A “Leave It To Beaver” star crossed over into another generation of young fans in the 1980s with the animated kids show “Muppet Babies.”
According to MeTV, the actress who played iconic mother June Cleaver also voiced a role in the popular children’s animated show.
Barbara Billingsley played Beav’s mom in the 1950s and 60s. When the show ended in 1963, the actress had trouble for years finding acting roles. Outside of two “F.B.I.” episodes in 1971, she remained out of the spotlight for 17 years.
But the 1980s were kind to the star. Billingsley made a guest appearance in the comedy “Airplane!” as the Jive Lady to jump back into TV and movie work.
Then, she found guest-starring roles in “Mork & Mindy” and “The Love Boat.” She returned to her mom role for the TV movie “Still the Beaver” in 1983 and got work in another series revival called “The New Leave It To Beaver” from 1985 to 1989. In that reenvisioned show, she played a widow as Hugh Beaumont died from a heart attack the previous year.
During that Beaver reboot, Billingsley landed a role as Nanny in the 1984-1991 animated show. The CBS show voice role also helped her earn two Daytime Emmy Awards nominations (1989 and 1990) for Outstanding Performer in a Children’s Series.
Billingsley Connected With Henson’s Shows
Before “Muppet Babies,” Barbara Billingsley worked with Jim Henson on “Jim Henson’s Little Muppet Monsters” for 13 episodes. She didn’t have specific voice characters, but she kept working.
When Henson put together “Muppet Babies,” he kept Billingsley and her iconic voice in mind for the show. Notably, Dave Coulier of Full House fame and comedian-turned-TV show judge Howie Mandel also lent their famous voices to the series.
The show ran for seven seasons and stayed going in syndication until 1992. There’s a current version of the show, which began in 2018, but without Billingsley. The woman died in 2010.
Nanny managed to teach and comfort the Muppet Babies over the years in many episodes. Someone always got into trouble, the gang had a nightmare or broke something accidentally, and Billingsley’s soothing voice was there. That same classic one comforted the Beav all those years ago.
Billingsley’s ‘Airplane!’ Role Was Her Comeback
After an extended break from acting, the actress found a guest role in the 1980 cult classic movie.
She told the Television Academy Foundation in 2000 that her time as June Cleaver had something to do with the gig. She said she was “sure that was the humor of the whole thing, that I talked jive.”
She said in the interview that she didn’t understand the script when it came to her, calling it the “craziest” one she had ever read.
She said the part “wasn’t written,” and she met with the producers to tell them she’d do it.
Billingsley credited two of the movie’s stars, Norman Alexander Gibbs and Al White, for her dialogue. She acted with them in the scene.