cattle call and picked Nancy but not Philip,” Don told TV Guide. “Later Phillip got into it, too; but honestly, if they’d both been turned down that first day, we’d never have pursued it beyond that.”
Fortunately, both Nancy and Philip continued to find success as commercial stars and transitioned from models to child actors with Nancy snagging roles on soap operas like The Secret Storm and Another World. At the same time, Philip’s career flourished as he landed a major role on Alice starring Linda Lavin. Although life in New York was perfect for the family of four, they packed their bags and moved to Los Angeles in 1975 with the hopes that Nancy would find the same level of success as Philip. Luckily, that’s exactly what happened but not without hard work, persistence and patience.
Later admitting that life in New York was comfortable especially after filling her days starring in commercials for everything from toothpaste and pizza to cereal and bread, Nancy was only nine years old when she faced her first real crisis—the fear that her acting career was over. “I got very discouraged for a while; it was like starting over,” she recalled when reminiscing about her first few years in Los Angeles. “People out here didn’t know me. I’d go on calls day after day after day for commercials, TV shows and movies, and nothing was coming for it.”
Already an over-achiever, Nancy faced her fear by going on more and more auditions and, in 1979, saw her persistence pay off when she snagged minor roles in Starsky & Hutch and The Love Boat. However, it wasn’t either of these performances that caught an NBC casting director’s attention. Instead, it was her tearful performance for a Hallmark greeting card commercial that truly set her apart from the rest. Thanks to her ability to cry on demand, she was invited to audition for the second season of NBC’s newest sitcom—a spinoff of Diff’rent Strokes—titled The Facts of Life. Winning the part of the tomboy Jo Polniaczek who occasionally lets her guard down, Nancy happily accepted the role and her new nickname as “Faucet Face.”
Making her first appearance on the revamped second season in 1980, Nancy instantly charmed audiences with her performances as ratings dramatically improved and fan-mail poured into the studio. “My character’s kind of a misfit, so I get a lot of letters from teenagers who feel they’re kind of alone themselves,” Nancy told TV Guide during an interview in 1981. Fortunately, she continued to find the same level of success over the next eight years on the series while working on other projects like voicing cartoon characters for the ABC Weekend Special.
By the time The Facts of Life ended in 1988, NBC invited Nancy to audition for their next new series, the television remake of Working Girl. Although Nancy’s talent was undeniable, the part wasn’t a great fit as casting directors hired an unknown woman named Sandra Bullock to star in the series. In 1994, Nancy auditioned for Friends and, alongside Courteney Cox, was in the running for the part of Monica Geller. With the role obviously going to Cox, Nancy later said, “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.”
Nancy caught another break in 1995 when she starred in the short-lived series Can’t Hurry Love. By 2001, her luck improved when she landed the role of Inspector Jinny Exstead in Lifetime’s police drama, The Division. Spending the next three seasons on the show, Nancy’s personal life and career flourished as she married Marc Andrus in 2003 and got pregnant shortly afterward. During the final season of The Division, Nancy’s real-life pregnancy was incorporated into her character’s storyline.
Since then, Nancy balanced being a wife and mother of two with acting and, in 2009 and 2010, had a regular role on the Disney Channel’s Sonny with a Chance. In 2011, she starred in the Hallmark film Love Begins and was happy to do something her girls could watch but has since decided to focus more on her family and their life in Austin, Texas. As for her success with The Facts of Life, Nancy remains friends with her former costars saying, “I’m privileged and proud to call them my friends. We had a great time when doing the show.”