Sunday, June 25, 2017

Whatever Happened To: The Cast of Step By Step

In a recent running of the weekly bar trivia, our team became bitterly divided over the crucial final question on the old TGIF lineup on ABC. We're all children of the 90s, and we all agreed that Full House debuted first while Boy Meets World and Sabrina the Teenage Witch came later. We also knew that Family Matters and Step by Step were in the middle, but couldn't come to a consensus on which premiered first.

It was especially galling for me because I'd already done one of these "Whatever Happened To" blogs for the Family Matters cast and was planning, sometime, to write one for Step by Step. Thankfully we were satisfied that Steve Urkel wouldn't be crashing his jet pack in Wisconsin if he wasn't already an established TGIF character and put Family Matters first. And as it turned out, Family Matters began in 1989 while Step by Step started two years later.

Step by Step was basically The Brady Bunch with more aggression between the two halves of the blended family. After two single parents impulsively get married while vacationing, they end up moving in with each other and their combined litter of six children; wackiness ensues! The show lasted seven years, moving to CBS for its final season.

So what happened to the Lambert/Foster clan of Port Washington, Wisconsin? Well, I'm going to exclude some of the more minor characters, but otherwise...

Patrick Duffy (Frank Lambert)

The owner of his own construction company, Frank was handier and less bumbling than most of the sitcom dads out there (although he could still be fairly chauvinistic and slovenly). He was a sports enthusiast, especially when it came to the Green Bay Packers. Frank is often shown to be somewhat out of his league when it comes to parenting a blended family, but also strives to be a role model and forge strong bonds with both his children and stepchildren.

Patrick Duffy's first credited acting role came 27 years before Step by Step's premiere. He was already well-known for playing Bobby Ewing in the soap opera Dallas, a role he reprised for a couple of TV movies as well as a Dallas reboot which ran from 2012 to 2014. In addition to small roles in a number of TV movies and shows, Duffy (now 68 years old) had a long-running role as Stephen Logan on The Bold and the Beautiful. His endearingly simple website says he's written a book based on an early role in the science fiction show The Man From Atlantis, and also encourages people to check out a YouTube series of comedy skits where he is harassed by a crab puppet.

Suzanne Somers (Carol Foster-Lambert)

Carol works as a beautician in a home-based studio along with her mother and sister (both of whom were later written out of the series). She is generally portrayed as being a confident, no-nonsense mother, though she sometimes second guesses herself in stressful situations. Carol makes a genuine effort to connect with her stepchildren, although she encounters quite a few bumps along the road.

Following an abusive childhood, Suzanne Somers began modeling and later won small roles in TV shows and movies. Her first major role was as Chrissy Snow on Three's Company, as well as the title role in She's the Sheriff. Somers also gained some recognition as the spokesperson for the Thighmaster. After Step by Step, she co-hosted a brief revival of Candid Camera, appeared on Broadway in a one-woman show, and had a couple of talk shows. Somers now runs an alternative medicine business which sells beauty and health products.

Brandon Call (J.T. Lambert)

Frank's oldest son, J.T. (for John Thomas) was a boorish jock who wasn't too smart academically. However, plenty of episodes showed him making an effort to perform well in school or find a worthwhile career. His learning difficulties were eventually traced to dyslexia. J.T. was also locked in a perpetual battle of insults with Dana.

Brandon Call began appearing in TV and film, having major roles on Santa Barbara, The Charmings, and Baywatch (where he played David Hasselhoff's son) before joining the cast of Step by Step. He was shot in both arms in 1996 during a traffic incident in which another driver inexplicably began menacing him. What happened to Tommy Eugene Lewis, the guy who shot Call? He's still doing somewhere between 41 years and life.

Call dropped out of acting after Step by Step and has stayed out of the limelight since then. He reportedly helps run a San Diego gas station and car wash owned by his parents.

Staci Keanan (Dana Foster)

Dana was an intelligent, outspoken feminist who developed a fierce rivalry with J.T. and generally held dismissive views of the Lambert family. Her haughtiness sometimes earned her a dose of comeuppance, such as when she got a face full of motor oil after mocking J.T. for doing well in an auto repair class and asserting that anyone could master those skills. Much to the surprise of the family as well as herself, Dana began dating J.T.'s similarly uncouth best friend Rich.

Staci Keanan, now 42, is actually one of the stage names for Anastasia Sagorsky. Prior to Step by Step, she appeared as Nicole Bradford on My Two Dads. Although she had a number of minor acting roles in the 21st century, Keanan later opted to pursue a career in law. She graduated from Southwestern Law School in 2013 and is now a practicing attorney in California.

Christine Lakin (Al Lambert)

The only girl in the Lambert household, Al (short for Alicia) was a tough, sarcastic tomboy who usually found little in common with her stepsisters. However, a few episodes showed her being more appreciative of Carol stepping up as her stepmother. In the last season, Al begins to pursue an acting career.

Christine Lakin managed to balance her education and acting, graduating from high school in 1997 and from UCLA in 2003. Her roles after Step by Step were predominantly in independent films and as guest spots in TV shows, although she has also done work in comedy and theater. More recently, she has been focusing on voice acting. Lakin, now 38, provides the voice of Joyce Kinney in Family Guy and Jane in The Walking Dead video game, and has also narrated audiobooks. She plays a tongue-in-cheek version of herself in the TV show Hollywood Darlings, alongside Beverley Mitchell of 7th Heaven and Jodie Sweetin of Full House.

Angela Watson (Karen Foster)

Karen was as a bit of a ditz, obsessed with fashion and aspiring to be a model. Nevertheless, she was also shown to be fairly compassionate to both her siblings and step-siblings, and smart enough to start attending college later in the series. A few episodes focused on Karen's singing talent and pursuit of a country music career.

Angela Watson, now 41, returned to acting only briefly after Step by Step ended, appearing in the film Final Approach as well as the short film Cowboys and Indians. More notably, she established the organization Child Actors Legal Fund (CAST) to provide support for child actors who feel they have been victimized after realizing that her parents had misappropriated some $2.8 million she had earned over the course of Step by Step's run. Watson continues to work with this organization and serve as a spokesperson for HugsAmerica Charity Events.

Josh Byrne (Brendan Lambert)

The youngest member of the Lambert family, Brendan seemed to look up to his older brother in hopes of being a macho guy when he grew up. Yet he was also more accepting of his step-family, generally acting friendly towards Carol and her children. While the show continued to refer to the Foster-Lambert clan as having seven children, Brendan became a more minor character in the sixth season and disappeared altogether in the seventh season.

Josh Byrne, now 33, didn't have any other acting credits after Step by Step. His still accessible MySpace page shows that he developed an interest in art and live action role playing. Beyond that, it's not clear what he's been up to.

Christopher Castile (Mark Foster)

The only male in the Foster family, Mark is your typical sitcom nerd: academically smart, socially awkward, a bit of a wuss, and a little arrogant at times. He became somewhat more adept at dating, playing sports, and interacting with the rest of the family as the show went on. Mark was absent for the majority of the final season, appearing in only eight of 19 episodes.

Christopher Castile's acting career lasted as long as Step by Step did. While working on the show, he also landed roles in the first two Beethoven movies and voiced Eugene Horowitz in several episodes of Hey Arnold! After retiring from acting, Castile earned both a bachelor's degree and master's degree from California State University, Long Beach. Now 37, he works as a history teacher at Downey High School and an adjunct professor of political science at Biola University.

Sasha Mitchell (Cody Lambert)

Cody began appearing in episodes early on and later became a full cast member. A nephew of Frank, he lived in a van in the family's yard and was an absent-minded but good-natured fellow. Certain episodes showed that he was skilled in a number of different areas, including karate and dancing.

Cody mysteriously disappeared partway through the fifth season, with the show awkwardly explaining that he had gotten a job in Russia. This pivot was a result of troubles outside the show, with Sasha Mitchell being accused of violence against his wife. He was arrested in April 1995 for spousal assault, but not booted from the show until after he was sentenced to 60 days in jail in May 1996 for violating his probation. Mitchell would still return to the show for a guest spot in the final season.

Working as an actor and professional kick boxer before getting into acting, most notably in the Kickboxer series of martial arts films, Mitchell appeared as a guest star in several TV shows including JAG, NYPD Blue, and ER. Although he only had one credit in the decade after 2005 (as Rodrigo in Abelar: Tales of an Ancient Empire), he's been busier as of late with credits in films such as Assassin X, Drunk Parents, and the upcoming movies Cyborg Nemesis: The Dark Rift and Algiers. He also sporadically tweets.

Emily Mae Young (Lilly Foster-Lambert)

Like Family Matters before it, I'd outgrown Step by Step by the time it was winding down. I do remember that Lily was introduced simply as the seventh child of the Foster-Lambert clan and the only kid that Frank and Carol had together, but I hardly saw any of the episodes from the last season. That was when Lilly was, in the wonderful words of Wikipedia, given the "soap opera rapid aging syndrome" and advanced to the role of a precocious five-year-old.

After Step by Step, Emily Mae Young only appeared in the movies Undercover Angel and Santa and Pete. She also played a part in commercials for Welch's grape juice. Now 27, Young is...somewhere, I don't know. She dropped off the radar, and I wasn't able to find anything through the wondrous powers of the Interwebs.

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