In the late 1980’s, Americans huddled around their TV to catch up with the well-loved Seaver family on the wholesome, coming of age family sitcom, Growing Pains. The main casts Dr. and Mrs. Seaver took care of their three children Mike, Carol, Ben and later a fourth, Chrissy in their home at 15 Robin Hood Lane in Long Island, New York.
The family grew up on TV for seven seasons from 1985 to 1992 and viewers nationwide followed them as they faced all of the life’s challenges that were thrown in along the way. Here is another look at the beloved sitcom to make you feel like you and the Seavers still got each other. Read on to find out how the cast turned to be, how two cast members fell in love on set, and how the cast has paid tribute to Alan Thicke.
12. Alan Thicke as Dr. Jason Seaver
The father of the Seaver family was Dr. Jason Seaver, who was a psychiatrist worked out of his home and took care of the kids while his wife was at work. Dr. Seaver was played by Canadian actor Alan Thicke. Alan Thicke was not the original choice for the role of Dr. Seaver, as the producers originally wanted Bruce Willis. Since he didn’t work out, Alan won the role since no one else fit the bill.
Sadly, on Dec. 13, 2016, Alan Thicke suffered a heart attack at age 69 while playing hockey with his teenage son Carter. Tributes from friends, family, and co-stars poured in after the actor’s passing. “My Father passed away today,” shared Robert Thicke in an Instagram post. “He was the best man I ever knew. The best friend I ever had. Let’s all rejoice and celebrate the joy he brought to every room he was in. We love you, Alan Thicke. Thank you for your love. Love, your grateful son.”
11. Joanna Kerns as Maggie Seaver
Maggie Seaver was the mother of the Seaver family. At the beginning of the show, she was going back to her career as a journalist, leaving her husband to take care of the house while she was away. Maggie Seaver was played by actress Joanna Kerns. Joanna pursued acting after she dropped out of college and moved to New York City.
She starred in minor TV roles before landing the role of Maggie Seaver in 1984. After Growing Pains, she appeared in some TV movies along with big-screen roles. The actress has now largely shifted on to behind-the-camera work, with directing stints including episodes of Pretty Little Liars, Jane the Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
10. Kirk Cameron as Mike Seaver
Mike Seaver was the eldest of the Seaver children and was known for being a ladies’ man and sometimes dim-witted. The role was played by actor Kirk Cameron. He started acting at the age of 9 when he was in a commercial for a breakfast cereal.
Since then he started to appear on different shows and films before finally being cast on Growing Pains in 1985. Kirk Cameron was said to have landed the role because he seemed kind of ditzy. After his audition, one of the producers told the other, “He’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he sounds like Mike.” Despite the criticism he won the role and soared into popularity, becoming a teen heartthrob of the 1980s.
Today, Kirk’s entertainment work is based on his Christian faith. He’s appeared in films with religious themes including Saving Christmas, Fireproof and the Left Behind series. Kirk Cameron has been married to Chelsea Noble, who played his girlfriend Kate on Growing Pains, since 1991; together, they have six children.
9. Tracey Gold as Carol Seaver
Carol Seaver was the second eldest Seaver child and for a time, the only daughter. She was known to be book smart and was an honor student. The bookish teen was played by actress Tracey Gold. Tracey had been acting since the age of 4 in several TV shows and films.
Although she auditioned for the role of Carol Seaver in 1985, she was not the first choice. Producers originally cast actress Elizabeth Ward, but since test audiences did not like her in that role, producers called Tracey Gold back to audition again and she immediately took over.
She battled anorexia as a young actress even while the sitcom was running, but eventually recovered and wrote about her struggles in a 2003 memoir. She’s been scoring TV and movie appearances since finishing Growing Pains and has bagged hosting gigs on GSN Live and Secret Life of a Soccer Mom.
8. Jeremy Miller as Ben Seaver
The youngest Seaver (for the first few seasons) was Benjamin “Ben” Hubert Horatio Humphrey Seaver, whose name comes from the famous senator from Minnesota who was also the vice president under Lyndon B. Johnson. Ben Seaver was played by young actor Jeremy Miller who had starred in commercials before he was cast in Growing Pains.
Working with a family at such a young age would definitely cause someone to grow attached pretty quickly. Miller was so fond of his make-believe family that “when the season was over, he’d cry,” shared Joanna Kerns in an interview with People Magazine.
The actor has mostly avoided the spotlight since Growing Pains, aside from a few small roles. In 2014, Jeremy admitted that he had struggled with alcoholism for years before successfully treating the problem with counseling, therapy, and an anti-alcoholism drug. He’s now a patient advocate at a clinic in Santa Ana, California.
7. Ashley Johnson as Chrissy Seaver
The youngest child, Chrissy Seaver, was born in October 1988, joining Growing Pains in its fourth season. Since there are a different set of laws for child actors working a certain amount of hours on set, the role of Chrissy was originally played by a set of uncredited twin girls.
In season five, she was played by toddler twin girls and after the season, writers advanced Chrissy’s age by six years for the succeeding seasons so that she could have a more prominent role on the show. For the remaining two seasons, she was played by actress Ashley Johnson.
Ashley Johnson has been steadily scoring roles in movies and TV since leaving the Seaver household, appearing in everything from What Women Want to Blindspot. In 2013, she played the role of Ellie in the video game The Last of Us and its downloadable content Left Behind, which she won two BAFTA Awards for her performance.
6. Leonardo DiCaprio as Luke Bower
In an attempt to save the show by the seventh season, writers introduced young teen Luke Bower as a series regular. Luke first appears on the show as one of Mike’s students in the remedial classes that he teaches. But when Mike finds out that Luke is homeless, he convinces his parents to let Luke stay at the Seaver’s home making Luke a regular on the show. Luke Bower was played by a then-unknown and baby-faced Leonardo DiCaprio.
The year after the finale, Leonardo played a mentally challenged boy in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, which earned him his first Oscar nomination. Since then, it’s basically all been skyward for the actor, who took home an Academy Award in 2016 for The Revenant after a total of six nominations. Who doesn’t know Leonardo anyway?
5. Real Chemistry
Joanna Kerns and Alan Thicke actually auditioned together for the roles of the Seaver father and mother. When they met, it was instant chemistry. Both came from divorces and were newly single parents. They became good friends and their chemistry gained them the parts on the show.
Years later, Alan Thicke shared that he and Joanna actually considered dating. He said, “We made the very intelligent decision that the show might last longer than a relationship would, so would it be smart to just be friends and have that little bit of chemistry and preserve that, instead of going the other direction, which is fraught with peril?”
When Leonardo DiCaprio came into the show, Jeremy Miller, who played the youngest son, did feel a little bit threatened. On Oprah’s Where Are They Now? series, Jeremy admitted, “There was a little bit of competition there. I have to admit, it bothered me a little bit that the network felt necessary to bring him in rather than focusing on my character who had now grown up and could kind of take over for Mike as the rapscallion, whatever you wanted. So yeah, that was a little weird.”
Jeremy doesn’t seem too upset about it, adding “But we got along great. We hung out. I mean, we were close in age. He’s only about a year older than me, so we would mess around on the set, hang out together. We ran lines together. So, we were good friends on the set.”
3. From Reel To Real Romance
After Julie McCullough’s exit from the show, she was replaced with a new love interest for Mike, Kate MacDonald who was played by Chelsea Noble. In 2013 Kirk remembered on meeting the love of his life saying, “I came home and my mom said to me…’She’s even more beautiful on the inside than she is on the outside. … I just want you to know, if you ever meet a girl and you get married, I hope she’s someone just like her’…Four years later, I married her.”
Chelsea and Kirk got married in real life in 1991, just a year before the Growing Pains season finale, in which Mike proposes to Kate. They are now both born-again Christians and have six children, four of which are adopted. In recent years, they’ve founded The Firefly Foundation which gives terminally ill children a week of free vacation with their families.
2. Copycat Show?
Despite its success, people criticized Growing Pains for being a spin-off of other popular shows that aired during the ’80s. At first, they thought that the plot of Growing Pains was almost similar to that of The Cosby Show. But the creator of the show, Neal Marlens, brushed this off as a minor coincidence since he based the show off of his own parent’s dynamics and occupations.
Other people say that Growing Pains is similar to Family Ties. The shows both lasted for seven seasons and had the same amount of family members, even adding a new family member in the middle of the series. But either way, its now considered a classic.
Growing Pains ended in 1992, but fans of the show celebrated when the original cast was brought back together for two reunion movies. In 2000, The Growing Pains Movie was aired on TV and caught up on the lives of the Seaver family since we last left them. Mike is married with four kids and is vice president of an ad agency, Carol becomes a Wall Street lawyer, Ben cleans pools, and Chrissy is still in high school.
In 2004, the cast reunited again for Growing Pains: Return of the Seavers. In this made-for-tv movie, the Seaver children reunite at their old house after they have nowhere else to go, only to find out that Ben is trying to sell the house. The storyline follows the Seavers as they do everything in their power to prevent Ben from selling the house.
There were a lot of good wholesome family sitcoms back in the 80s and 90s. And Growing Pains was one of the shows that were most watched by American families. It was still cool to be wholesome back then.
It was fun seeing your favorite characters again and have a look at how their life turned out. Most of them turned out successful in their career although the patriarch of the show passed away. Reliving the show is like reliving a part of your life. Nothing beats the good old classics.