The Facts of Life part of Tuesday night’s Live in Front of a Studio Audience special featured three of the show’s original actors, who made a special appearance after Jennifer Aniston, Jon Stewart, and others finished recreating the 1982 episode “Kids Can Be Cruel.” One member of the cast original missing was Nancy McKeon, who played Jo, the part Kathryn Hahn played Tuesday. The Facts of Life segment also included unannounced appearances from Will Arnett and Jason Bateman.
After executive producers Jimmy Kimmel and Norman Lear introduced the show, Lisa Whelchel performed The Facts of Life‘s theme song. Whelchel played Blair on all nine seasons of The Facts of Life, and Aniston recreated her part Tuesday night. After the performance of “Kids Can Be Cruel” wrapped, Whelchel and Kimmel were joined by two other original Facts of Life stars, Kim Field and Mindy Cohn. Field’s character Tootie was played by Gabrielle Union, while Allison Tolman played Cohn’s character Natalie.
The original stars had nothing but praise for the performances Tuesday. Cohn was especially impressed with Ann Dowd’s performances as Mrs. Garrett. “Honestly, I think Charlotte is toasting Ann Dowd right this very moment,” Cohn said, referring to the late Charlotte Rae, who played Mrs. Garrett on The Facts of Life and Diff’rent Strokes. Rae died in August 2018 at 92.
Longtime Facts of Life fans were disappointed that McKeon was not at the event. McKeon recently starred in the short-lived Amazon Prime show Panic and competed on Dancing With the Stars in 2018. In 2019, McKeon also joined Fields, Cohn, and Whelchel for the Lifetime movie You Light Up My Christmas.
A few years before Rae’s death, McKeon, Fields, Cohn, Whelchel, and Rae reunited for a Palcey Center for the Media event, during which they all fondly looked back on the show. “She was there for us as a peer. Not a mom,” McKeon said of Rae at the time, reports PEOPLE. “She never talked down to us. She never made us feel like we were the kids. It was her show, and she included everybody in it. So, looking back on that and watching somebody just go through their life with that kind of elegance, what a great lesson, what a great lesson for me.”
Live in Front of a Studio Audience will be made available to stream on Hulu Wednesday and will be re-broadcast on Wednesday, Nov. 22 on ABC. The Facts of Life is available to stream for free on Pluto TV.