You take the good, you take the bad, and then you take a friend’s invitation to star in a Lifetime network Christmas film.
The four stars of the 1979-1988 sitcom The Facts of Life are reuniting for the Kim Fields-produced holiday film You Light Up My Christmas, part of Lifetime’s “It’s a Wonderful Lifetime” schedule of over 1,000 hours of Yuletide-themed original movies beginning October 25.
Kim Fields, the exec behind the project, got her start in show business at the tender age of seven, when she starred in a memorable TV commercial for Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup. When she landed the role of 12-year-old Dorothy “Tootie” Ramsey on The Facts of Life, she was only nine. Once Facts ended its long run, Fields enrolled at Pepperdine University and earned her B.A. in Communications and Film. She continued to act while simultaneously starting her own production company.
Lisa Whelchel got interested in ventriloquism after she tanked out in a third grade talent show by doing a makeshift tumbling routine. Her mother ordered her a “figure” (professionals never call it a “dummy”) from the Sears catalog, which also included a “Learn Ventriloquism” record.
Lisa practiced relentlessly and not only won the next year’s school talent show, that skill also landed her an audition and a place as a Mouseketeer in the 1977 reboot of TV’s The Mickey Mouse Club. (Note: Eagle-eyed Facts of Life fans will notice Julie Piekarski in the Mouseketeer roll call. Julie was one of several original Facts cast members — including Molly Ringwald — who was let go after season one.)
During her years as rich kid Blair, she rejected any scripts that went against her Christian beliefs, but she did admit in a February 2019 interview with Fox News that she’d have to check her pulse to see if she was clinically dead once a young George Clooney joined the cast in 1985. According to her, he was charismatic and “tons of fun” and added some much-needed testosterone to an all-female sitcom.
Mindy Cohn was a 12-year-old student at Bel-Air’s Westlake School when series star Charlotte Rae and the Facts producers were scouting for new talent for their fledgling show. Cohn reminded Rae of a childhood friend named Natalie, and at Rae’s insistence a role was specially written for Cohn, who remained with the series throughout its run.
Mindy later continued acting and also did a lot of voice work (including 14 years as the voice of “Velma” on the revamped Scooby-Doo cartoon series). In 2012 she was diagnosed with breast cancer and went public with her diagnosis and treatment five years later.
Nancy McKeon, who played street-wise Jo, will also make an appearance in the film. She was busy being a contestant on Dancing with the Stars during principal filming of You Light Up My Christmas. But because she and the other actresses still feel a “sisterhood bond” to this day, McKeon took time out of her schedule to be included in this holiday reunion.