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Kirstie Alley Young: Take a Look Back at the Career of the ‘Cheers’ Actress

From "Match Game" to "Scream Queens", Kirstie Alley has had quite the career!

The Emmy Award-winning actress, best known for her work on the hit sitcom, Cheers, made a name for herself with her hilarious characters, proving young Kirstie Alley would be a force to be reckoned with. After winning numerous accolades for her time on Cheers and starring in movies alongside other well-known actors, Alley’s career really took off.

Kirstie Alley smiling
Kirstie Alley (2016)

The actress, who passed away in 2022 at the age of 71 from colon cancer. was remembered by friends and loved ones.

Cheers co-star Ted Danson said that he had watched an episode of the show on the plane prior to hearing the news. He wrote, “Kirstie was truly brilliant in it. Her ability to play a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown was both moving and hysterically funny. She made me laugh 30 years ago when she shot that scene, and she made me laugh today just as hard.”

Look Who’s Talking co-star John Travolta wrote in an Instagram post, “Kirstie was one of the most special relationships I’ve ever had. I love you Kirstie. I know we will see each other again.”

Kirstie Alley on the Walk of Fame holding star
Kirstie Alley at her Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony (1995) Getty

Kirstie Alley received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1995 for her contributions to the industry. Her then-husband Parker Stevenson and Danson joined Alley at her acceptance ceremony.

Take a look back at the early career and life of Kirstie Alley young.

Kirstie Alley young: Before fame

Man and woman holding each other
Kirstie Alley and Parker Stevenson (1979) Getty

Kirstie Louise Alley was born on January 12, 1951 in Wichita, Kansas to parents Robert and Lillian Alley. She later attended Kansas State University to study drama, but dropped out to be an interior designer. Alley got married for the first time in 1970 to Bob Alley, who, coincidentally, had the same last name as Kirstie. Bob was Kirstie’s high school sweetheart and they were married a year after graduation. The two divorced in 1977.

Alley turned to drugs to cope with her marriage ending. She became addicted to cocaine for some time, until she found the Church of Scientology, which she credits for her sobriety. Sadly, in 1981, a car accident caused by a drunk driver killed her mother and injured her father.

Kirstie Alley and Leonard Nimoy in 1982's Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Kirstie Alley and Leonard Nimoy in 1982’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan©Paramount Pictures/courtesy

Alley got married for a second time to actor, Parker Stevenson. The two met at a bar, but Alley had no idea Stevenson was a famous actor. She remembers telling her roommate, “For him, I would die,” upon meeting Stevenson.

In 1978, Alley got her first part in the 1970s sitcom Quark, which was uncredited. She was also a contestant on the gameshow Match Game (1979) before she was famous, winning a total of $6,000 on the show. Her appearance is how she was noticed, and it helped to kickstart her career.

Man with arm around woman
Kirstie Alley and Merritt Butrick in “Star Trek: The Wrath Of Khan” (1982)

In 1982, she booked Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan as the Vulcan Saavik, which was her feature-film debut. Over the next few years, Alley had roles in the series Masquerade (1983) and the miniseries North & South (1985).

Alley’s career skyrockets

Cast of Cheers; Kirstie Alley Young
Cast of Cheers (1987) Getty

In 1987, the relatively unknown Alley was brought in to replace Shelley Long on the sitcom Cheers. Though it was difficult to fill the shoes of the talented Long, Alley had no problem making her own hilarious character and helped to re-energize the show.

The series’ co-creator and director, James Burrow, recalled Alley’s start on the series in his book Directed by James Burrows (2022). He said, “There was a lot of pressure being the new kid in school, especially when replacing one of the most popular characters on television at the time … Kirstie pulled it off.”

Man leaning over woman
Ted Danson and Kirstie Alley in Cheers (1987) Productions

Alley portrayed the character of Rebecca Howe, the career hungry, lovable business manager for the Cheers bar. Though her character is initially meant to seem headstrong and tough, eventually she became the clumsy and neurotic Rebecca.

Kirstie Alley holding an award up in the air
Kirstie Alley at the Emmy Awards (1991) Getty

In 1991, Alley won a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series — Comedy, for her performance in Cheers. The same year, Alley won an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.

Alley’s performance in Cheers was a major turning point for her career. It was her breakthrough role and the show that truly started her rise to fame.

RELATED: ‘Cheers’ Cast: 11 Wild Behind-the-Scenes Secrets Revealed

Kirstie Alley young hits the big screen

Man with arm around woman
John Travolta and Kirstie Alley in Look Who’s Talking (1989)

One of Alley’s first major movie roles was in Look Who’s Talking (1989). Starring alongside John Travolta, Alley plays Mollie, a single, career driven woman left to give birth to a married man’s child on her own. She meets James, a cab driver, and finds another chance at love.

Although Alley and Travolta never had a relationship, they were extremely close. Alley even recalled Travolta being “the greatest love of my life.” The two went on to star in two sequels: Look Who’s Talking, Too (1990) and Look Who’s Talking Now (1993).

RELATED: John Travolta Young: Must-See Photos of the Superstar Through the Years

Kirstie Alley holding an Emmy award
Kirstie Alley with an Emmy Award (1994) Getty

Alley’s David’s Mother (1994) saw her winning another Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries. In 1995, Alley starred in It Takes Two with Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. before going on to star in Drop Dead Gorgeous alongside Kirsten Dunst and Denise Richards.

Another series for Alley

Kirstie Alley young
Kirstie Alley in Veronica’s Closet (2000) Productions

In 1997, Alley booked the series Veronica’s Closet, playing romance expert Veronica Chase, who must rebuild her life after leaving her womanizing husband. The series lasted until 2000, but was cancelled due to low ratings.

The actress went on to book multiple movies after her time on the series, among them Salem Witch Trials (2002), Profoundly Normal (2003), Back by Midnight (2004) and While I Was Gone (2004).

Kirstie Alley laying on a man
Kirstie Alley in Fat Actress (2005) Partners

In 2005, Kirstie Alley created her own series titled Fat Actress in which she plays a fictionalized version of herself as an actress trying to lose weight, while also trying to bring her career back to life. The series stars Bryan Callen, Rachael Harris as well as many guest stars like Kelly Preston.

Alley used her show to call out the way Hollywood treats weight gain and uses her own to tell the story. Unfortunately, the show only went one season before it was cancelled.

Kirstie Alley’s personal life

Kirstie Alley with her kids
Kirstie Alley with her kids, True and Lillie (2010) Getty

Alley’s second marriage to Parker Stevenson lasted from 1983 to 1997. The couple adopted two children while they were together — the first was son William True in 1992 followed by daughter Lillie in 1994.

Though Alley was married to Stevenson at the time, she has said — as noted — that she was really in love with John Travolta throughout. Alley once said in an interview, “Believe me, it took everything that I had, inside, outside, whatever, to not run off and marry John. And be with John for the rest of my life.”

Kirstie Alley and John Travolta
Kirstie Alley and John Travolta (2007) Getty

Alley and Stevenson became grandparents in 2016 when their son, who goes by True, had his own child.

Kirstie Alley later life

Kirstie Alley
Kirstie Alley on Scream Queens (2016) Century Fox Television

Alley’s most recent projects were Scream Queens in 2016 and the movie You Can’t Take My Daughter (2020). She also guest starred on The Middle and The Goldbergs.

The actress will always be remembered for her time on Cheers and the number of movies she starred in, but Kirstie Alley young had a career that catapulted her into fame and pulled her into the limelight.

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