When Married… with Children first aired on April 5, 1987, it broke the mold for family sitcoms. Unlike the picture-perfect families on shows like Family Ties, The Cosby Show, and Growing Pains, the Bundy crew was dysfunctional, sarcastic and always bickering. Yet the show stayed on the air for eleven seasons, making it one of the longest-running sitcoms in history thanks to its shock-value humor (spoiler alert: not all of the jokes aged well) and the comedic chemistry among the Married… with Children cast. Here are some surprising facts you may not have known about the talented cast and what they’re up to now.
Ed O’Neill as Al Bundy
Ed O’Neill was pursuing a career as a stage actor when he was offered the role of the Bundy family patriarch, a bitter Chicago shoe salesman who spends his time loafing on the couch and reminiscing about his glory days as a high school football player.
O’Neill’s agent wanted him to focus on more serious roles instead, but he couldn’t pass up the opportunity — or the steady paycheck. “By the eighth season, I was the highest-paid actor on television, making almost a million dollars a show,” he told Wealthsimple Magazine in 2021.
After Married… with Children ended, O’Neill appeared in a handful of movies before landing the role of Jay Pritchett on the TV series Modern Family (2009-2020), which earned him three Emmy nods and four Screen Actors Guild Awards. O’Neill also lent his voice to the animated movies Wreck-It Ralph (2012) and Finding Dory (2016), and in 2023, he starred in the miniseries The Sterling Affairs.
Did you know?
Like Al Bundy, O’Neill is a former football star! He played defense for Ohio University and was signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers. But after he was cut during training camp, O’Neill headed back to his hometown of Youngstown, Ohio, and got involved in the theater program at the local university.
Katey Sagal as Peggy Bundy
In 1985, newcomer actress Katey Sagal beat out Kathy Bates for the role of Jo Tucker, Mary Tyler Moore’s sharp-tongued coworker on the TV series Mary. But the show was cancelled after its first season, and Sagal went on to audition Married… with Children.
The character of Peggy was originally written as a drab couch potato, but Sagal showed up to the audition with a bouffant and six-inch heels. She landed the part, and Peggy Bundy became the brassy, bon-bon-eating matriarch audiences loved.
Since the show ended, Sagal has enjoyed a prolific career in Hollywood. She voiced the one-eyed Leela on Futurama (1999-present) and played the wife of John Ritter’s character on 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter (2002-2005). In 2008, she landed the role of the fierce motorcycle club matriarch Gemma Teller Morrow on Sons of Anarchy, which ran for seven seasons. And she’s appeared in guest roles on shows like Glee, The Big Bang Theory, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and Shameless. Sagal lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter, and their daughter.
Did you know?
Christina Applegate as Kelly Bundy
Born and raised in Hollywood, Christina Applegate first appeared on screen as an infant in a commercial for baby bottles. She played a young Grace Kelly in a TV biopic and landed guest roles on classic sitcoms like Charles in Charge and Silver Spoons. But it was her role as the beautiful but airheaded Kelly Bundy that launched her into superstardom.
While Married… with Children was still on the air, Applegate starred in the 1991 cult classic Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitters Dead and hosted Saturday Night Live. Since the show ended, she’s had starring roles in Jesse, Samantha Who?, and Dead to Me, along with an Emmy-winning guest spot on Friends as Rachel’s insufferable sister. She also landed major movie roles in the Anchorman series, Vacation, and Bad Moms.
After being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, Applegate underwent a double mastectomy and made a full recovery. But in 2021, Applegate revealed that she has multiple sclerosis. After struggling to finish filming the final season of Dead to Me due to her diagnosis, Applegate told Vanity Fair she’s unlikely to work on-camera again, but hopes to continue with voice work. She currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband, musician Martyn LeNoble, and their daughter.
Did you know?
Even Applegate’s biggest fans might not realize she was a founding member of the burlesque troupe The Pussycat Dolls! For years, the group performed a weekly show at the Viper Room, a West Hollywood club co-owned by Johnny Depp. Applegate left before the group was recast as a mainstream pop music act.
David Faustino as Bud Bundy
David Faustino got an early start in show business — he appeared on the Lily Tomlin Special when he was just three months old! As a child actor, he had bit roles in TV shows like Family Ties and The Love Boat before landing his breakout role as Bud, the awkward and scheming younger brother.
Since Married… with Children ended, Faustino has mostly focused on voice work, including roles in Not Another B Movie, DreamWorks Dragons, and this year’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem.
Did you know?
Faustino and Applegate weren’t the first choice to play Bud and Kelly. But after filming the original pilot with different actors, producers felt the chemistry was off, and the roles were recast with Faustino and Applegate. It was a lucky twist of fate for both of them — and for the viewers, because we can’t imagine anyone else as the Bundy siblings.
Amanda Bearse as Marcy D’Arcy
Amanda Bearse studied directing at the American Film Institute and the University of Southern California before making her debut on the soap opera All My Children. A few small movie roles and TV guest spots later, she landed the role of the Peggy’s next-door neighbor and best friend Marcy, a feminist who frequently clashes with the boorish Al.
Bearse directed 31 episodes of Married… with Children, and later went on to direct episodes of various shows including Reba and Mad TV. But apart from a few small roles here and there, Bearse has maintained a relatively low profile after Married… with Children. She resides in Seattle with her wife and daughter, where she teaches at a film school.
Did you know?
The bad blood between Marcy and Al wasn’t just good acting — Bearse and O’Neill clashed on set. Bearse once said there was “no love lost” between them, and O’Neill has said Bearse was the only member of the Married… with Children cast he didn’t get along with.
Ted McGinley as Jefferson D’Arcy
Ted McGinley got his start in show business after a college girlfriend suggested he try modeling and a casting director spotted him in a Valentino ad. He landed his first recurring role in the later seasons of Happy Days and played the frat-boy antagonist Stan Gable in Revenge of the Nerds.
He had regular roles on The Love Boat and Dynasty before he was added to the Married… with Children cast in 1991. McGinley played Marcy’s second husband Jefferson D’Arcy, a bartender who turns out to be a former CIA agent and ex-convict. After the show ended, McGinley had recurring roles on Sports Night, The West Wing, and Hope & Faith, and he competed in the seventh season of Dancing with the Stars. Most recently, he’s had a recurring role on the TV series Shrinking. McGinley lives in Los Angeles with his wife of 32 years, actress Gigi Rice.
Did you know?
McGinley played for the U.S. Junior National water polo team and was also a two-time MVP of the water polo team at the University of Southern California — the same alma mater as his future TV wife, Amanda Bearse!
David Garrison as Steve Rhoades
After graduating from Boston University’s College of Fine Arts in 1974, David Garrison pursued a career in theater, including a Tony-nominated performance in the Broadway musical A Day in Hollywood / A Night in the Ukraine. In 1984, he landed a role on the sitcom It’s Your Move. The show was cancelled at the end of its its first season, but show creators Ron Leavitt and Michael G. Moye tapped Garrison to work on a new show they were developing.
Garrison joined the Married… with Children cast as Marcy’s first husband, stuffy banker Steve Rhoades, but he missed performing on stage and left the show after four seasons. While he’s continued to make guest appearances on various TV shows throughout the years — including 30 Rock, The West Wing, and Law & Order cast — his focus has been on theater. One of his most well-known stage roles has been the Wizard of Oz in both the Broadway production and first national tour of Wicked.
Did you know?
Garrison brought his love for theater to the Married…with Children set — his character, Steve, often hummed songs by the 19th-century theatrical duo Gilbert & Sullivan.
News on the Married…with Children animated reboot
It was confirmed in 2022 that an animated revival of Married… with Children is in development with the original cast — Ed O’Neill, Katey Sagal, Christina Applegate and David Faustino — set to reprise their roles as the Bundy family.
Alex Carter, a co-executive producer on Family Guy, is writing the animated version of the beloved sitcom and will serve as executive producer and showrunner for Sony Pictures, however, it has not been determined which network or streaming service it will be produced for and no timeframe has been announced. But we will wait with baited breath!
Read on for more 90s nostalgia…