Published December 18, 2008
With Leonardo DiCaprio's new film "Revolutionary Road" opening this holiday season, we started thinking about his humble beginnings in the '80s sitcom "Growing Pains." Would Leo still have become the huge star he is today without the sitcom to jumpstart his career? And whatever happened to the other members of the Seaver clan?
When "Growing Pains" debuted in September 1985 on ABC, talk show host Alan Thicke was the biggest name in a cast that originally included Joanna Kerns, Tracey Gold, and Jeremy Miller. Kirk Cameron was thought to be in line for a Michael J. Fox-style rise to fame.
Later, a then-unknown DiCaprio and Ashley Johnson joined the series, while future stars Brad Pitt, Matthew Perry, Heather Graham, Hilary Swank, and Dennis Haysbert made guest appearances on various episodes during the show's seven-season run.
Here's the lowdown on the Seaver family actors, then and now:
Who'd have thought that the geeky kid who played the homeless teenage-orphan-turned-adopted-son Luke Brower Seaver would become one of the biggest movie stars ever? But Leo did just that, and now he makes blockbuster movies, gets nominated for Oscars, and dates supermodels.
Squeaky-clean Mike Seaver grew up to be even-squeakier-clean Kirk Cameron. The transformation started during the show when Cameron, a born-again Christian, insisted that story lines be stripped of anything he deemed too adult or racy. Long-married to his Growing Pains girlfriend, actress Chelsea Noble, these days he's focusing his career on Christian-themed films, including the "Left Behind" series and the new film "Fireproof," as well as training Christians in evangelism.
Thicke went from being the big name on a Top 10 sitcom to starring in the recently cancelled Canadian series "jPod." Unlike ultimate family man Dr. Jason Seaver, his jPod character is a ballroom dancer who cheats on his wife. But Thicke hasn't entirely disappeared from U.S. TV. You can catch him as the on-air spokesman for the Las Vegas timeshare resort Tahiti Village.
While Growing Pains' working mom Maggie Malone Seaver has made a few appearances in such films as "Girl, Interrupted" and Knocked Up, she's spending more of her time these days behind the camera, directing episodes of the TV shows Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice, and Privileged.
Tracey Gold, who played straight-arrow honors student Carol Seaver, has had a rocky path post-Growing Pains success. Spurred by the constant references to her character as being fat, Tracey fought a well-publicized battle with anorexia. But she made it out the other side, is married with four sons, and is acting again, making regular appearances on such TV shows as "Sight Unseen" and "Final Approach."
Little brother Ben Seaver is all grown-up now and seems to have avoided the typical train wreck of childhood stardom. He's married with three kids, dreams of having his own catering business, and has four movies due out in 2009: "Ditching Party," "Never Have I Ever," "The Fish" and "Tar Beach."
Just six years old when she made her debut as Chrissy Seaver, Ashley's still acting: she's appeared in the films "Fast Food Nation" and "Columbus Day." But our favorite grown-up Ashley role is Sharlee Cates on the way-too-short-lived, so-very-bad-it-was-so-very-good Courteney Cox series "Dirt."
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