Perhaps one of the most notable actresses on the Facts of Life payroll was Nancy McKeon, who took on the role of Jo Polniaczek. While she made her debut a little later than the rest of the Eastland School gang, Nancy immediately won us over. However, what was her life like outside of the show? Here are the things you didn’t know about Facts of Life star Nancy McKeon.
Nancy McKeon was born on April 4, 1966, and spent the first few years of her life living in the state of New York. From a young age, it seemed as though her parents knew that she was destined to be a star.
This was proven when she was chosen from a pool of toddlers to model in a Sears catalog. It seems as though she got a taste for life in front of the camera during this time, as she soon let her parents know that she wanted to be an actress. Thankfully for Nancy, this dream wasn’t too far away…
The soap queen
After wowing casting agents with her youthful looks and her Sears photographs, Nancy was cast in numerous commercials. This exposure allowed her to make her transition into the world of television, and she soon became a soap opera queen.
Before her 10th birthday, she had already appeared in famous shows such as Another World and The Secret Storm, and her career was just going from strength to strength. However, this was just the start for Nancy, and she had so much more success to come.
All in the family
Although we’re all used to seeing Nancy McKeon on our screens, it might surprise you to learn that we’ve also seen another McKeon in the past. Yes, Nancy’s brother was also a famous actor.
Like his sister, Philip McKeon made his way into the world of show business from a young age and soon became a natural in front of the camera. Although he was not as successful as his sister, Phillip landed a huge role when he played Tommy Hyatt from 1976 until 1985 in the famous sitcom, Alice.
Moving to LA
When Philip McKeon landed the role of Tommy Hyatt, the McKeon family decided that they needed to be closer to Los Angeles and the Alice film set. So, they packed up their bags and moved for the sake of their son – but this also had a positive impact on Nancy.
With closer connections to some of the biggest names in the business, Nancy was able to score herself small movie roles and television roles. Just a couple of years after she moved, she heard that The Facts of Life were auditioning for a new character.
Her screen test was a hit
Auditioning for any new role must be nerve-wracking, but the director of The Facts of Life made it even more difficult for Nancy during her screen test. She was asked to recite an emotional scene that involved a phone call, but the director wanted her to ignore the stage directions and not cry during the scene.
Instead, he wanted her to make it so emotional that the audience cried for her instead. Amazingly, Nancy was able to hold back, and those watching her screen test were in floods of tears.
An emotional ordeal
In fact, it was Nancy’s ability to control and let out her emotions that caused her to be such a hit during her screen test. It turns out that the casting directors of The Facts of Life had already heard of Nancy, thanks to work she had already completed for Hallmark cards.
During one particular advertisement for the greetings card company, she wowed a casting director with her ability to cry on cue and then pull herself together. It seems this knowledge then made its way back to The Facts of Life crew.
It got a little crowded
The first season of Facts of Life was a little overwhelming. As well as watching the main characters and students, the production team also gave a few school administrators their turn in front of the camera.
In the end, they realized that it was all too much. They needed to strip down the production, and they needed to cull their cast. They eventually did just that for season two, but Nancy McKeon became an exception. In fact, she was the only new character to make an appearance during this second season!
She auditioned for an iconic role
It’s fair to say that Nancy McKeon took on an iconic role when she was cast as Jo Polniaczek. However, what you might not know is that she also auditioned for another iconic television role over the course of her career.
Nancy actually auditioned for the role of Monica in Friends. She auditioned alongside Courteney Cox, and the casting director just couldn’t decide between them. In the end, it was Marta Kauffman and David Crane who eventually decided to go with Courteney instead of Nancy for the role.
Just missing out
However, this isn’t the only role that Nancy missed out on. When The Facts of Life came to an end, the executives at NBC knew that they wanted her to take on the leading role in their brand new project.
They were bringing a television adaptation of Working Girl to the small screen, and they thought that Nancy was perfect for the job. Yet, as time wore on and the executives thought about their decision, they eventually decided to give the role to Sandra Bullock instead.
A private audience
The Facts of Life quickly became one of the most famous shows of the ‘80s, and there wasn’t a soul in the world who hadn’t at least heard of the sitcom. In fact, it seems as though the success of the show even made its way to Vatican City!
Nancy and her family were actually allowed to visit the famous city and were even granted a private audience with Pope John Paul II. Few people have ever been allowed this pleasure, and this experience was one of the most impressive moments of her career.
Reuniting as one
When the show came to an end, Nancy parted ways with her Eastland School classmates, but that wasn’t the end of their story. Amazingly, the cast came together to reunite as one for the first time since the show came to an end in 2011 during the TV Land Awards.
Fans of the show were overwhelmed to see their favorite characters make their way onto the stage, and Nancy couldn’t stop herself from taking over the mic and thanking everyone at home for all of their support over the years.
The only one
After the success of The Facts of Life, fans were on tenterhooks to hear more from the ladies from Eastland School. Of course, the producers knew that they had to take advantage of the buzz, and decided to put a new plan into action.
In 2001, The Facts of Life Reunion movie made its way into our lives, and fans of the show were over the moon. However, they were upset to discover that Nancy would not reprise her role of Jo Polniaczek in this made-for-television film because of scheduling conflicts.
A reboot in the works?
Yet, this isn’t the first time that a producer has decided to rake in the benefits of The Facts of Life fame. According to the Hollywood rumor mill, the production company that is owned by Jennifer Davisson and Leonardo DiCaprio could be working on a reboot of the show as we speak!
Although nothing has been confirmed, it seems as though they have been out and about looking for a writer who can bring their dream to life. We wonder if they will get Nancy on board?
Her own show
In the 1990s, the hype around Nancy McKeon had calmed down. Because of this, she wanted to make sure that she stayed within the world of popular culture and maintained her levels of fame. In order to do this, she accepted an offer to create her very own show.
The sitcom, called Can’t Hurry Love, came onto our screens in September 1995 and followed the life of a single woman living in New York. Although Nancy was the lead character, it just didn’t take off and was canceled after one season.
Style and Substance
After the failed attempts of Can’t Hurry Love, Nancy was once again offered a new role that would supposedly skyrocket her career back into the realm of fame and fortune. In 1998, she put her sitcom shoes back on to star in Style & Substance, and this eventually put her back on the map.
Thanks to this role, she was chosen to take on a recurring character in the crime drama, The Division. She eventually worked on this show for three years before it came to an end.
Amazingly, Nancy worked on a whopping 88 episodes of The Division as Inspector Jinny Exstead before moving on to bigger and better things. After numerous TV films she was later cast alongside Demi Lovato in the Disney production, Sonny With A Chance.
She worked on this show from 2009 until 2010, before taking her last proper acting job in 2011. For this role, she took on the role of Millie in the TV film, Love Begins. After this, she went extremely quiet on the acting front.
Friends for life
While working on the set of The Facts of Life, Nancy McKeon struck up an unlikely friendship with Charlotte Rae. On the show, Charlotte took on the role of Edna Garrett, the housemother of the girls at the boarding school.
When the show came to an end, the two actresses continued their friendship and Nancy even invited Charlotte to appear on Can’t Hurry Love with her. Sadly, Charlotte passed away in 2018, and we can imagine it came as a huge blow to Nancy.
A former flame
Unlike many people in the world of show business, Nancy McKeon tried to keep her personal life under wraps. If she did have high-profile relationships, she tried to ensure that these stayed behind the cameras rather than in front of them.
However, her fans couldn’t help but get excited when she started to date Mark Holmes and didn’t seem too shy about this new relationship. She was often spotted out with the lead singer of Platinum Blonde before they parted ways.
With so many child stars in the world, it can often seem impossible to rank them in order of their success of their talent. However, VH1 often does it for us. Every year, they release their rankings based on what their readers have to say – and they definitely had something to say about Nancy McKeon in 2005.
In fact, it was during this year that she was ranked at number 81 on the list of The Greatest: 100 Greatest Kid Stars. This is an achievement that will always stay with her.
A relatively normal life
After a whirlwind career in the world of television, Nancy craved a sense of normalcy during the early ‘00s. Because of this, she now resides in Austin, Texas – and away from the bright lights of tinsel town.
She now divides her time between her life in the limelight as a public figure and her life at home with her family. She is married to Marc Andrus, and the couple have welcomed two wonderful daughters into the world. Nancy has since called her children the “strongest” people she has ever had the pleasure of meeting.
Dancing With The Stars
Despite the fact that Nancy McKeon has spent a huge amount of time away from the limelight and raising her children, she made a triumphant return in September 2018 when it was announced that she was going to be appearing on the 27th season of the popular celebrity talent show, Dancing With The Stars.
Although she is not known for her dancing talent, Nancy noted that she was excited to get started on her training and get partnered up with her professional dancer so that she could make the most of her experience. She also knew what Jo would think of her going on the dance show, saying, “She would’ve kicked me out of the neighborhood. It would not have gone down well.”
The perfect partner
Thankfully, Nancy doesn’t have to worry about putting a foot wrong, because she is in safe hands on Dancing With The Stars. In fact, she has been partnered up with Val Chmerkovskiy for the show.
The new partnership was first revealed on Good Morning America on Wednesday, September 5. Many are hoping to see the heat turned up on the dance floor, as Val Chmerkovskiy will be battling it out to prove that he can beat his professional dancer fiancé, Jenna Johnson, to the trophy.
Not the first
Although fans of The Facts of Life are excited to see their favorite star take to the dance floor, Nancy McKeon is not the first Facts of Life alum to put on her dancing shoes. In fact, Kim Fields proved to be hugely popular when she appeared in the season 22 of the show.
Kim took on the role of Dorothy ‘Tootie’ Ramsey on the show, and it’s fair to say that she did pretty well. In fact, she was able to finish in a respectable 8th position, and Nancy supported her the whole way.
A hefty net worth
After making a name for herself as an actress from a young age, it should come as no surprise to learn that Nancy McKeon has been able to build up a hefty net worth for herself over the years.
In fact, her acting credits have all added up to enable this star to live a life of luxury with a $6 million net worth under her belt. Considering she hasn’t worked on any acting projects since 2011, this is actually rather impressive. We can only imagine her Dancing With The Stars salary will bump this up.
Setting the record straight
In an interview for her last movie’s release, Nancy shed some light on the reason she stepped away from acting, and hasn’t really acted since 2011. The reason was simple: her two daughters, Aurora and Harlow, who are now 14 and 11 respectively.
That was her primary job now, she revealed, saying they never really saw her as an actress. “They don’t really know mom’s ‘other’ job,” she said, adding all they knew about was her cooking, cleaning and running the family carpool.
A teenage relationship
Despite the fact that Nancy McKeon has tried to keep her personal life out of the eye of the media, she couldn’t keep her teenage relationship away from the cameras in the ‘80s. While working on the set of High School USA, Nancy struck up a bond with the Back to the Future Star, Michael J. Fox.
Although they only dated for a couple of months, they were invited to attend a State Dinner by the Former President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan! We bet that was a night to remember.
Since leaving her acting days behind her, Nancy hasn’t found herself getting bored. She has filled her days with raising her daughters and being a mom, but then she has also used this opportunity to really spend time with herself.
She likes to keep active when she is on her ranch, and regularly attends yoga classes. As if that wasn’t enough, Nancy also walks around 4 – 7 miles every single day to tend to her animals, and to keep up to date with her crops and the other areas of land on their estate.
Age is just a number
Although Nancy McKeon fans are excited to see their favorite actress on Dancing With The Stars, there are others who are a little concerned about her appearance on the competition. After all, she is the oldest woman to compete in this season – and many believe this puts her at a disadvantage.
However, this isn’t going to stop the 52-year-old from putting her best foot forward and aiming to become the oldest winner of the show as a whole. Will she be able to hold the coveted glitter ball trophy in her hands?
Gaining the confidence
It seems as though the biggest obstacle between Nancy and the glitter ball is her confidence. Although she took dance lessons when she was a youngster, Nancy stopped when her acting career really took off.
Because of this, she has little experience on the dance floor. Her DWTS partner, Val Chmerkovskiy, has noted that it’s a common problem for new contestants to feel as though they can’t do their best. What Nancy needs to remember is that her dancing talent will not be gained overnight, but will be a process.
What might surprise you is that Nancy had never considered competing on DWTS, and it was only thanks to a family meeting that she took the producers up on their offer. Content with her life at home, Nancy was not expecting the phone call that asked her to take part in the show.
She believed it to be a mistake and was all ready to turn down the offer. However, her daughters convinced her to go on the show, because they believed it would be an exciting opportunity she just couldn’t refuse.
Missing her kids
While Nancy is excited to get glammed up and learn a brand new skill for the sake of television entertainment, she has noted that she is going to miss her kids terribly.
During an interview with ET, Nancy noted that it’s the first time she’s been away from her children and her husband for a long period of time, and she feels uncomfortable being so far away. However, she has also noted that she is “interested to see” where her experience takes her after the show.
Facts of Life was such a huge part of Nancy’s life that it seems as though she isn’t ready to ever let go of those memories. After forming such incredible bonds with the other cast members, Nancy has made it her life’s mission to never lose touch with her co-stars.
During an interview with Parade Magazine, Nancy noted that Lisa Whelchel is often making the trip to her home to stay for weekends and to catch up, and the other cast members always try to get together every so often to relive the glory days.
Nancy on social media
Nancy was just a youngster when she first made her foray into the world of acting, and she didn’t have to worry about using social media to promote her career or her upcoming projects. Yet, this has changed in the subsequent years.
Although social media is now a huge part of fame, Nancy decided to stay away from it and not set up any accounts for herself. She stayed home with her daughters, and she lived a quiet life. She didn’t want social media to come between her downtime.
Learning a lesson
Although she has spent her later career away from the spotlight and away from social media, Nancy has had to undergo some fame training in preparation for her time on Dancing With The Stars.
In order to build up her platform and to promote the show, Nancy has learned how to set up her own social media accounts and how to use it during the competition. Hopefully, this means we’ll be seeing even more of her in the next few years and be able to gain a sneak peek into her life!
A love for acting
With her newfound fame on DWTS, many fans are questioning whether Nancy will be coming back onto our screens in other ways in the future. They want to know whether she will return to her acting roots and provide us with even more entertainment in the form of television shows or movies.
To this, Nancy says that anything is possible. Although she has enjoyed being a mom and raising her children, she knows that they won’t need her as much soon. When that happens, she aims to return to the acting world.
Gone too soon
On December 10, 2019, the world received the sad news that Nancy’s brother, Phillip, had passed away at the age of 55. He had been battling a longtime illness, but the family chose not to reveal its nature.
A statement released by a spokesperson said the family is devastated and heartbroken by his passing, adding that they will always remember his kindness, loyalty, and sense of humor that touched the lives of everyone who crossed his path in life.