Already have an account?
Get back to the

‘Life Goes On’ Cast Then and Now, Plus The Latest News on a Reboot!

See what Corky, Becca and the rest of the Thatcher brood are up to today!


Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da…the hit family series Life Goes On ran on ABC for four seasons, from 1989 through 1993. Centered on the Thatcher family in suburban Chicago, the Life Goes On cast was the first to feature a major character with Down syndrome on TV. The show was created by Michael Braverman, who went on to produce episodes of Chicago Hope and Beverly Hills, 90210. Life Goes On gained a cult following, and is still remembered fondly today.

Fun fact: Each episode’s opening credits ended with a shot of the Thatcher family dog, “Arnold the Semi-Wonder Dog.” Forgotten by the family in their rush to get ready for their day, Arnold sits in the kitchen with his empty food bowl in his mouth.

After everyone has left the house, he resigns to his fate and lets the bowl drop to the floor. The show’s producers had received a constant trickle of letters each week from viewers who thought this was cruel. So in the final episode’s opening credits, after four years of waiting, Arnold is rewarded when a bag of dog food spills out of a cabinet and we see him chow down.

Life Goes On cast then and now

Here, we look back at the groundbreaking, heartfelt drama, and catch up with what the Thatchers are up to today!

Bill Smitrovich as Drew Thatcher

Bill Smitrovich as Drew Thatcher in 1989 and 2022 (Life Goes On Cast)
1989/2022Bob D’Amico/Contributor/Getty Images; Amanda Edwards/Contributor/Getty Images

Understanding, supportive, dependable… Drew Thatcher was the quintessential ’90s family man on Life Goes On. And as a result of this role, Bill Smitrovich has involved himself in raising public consciousness and sensitivity of Down syndrome, hosting the annual “Life Goes On Celebrity Golf Classic” for the Down Syndrome Association of Los Angeles.

In the decades since the show ended, Smitrovich has guest-starred in countless other TV shows, including Law & Order: SVU, Criminal Minds, 24, Desperate Housewives and Grey’s Anatomy. He held a recurring role on the hit ABC show The Practice from 2001 through 2004. He then went on to CBS’ Without a Trace through 2008. 

RELATED: 12 Startling Behind-the-Scenes Secrets You Didn’t Know About ‘Desperate Housewives’

Smitrovich also found his calling playing a handful of military roles in blockbuster films, including Independence Day (1996) and Air Force One (1997).

Now 76 years old, Smitrovich shares two children with Shaw Purnell, son A.J, 37, and daughter Maya, 33.

Fun fact: Smitrovich guest-starred on an episode of the ABC hit Brothers & Sisters in 2007, which featured a well-known ensemble cast, including Rob Lowe, famous brother of Life Goes On‘s Chad Lowe.

Patty LuPone as Libby Thatcher

Patti LuPone as Libby Thatcher in 1989 and 2023 (Life Goes On Cast)
1989/2023Bob D’Amico/Contributor/Getty Images; Cindy Ord/Staff/Getty Images

Patti LuPone was no stranger to acting (or singing!) when she signed on to play the fiercely protective and loving matriarch, Libby Thatcher, on Life Goes On. Having made her broadway debut in 1973, she’s been nominated for eight Tony Awards, three of which she won for her roles in Evita (1980), Gypsy (2008) and Company (2022).

In addition to her legendary Broadway status, LuPone appeared in a round of guest shots over the years on shows like Law & Order, Frasier, Army Wives, Touched by an Angel and Will & Grace, on which she hilariously spoofed her diva image. She also had a recurring spot on the critically-acclaimed Oz.

RELATED: ‘Law & Order’ Cast: 16 of Our Favorite Stars Then and Now

Most recently, LuPone played Kathy Pizazz, a cabaret singer on Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story: NYC. And she had a supporting role in the comedy Beau is Afraid — which is getting some early Oscar buzz for 2024 — alongside Joaquin Phoenix and Nathan Lane.

The 74-year-old has been married since 1988 to camera operator Matthew Johnston, with whom she shares a son, Josh, 33.

Fun fact: The opening theme song of Life Goes On featured the cast recording The Beatles’ “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” led by LuPone.

Tracey Needham as Paige Thatcher

Tracey Needham as Paige Thatcher in 1991 and 2006
1991/2006ABC Photo Archives/Contributor/Getty Images; Hallmark Channel/

Originally played by Monique Lanier in season 1, the role of Paige Thatcher was recast to Tracey Needham. Paige was Drew’s daughter from his first marriage, making her the stepdaughter of Libby. She is protective of her stepbrother, Corky, and often clashes with stepsister Becca.

As a hippie of the ’90s, much of Paige’s storyline revolves around her various dating escapades. Reflecting back on her big break as Paige, Needham recalled, ” I learned for the first time how to hit a mark, developed confidence and became comfortable with myself.”

She went on to star in a host of TV movies and shows, most notably JAG, from 1995 to 1996, and Lifetime’s all-female cop show The Division from 2001 to 2003, alongside heavy hitters Bonnie Bedelia, Nancy McKeon, Lisa Vidal and Oscar-nominated actress Taraji P. Henson.

Needham married actor Tommy Hinkley in January of 1995 and they have a daughter, Katie, born in 1999. After stepping away from acting in 2010, Needham moved to Colorado, where she and Hinkley opened a children’s acting school.

Fun fact: In The Division, Needham was paired up with heartthrob Jon Hamm as her partner. The two had such instant chemistry that fans would speculate a “will they or won’t they?” romance across two seasons. But Needham was written off after her character was involved in a shootout that left her just shy of falling into her partner’s arms and getting her fairy-tale ending.

MUST-READ: ‘Mad Men’ Cast Then and Now: Where Are They Today?

Chris Burke as Corky Thatcher in the Life Goes On cast

Chris Burke as Corky Thatcher in 1990 and 2008
1990/2008ABC/; Jamie McCarthy/Staff/Getty Images

As the first prime-time TV star with Down syndrome, Chris Burke had a lot of weight on his shoulders. But under his care, the lovable Corky Thatcher possessed a charisma and charm that made him easy to root for.

When Life Goes On ended, Burke’s parents, Frank and Marian, thought it might be the end of Chris’ performing career. To their surprise, he moved on to a new passion — music. In 1993, he recorded his first album with childhood friends and camp counselors Joe and John DeMasi, who are twins. Three more albums followed.

Burke has since made appearances on numerous TV shows and movies, most notably co-starring with JoBeth Williams in the NBC Movie of the Week Jonathan: The Boy Nobody Wanted. He also played a janitor in the 2003 Julia Roberts film Mona Lisa Smile.

Though Burke, now 58, never married, his character on Life Goes On did marry Amanda Swanson, played by Andrea Fay Friedman. Sadly, she passed away earlier this month from complications due to Alzheimer’s. The two were the first couple with Down syndrome to be featured on a prime-time TV show.

Kellie Martin as Becca Thatcher in the Life Goes On cast

Kellin Martin as Becca Thatcher in 1990 and 2022 (Life Goes On Cast)
1990/2022Instagram: @thekelliemartin; Rodin Eckenroth/Stringer/Getty Images

Kellie Martin was no stranger to Hollywood before taking on the role of intelligent, socially awkward Becca Thatcher as part of the Life Goes On cast. She was a frequent guest star on ’80s shows, including Highway to Heaven, My Two Dads, Thirtysomething and Charles In Charge. Martin also had a prominent role in the Shelley Long 1989 campy cult classic film Troop Beverly Hills.

Since Life Goes On wrapped, Martin went on to star in a number of made-for-TV movies. One of which (Christy) even went on to expand into a TV series that ran for a full season, where Martin starred alongside the Broadway legend Tyne Daly. Martin later starred in NBC’s ER from 1998 through 2000.

RELATED:  Cast of ‘ER’ Then and Now: Catch Up With the Stars of the Iconic Medical Drama

In 2012, Martin played Army Captain Nicole Galassini on the Lifetime Network television series Army Wives, where she was reunited with TV mom Patti LuPone.

Life Goes On cast then & now: Kellie Martin and Patty LuPone on Army Wives
From left: Ryan Michelle Bathe, Kellie Martin and Patti LuPone on Army WivesInstagram: @thekelliemartin

In 2016, Martin was cast in a new Hallmark Movies & Mysteries Channel show Hailey Dean Mystery as the protagonist, Hailey Dean, who is a former prosecutor turned therapist and solves mysteries.

Today, at 48, Martin continues to act, produce, direct and advocate for those living with autoimmune diseases. She became the national spokesperson for lupus after her sister died from the disease at just 19 years old.

Martin married attorney Keith Christian in 1999, and they share two daughters, Maggie, 17, and Olivia, 7.

Tommy Puett as Tyler Benchfield in the Life Goes On cast

Tommy Puett as Tyler Benchfield in 1992 and 2021
1992/2021Dianna Whitley/Contributor/Getty Images; X: @TommyPuett

What teenage girl of the ’90s didn’t have a poster on her wall of Tommy Puett? As the mullet-sporting jock with a sensitive side, Puett quickly shot to heartthrob status as Corky’s best friend, then Becca’s first boyfriend. But he only made it through the 21st episode of season 3 (“Confessions”), when Tyler was killed off after he crashed his car while driving under the influence (with Corky in the passenger seat!). In a time before spoilers were rampant, viewers were left stunned as Corky, who was temporarily rendered mute after the accident.

Promo shot for Life Goes On 3.21,
Instagram: @thekelliemartin

Not long after leaving the Life Goes On cast, Puett retired from acting in 1997. He went on to pursue a career in business, eventually founding Ultra Sport Products.

Now 52, Puett and his wife, Robin, have two children, now grown, Ralph Thomas Puett IV (aka “Cubby”) and Cameron.

Chad Lowe as Jesse McKenna in the Life Goes On cast

Chad Lowe as Jesse McKenna in 1992 and 2023
1992/2023Fotos International/Contributor/Getty Images; Instagram: ichadlowe

Chad Lowe joined the Life Goes On cast in the third season as a love interest for Becca. He played cool, mysterious Jesse McKenna, a teen with HIV, which would later progress into full-blown AIDS. Beautifully written and bravely depicted, Chad Lowe earned himself a well-deserved Emmy Award for his role.

After Life Goes On, Lowe continued to act in TV shows and movies, including stints on Melrose Place, ER and 24. In April of 2010, Lowe joined the Freeform show Pretty Little Liars, which saw him reunite with former Melrose Place love interest Laura Leighton. Lowe remained in the role until the show’s end in 2017, and also directed a handful of episodes.

RELATED: ‘Melrose Place’ Cast Then and Now: Catch Up With the Stars of the Hit ’90s Drama

Lowe went on to direct episodes on shows including Law & Order: SVU, Brothers & Sisters, Rizzoli & Isles, Bones, 9-1-1 and most recently, the new NBC hit Found.

This year, Lowe appeared alongside and directed big brother Rob on the latter’s hit FOX show 9-1-1: Lone Star, along with Rob’s son, John Owen Lowe, making it a true family affair.

Lowe was formerly married to A-list actress Hilary Swank, but they divorced after 10 years of marriage. He has been married to casting director and producer Kim Painter since 2010. They share three daughters: Mabel, 14, Fiona, 11, and Nixie, 7.

Life Goes On cast: Chad Lowe with his family at a Taylor Swift concert in 2023
Chad Lowe with his family at a Taylor Swift concert #SwiftieDadInstagram: ichadlowe

Life Goes On Reboot

In 2021, TVLine reported that a Life Goes On reboot was in the works, with Kellie Martin and Chad Lowe serving as producers, and Martin cast as the lead. The series would follow a grown-up Becca, now a doctor, who returns home to reconnect with her extended family.

When asked about the possibility of a revival back in 2018, Martin and Lowe assured Extra they could get LuPone and Burke to join. Martin said, “I feel like it would be really interesting to see where Corky is today. He still is amazing, and I think it would be really interesting to see what his needs are and how he navigates his life today.”

In 2015, Kellie Martin, Chris Burke and Patti LuPone shared a joyful, tear-filled mini reunion on Hallmark Channel’s Home & Family:

Click through for more nostalgic 1990s TV nostalgia, or keep reading!

Party of Five’ Cast Then & Now: Catch Up With the Salinger Siblings Today

‘Married…with Children’ Cast Then and Now: Catch Up With The Bundy Clan

‘Roseanne’ Cast Then and Now: A Look Back at the Stars of the Groundbreaking Comedy

Use left and right arrow keys to navigate between menu items. Use right arrow key to move into submenus. Use escape to exit the menu. Use up and down arrow keys to explore. Use left arrow key to move back to the parent list.