If you grew up as a kid in the late ’70s and early ’80s, you more than likely were a fan of the TV sitcom Diff’rent Strokes. Who didn’t look at their friends and say, “What’chu talkin’ ’bout Willis?” Diff’rent Strokes aired on NBC from November 3, 1978 to May 4, 1985, and on ABC from September 27, 1985 to March 7, 1986. The series focused on two African-American boys from Harlem who are taken in by a rich white Park Avenue businessman, for whom their deceased mother had worked for.
The main cast of Diff’rent Strokes consisted of:
Conrad Bain as Phillip Drummond
Gary Coleman as Arnold Jackson
Todd Bridges as Willis Jackson
Dana Plato as Kimberly Drummond (1978–84, 1985–86 recurring)
Charlotte Rae as Edna Garrett (1978–79)
Mary Jo Catlett as Pearl Gallagher (1982–86)
Danny Cooksey as Sam McKinney (1984–86)
Dixie Carter as Maggie McKinney Drummond #1 (1984–85)
Mary Ann Mobley as Maggie McKinney Drummond #2 (1985–86) and as Ms. Osbourne
Sadly, both Gary Coleman and Dana Plato passed away way too soon. Coleman, who had battled health problems since childhood caused by congenital kidney disease, passed away on May 28, 2010 from complications from an injury he received from falling and hitting his head after suffering a seizure.
Plato’s life after the show ended was nothing short of tragic. Her life spiraled out of control due to drugs and alcohol, and she never recovered. Sadly, she took her own life in 1999 at the young age of 34. Horribly, her son Tyler committed suicide in 2010.
Todd Bridges, who played Arnold’s older brother Willis was the first of the three to see his life falling off the rails when he was arrested and charged with the attempted murder of a drug dealer at a crack house in South Central L.A. in 1988. He was acquitted for this charge in November, 1989. However, in the early ’90s, Bridges became sober, and has been touring schools around the United States ever since discussing the dangers of drug use.
Enjoy this look back at the cast of Diff’rent Strokes from our friends at Good Old Days and how they changed over the years.