It’s been 38 years since the hit show Growing Pains first aired on ABC earning numerous accolades, including two Primetime Emmys and six Young Artist Awards. The series ran from 1985 to 1992 and its seven seasons became one of ABC’s most popular and enduring programs.
The cast reunited in 2000 for the made-for-TV The Growing Pains Movie, and again in 2004 for Growing Pains: Return of the Seavers. Then, in 2020, 35 years after the sitcom premiered, the actors had a virtual reunion to reflect on their favorite memories from the series.
The wholesome, feel-good ‘80s sitcom, famously followed the many misadventures of the colorful Seaver clan who lived in Huntington, Long Island. The Seaver family, led by the affable and wise Dr. Jason Seaver (played by Alan Thicke) and his loving wife, Maggie (played by Joanna Kerns), quickly became a beloved part of households across the nation. Along with their children — Mike (Kirk Cameron), Carol (Tracey Gold), Ben (Jeremy Miller), and the youngest, Chrissy (Ashley Johnson) — they navigated the trials and tribulations of growing up. A little-known Leonardo DiCaprio even joined the cast in the last season, portraying Mike’s homeless friend Luke Brower, who was taken in by the Seaver family.
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Why was the show so successful? In part because Kirk Cameron quickly became a teen heartthrob and drew a strong audience. But also the chemistry of the cast made the show TV magic. “We were a family,” Cameron told Today.com. “We laughed and cried together, shared birthday celebrations, Christmas parties, holidays and worked together with the crew as a team to make a really special TV show. In many ways, we were a real family.”
Here, a look back at the Growing Pains cast.
Alan Thicke as Dr. Jason Seaver
Alan Thicke was the patriarch of the Seaver family, providing valuable life lessons with humor and compassion. His character, Dr. Jason Seaver, was a psychiatrist who decided to move his successful practice into his home and become a stay-at-home dad to help raise his children while his wife Maggie returns to her job as a reporter. Jason always tries to be there for his family and provide guidance and insight, but finds himself in an array of amusing situations and misadventures while managing the household.
Thicke starred in all seven seasons of Growing Pains and earned a Golden Globe nomination for his performance.
Thicke outside Growing Pains
Born in Ontario, Canada, on March 1, 1947, Thicke got his start hosting the Canadian game show First Impressions in the 1970s. Before landing the career-defining role on Growing Pains, he had his own talk show The Alan Thicke Show, which ran from 1980-1982, followed by Thicke of the Night, which aired in 1983.
After the success of Growing Pains, he went on to appear in films like Stepmonster, Raising Helen, Alpha Dog, and That’s My Boy. He also had prominent roles on the small screen in shows like Hope & Gloria, Married…with Children, The Bold and the Beautiful, How I Met Your Mother, and Fuller House. He even hosted the Pictionary game show in 1997.
Then, in 2014, he starred in the reality show Unusually Thicke which focused on his relationship with his third wife, Tanya, and his teenage son, Carter. Thicke had two other sons, Brennan and Robin (the latter is a singer and songwriter best known for his song Blurred Lines).
Alan Thicke passed away on December 13, 2016, at age 69, after having a heart attack while playing ice hockey with his son Carter.
Did you know? Thicke beat out 150 other actors for the role in Growing Pains.
Joanna Kerns as Maggie Seaver
As the strong and nurturing matriarch, Joanna Kerns played Maggie, a working mom who manages to balance her career and family. Kearns auditioned opposite Thicke and the duo had instant chemistry which resulted in them landing the coveted lead roles.
Kerns began her career with guest spots on popular ’70s and ’80s classics like Charlie’s Angels, The A-Team, Starsky & Hutch, and Magnum P.I. After Growing Pains she appeared in the shows The Closer and Chicago Hope as well as TV movies Love, Honor & Obey: The Last Mafia Marriage and No One Would Tell. She also appeared in smaller roles in films like Knocked Up and Girl, Interrupted.
Kerns then turned from acting to directing. Her directing credits included episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, Dawson’s Creek, Pretty Little Liars, This Is Us, ER, Scrubs and Fuller House.
Kerns was married twice; to Richard Kerns from 1976-1985 and Marc Appleton from 1995-2019. She has one daughter, Ashley Kerns.
Did you know? Alan Thicke and Joanna Kerns considered dating when they were cast as Jason and Maggie Seaver. Thicke told Huffington Post that they agreed to keep things platonic when they realized how bad their working relationship could become if their romance fizzled.
Kirk Cameron As Mike Seaver
Kirk Cameron’s portrayal of the mischievous and charming Mike Seaver endeared him to fans worldwide and made him an instant heartthrob. He played the rebellious eldest Seaver sibling, who was always getting into trouble and preferred to focus on girls rather than crack open a book and study. Cameron was just 15 years old when he began playing the character. His sister Candace Cameron also dominated the small screen, as she famously portrayed D.J. Tanner on Full House.
After earning teen idol status on Growing Pains, Cameron spent two years on another show, the aptly titled Kirk.
Cameron’s entertainment work then shifted to be based in his evangelical Christian faith. Since 2000, he has appeared in films with religious themes including Saving Christmas, Fireproof and Left Behind. In 2020 he authored a Christian children’s book As You Grow. Cameron has hosted the Evangelical television show The Way of the Pastor and Takeaways with Kirk Cameron.
Did you know? Cameron married Chelsea Noble, who played his girlfriend Kate on Growing Pains. Together, they have six children, four of whom are adopted.
Tracey Gold as Carol Seaver
Tracey Gold portrayed Carol Seaver, the intelligent and determined older sister. Carol is known as the brains of the Seaver clan and is a decorated honor roll student with big aspirations and goals in life. Admired for her brilliance, Carol often wishes to be appreciated for being cute instead, and struggled with self-image issues over the course of the sitcom series.
Actress Gold, too, dealt with body issues and battled anorexia during the show’s run. She was suspended from the sitcom in 1991 in order for her to manage her health. The experience made Gold an advocate for women’s health and she has been vocal about the dangers of eating disorders. In 2003, she wrote a book Room to Grow: An Appetite for Life about her personal experience.
After Growing Pains, Gold starred in a slew of made-for-TV movies in the ’90s, including For the Love of Nancy, Lady Killer, and Face of Evil. She also appeared in shows like Touched by an Angel and Melissa & Joey. She even starred in the reality series Worst Cooks in America.
Gold married Roby Marshall in October 1994 after meeting him through TV mom Joanna Kerns. The couple have four sons: Sage, Bailey, Aiden and Dylan.
Did you know? Tracey Gold wasn’t the first choice to play Carol. Another actress, Elizabeth Ward, played the character in the unaired original pilot. Gold’s family ended their vacation early in order for her to get a second chance at the role. It worked! Producers replaced Ward with Gold.
Jeremy Miller as Ben Seaver
The rambunctious and mischievous Ben Seaver idolizes his big brother Mike and views him as a role model. The character of Ben brought laughter to the show. He was the youngest until his character’s sister was born on his 12th birthday. Jeremy Miller was only nine years old when he began playing Ben.
While on Growing Pains, he was also the voice of Linus in multiple Charlie Brown TV specials. He also appeared in episodes of the children’s mystery series Ghostwriter.
However, Miller only acted sporadically over recent years. He appeared in the reality show Celebrity Fit Club. His most recent credit included a small role in the 2021 film True to the Game.
Did you know? Miller has been vocal about his struggles with alcoholism which began at a young age. He is open about his sobriety story in an effort to help others and raise awareness.
Ashley Johnson as Chrissy Seaver
Ashley Johnson nabbed the role of Chrissy after making her acting debut in the Jean-Claude Van Damme film Lionheart. She joined the cast of Growing Pains in 1990. She was only six, but stayed until the end of the series. The sitcom was a launching pad for the actress. She went on to appear in a number of films including What Women Want, Blindspot, and The Avengers.
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Johnson also found success in voice acting. She had roles in video games including a spot in The Last of Us.
Did you know? The character of Chrissy Seaver was originally played by twins Kelsey and Kirsten Dohring. Ashley Johnson didn’t get the role until season five. She then played Chrissy for the last two seasons.
Leonardo DiCaprio as Luke Brower
Leonardo DiCaprio got his start on season seven of Growing Pains portraying Mike’s homeless friend Luke Brower. He was eventually taken in by the Seaver family and was a regular during the last season. DiCaprio was nominated for a Young Artist Award for his stint on the show.
The year after the Growing Pains finale, DiCaprio played a boy with an intellectual disability in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. His role earned him his first Oscar nomination.
Since then, it’s all been uphill for the actor. In the ‘90s he did a slew of big-budget films including Basketball Diaries, Romeo + Juliet and the blockbuster hit Titanic.
DiCaprio’s popularity continued to grow the following decade. He had starring roles in hits like Catch Me If You Can, Blood Diamond, and The Wolf of Wall Street. He won the Academy Award for Best Actor for The Revenant.
Did you know? The producers cast Leonardo DiCaprio in season seven of Growing Pains in hopes of drawing young viewers. It worked!
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