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‘Police Academy’ Turns 40: See the Cast, Then and Now!

When audiences were introduced to the original Police Academy cast four decades ago, the film had its share of critics, with reviewer Roger Ebert calling the movie the “absolute pits” of the satire genre. “If there’s anything worse than a punch line that doesn’t work, it’s a movie that doesn’t even bother to put the punch line in,” Ebert wrote.

Ebert had a good point, in that Police Academy is unapologetically rude, crude and sordid, which isn’t many people’s preference. And yet, the film became a hit and found a huge fan base — enough to spawn six sequels over a decade, along with Police Academy: The Animated Series, a cartoon show that began in 1988 and lasted two seasons.

Man and woman talking to officer
Kim Cattrall, Steve Guttenberg and G.W. Bailey in “Police Academy” (1984) Ladd Company

As the poster slogan put it: “The new police recruits. Call them slobs. Call them jerks. Call them gross. Just don’t call them when you’re in trouble.” The incompetence of these cops in training forms the source of the comedy for fans.

Where did these terrible fictional cops go in real life? Find out what the Police Academy cast members have been up to since the movie premiered.

Steve Guttenberg as Carey Mahoney: Police Academy cast

Steve Guttenberg
1987/2023 Getty

As the sleazy but funny Carey Mahoney, lead of the Police Academy cast, Steve Guttenberg broke into the big time after several smaller roles since his first part in the TV movie Something for Joey in 1977. After Police Academy, Guttenberg went on to starring roles in several more ‘80s movies, including the first three sequels of the Police Academy franchise. He played Jack Bonner in Cocoon and Cocoon: The Return, and Michael in Three Men and a Baby and Three Men and a Little Lady. Guttenberg appeared on many TV series in the 2000s, including According to Jim and Veronica Mars.

Guttenberg recently starred as the unfortunate husband in a Lifetime movie called How to Murder Your Husband: The Nancy Brophy Story. He appeared on seven episodes of the recent hit sitcom The Goldbergs as science teacher Dr. Katman. In his personal life, Guttenberg is involved in causes that help homeless and young people. In 2011, he got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

G.W. Bailey as Lt. Thaddeus Harris: Police Academy cast

G.W. Bailey; police academy cast
1984/2017 Getty

As ball-busting Lt. Thaddeus Harris — “Mister Nasty,” who has it in for the academy members — Texan actor G.W. Bailey nails the grumpy boss role. Prior to Police Academy, he played Sergeant Luther Rizzo on M*A*S*H between 1979 and 1983. After, his biggest and most long-lasting role was playing Louie Provenza in The Closer, and later in the spinoff Major Crimes. Bailey’s most recent appearance came in one episode of the TV series Stargirl. While Harris may have been rough, the real-life Bailey has a soft heart: He served as the executive director of Sunshine Kids, a nonprofit that helps children with cancer.

Kim Cattrall as Karen Thompson

Kim Cattrall
1987/2023 Getty

Canadian actress Kim Cattrall — who played Cadet Karen Thompson, a young woman who joins the academy as a bored socialite seeking something different — went on to her main claim to fame: playing Samantha Jones in the legendary HBO series Sex and the City, and the sequel movies. Cattrall’s most recent acting credit was reprising her Samantha role in one episode of And Just Like That …, a Max spinoff of the original show. Before Police Academy, Cattrall earned recognition for her role in Porky’s, another raunchy ‘80s hit.

Bubba Smith as Moses Hightower: Police Academy cast

Bubba Smith; police academy cast
1976/1985 Getty

Texas-born Charles Aaron “Bubba” Smith — an athlete as well as an actor, who played as a defensive lineman for the Baltimore Colts, Oakland Raiders and Houston Oilers – started his post-NFL career with guest appearances on some popular television shows, including Wonder Woman. In Police Academy, Smith played Moses Hightower, a gentle giant who was physically huge but soft-spoken. Smith appeared in several of the sequels. Sadly, he died in 2011 at age 66, having suffered from a debilitating brain disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

Leslie Easterbrook as Debbie Callahan

Leslie Easterbrook
1982/2019 Getty

Nebraska-raised Leslie Easterbrook is mostly known for playing the tough police training instructor Debbie Callahan throughout all seven films of the Police Academy series. But her other main claim to fame is her role as Rhonda Lee on the beloved sitcom, Laverne & Shirley, which ended just prior to Easterbrook’s Sgt. Callahan role. Overall, Easterbrook has 108 acting credits, with recent roles in Give Till It Hurts and The Baby Pact. She appeared for single-episode or short-term runs on many big TV series over the years, including Murder, She Wrote, Ryan’s Hope, Trapper John, M.D. and The Dukes of Hazzard.

A recent article in The Sun noted that Easterbrook, now in her mid-70s, hasn’t aged much. What’s her secret? Leslie, we’re listening!

Donovan Scott as Leslie Barbara: Police Academy cast

Donovan Scott; police academy cast
1984/2013 Ladd Company // Levinson Productions

Donovan Scott, who played Cadet Leslie Barbara in the Police Academy cast, has had roles in more than five dozen films and TV shows, including Back to the Future III. An interesting gig that happens frequently is playing Santa Claus in shows including Santa Switch, Death to Cupid, and Northpole: Open for Christmas. We can totally see Scott as a jolly Santa!

George Gaynes as Eric Lassard

George Gaynes; police academy cast
1984/1994 Ladd Company //

Finnish actor George Gaynes, who played Commandant Eric Lassard in all the Police Academy films, lived to be 98 and died in 2016. But he had a long list of acting credits after Police Academy, including the movies Micki + Maude and Wag the Dog. Gaynes also played the foster father of the titular character in the hit ‘80s TV sitcom Punky Brewster. Gaynes’ final role came in 2003 as Father Robert in Just Married.

For more entertainment classics, keep reading!

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