Facts of Life stars re­act to re­boot ru­mours

Times Colonist - - Television - VIC­TO­RIA AHEARN

TORONTO — Two stars from The Facts of Life say they don’t have any di­rect knowl­edge of a ru­moured re­boot, but if it were to hap­pen, it would need to cap­ture the same “light­ning in a bot­tle” of the beloved 1980s sit­com.

Kim Fields and Lisa Whelchel were in Toronto this week for the launch of Bell Me­dia’s two new free, video-on-de­mand of­fer­ings, CTV Movies and CTV Throw­back, which have dozens of ti­tles, in­clud­ing The Facts of Life.

The ad-sup­ported chan­nels are avail­able only on CTV dig­i­tal plat­forms (CTV.ca and the CTV app on iOS, An­droid, and Ama­zon Fire Stick).

In Au­gust, Dead­line re­ported that the pro­duc­tion com­pa­nies of Leonardo DiCaprio and Jes­sica Biel were in talks with Sony Pic­tures Tele­vi­sion to re­boot The Facts of Life, about a group of stu­dents and their house­mother at an all-fe­male board­ing school.

But Whelchel, who played preppy and vain teen Blair on the show, says the cast only heard about a re­boot “through the grapevine.”

And Fields, who played young roller-skat­ing Tootie, cau­tions it would need to be made un­der the right cir­cum­stances.

“There’s a lot that goes into mak­ing magic,” Fields, 49, said in an in­ter­view. “You don’t just haul off and say: ‘Oh, I’m just go­ing to re­boot this.’ Not if you want suc­cess, and not if you don’t want your au­di­ence to feel be­trayed.

“Facts of Life is very near and dear to a great many gen­er­a­tions around the world, and so how­ever you do any re­boot, you bet­ter do it right and you bet­ter ser­vice the brand.”

If a re­boot does hap­pen with the orig­i­nal cast in­cluded, the stars al­ready have a name for it.

“Geri Jewell — who played Blair’s cousin, who had cere­bral palsy — she’s a co­me­dian and she pro­posed a ti­tle called The Change of Life for the re­boot,” Whelchel, 55, said with a laugh.

A spinoff of Diff’rent Strokes that orig­i­nally aired on NBC from 1979 to 1988, The Facts of Life was set in a dor­mi­tory at a pri­vate school in Peek­skill, N.Y. The catchy theme song, by Glo­ria Lor­ing and Alan Thicke, be­gan with the moral les­son: “You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have, the facts of life.”

Char­lotte Rae, who died in Au­gust, played house­mother Edna Gar­rett in a cast that also in­cluded Mindy Cohn as Tootie’s best friend Natalie and Nancy McKeon as mo­tor­cy­cle-rid­ing tomboy Jo.

Both Fields and Whelchel said the show was a “foun­da­tional” part of their lives, not­ing they grew up on the set.

They got to cover some heavy top­ics on the show that touched many fans’ lives around the world, they said.

“It dealt with teenage sui­cide, it dealt with date rape, it dealt with is­sues but not gratuitously and it was in ser­vice of the au­di­ence, not in ser­vice of the show,” said Whelchel, who has nu­mer­ous act­ing cred­its as well as a Gram­mynom­i­nated Chris­tian al­bum to her name.

Be­ing an African-Amer­i­can girl/young woman on net­work TV in that era also made a big im­pact, added Fields.

“Peo­ple will still tell me to this day, if they meet me or on so­cial me­dia, they wanted to wear their hair like Tootie [or] they had never seen a lit­tle girl [like Tootie] on a show,” said Fields, whose other ma­jor cred­its in­clude the Fox sit­com Liv­ing Sin­gle, which is now on Hulu.

“When I met Nel­son Man­dela’s daugh­ter Zindzi for the first time and she said: ‘In Africa we were as­ton­ished that a lit­tle black girl was liv­ing with these white girls and was treated com­pletely as an equal.’ ”

Kim Fields played Tootie in the orig­i­nal Facts of Life.

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