‘Family Affair’ Star Johnny Whitaker Opened Up About Being a Child Actor

by Suzanne Halliburton
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Family Affair star Johnny Whitaker was everywhere back in the 1960s into the early 70s.

Of course, there was his role as Jody on Family Affair. He’s 62 now, but fans always will know him as the red-headed twin of Buffy, who came to live with Uncle Bill and Mr. French in NYC. But there were other projects besides Family Affair, a show Whitaker started when he was a seasoned 6 years old.

“I did not know that it was uncommon for a child to get up at 6:30 in the morning, be on the road at 7:30 and work at 8:00 and be there until 5:00,” Whitaker said in an interview with Fox News in 2016. “I loved it, I enjoyed it. There was never a time it felt forced.”

His first role was as Scotty Baldwin on soap opera General Hospital. Then he earned a spot in the movie The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming. It featured an all-star cast, including Brian Keith, Carl Reiner, Eva Marie Saint, Alan Arkin, and Jonathan Winters. Keith recommended Whitaker for the role of his nephew on Family Affair.

That show was a heart-warming series with a tweak on normal family life. Jody and Buffy, along with big sister, Cissy, were orphaned and went to live in NYC with their uncle. Family Affair ran from 1966-71 and was a top 10 most viewed show in the country for three of its five seasons.

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Whitaker Said Family Affair Twin Sister Didn’t Like Acting

While Whitaker was six at the start of Family Affair, Anissa Jones, who played Buffy, was 8. When the series ended in 1971, Jones wanted to work in movies. But her acting career stalled. She died of a drug overdose when she was 18.

“Anissa Jones who was Buffy, my experience with knowing her and her situation – she didn’t like it,” Whitaker recalled. He did say there was only one job that wasn’t suited for child actors. He said it was a Christmas special filmed in 1969 in New York. The young actors needed to be on set 19 hours a day.

After Family Affair came his starring role in Sigmund and the Sea Monsters. It was a Saturday morning series with a sci-fi theme.

“When I was 14, I was the star of my own television series,” Whitaker told Fox. “I was an associate producer, I was at the top of my game and making quadruple what my father made.”

But Whitaker said he decided to take a leave from acting to do a mission trip with the Mormon Church. He said he assumed Hollywood would accept him back. “But they didn’t,” he said. “That was very difficult, not to be accepted back into the brotherhood.”

Still, whether Hollywood ever embraced him again, Whitaker’s acting career as a kid filled up a resume. He had appearances on westerns Bonanza, Gunsmoke and The Virginian. He did family comedies like Green Acres and Bewitched. Of course, there were Disney movies. And in 1973, he played the lead in Tom Sawyer.

“I believe I’ve done a lot of good,” the Family Affair star said. “I still do acting jobs here and there. (And) I continue to act, but it’s not my number one focus. I think it was Christopher Knight from The Brady Bunch who said, Hollywood loves its puppies but once they became real adult dogs they kick them to the curb.”