‘Facts of Life’ Special Casts a Sitcom Icon

by Allison Hambrick
Photo by Gregg DeGuire/Getty Images for Turner)

Friends star Jennifer Aniston returns to her sitcom roots for one night only as part of the cast of Live in Front of a Studio Audience: The Facts of Life on ABC. The actress will play the role of Blair, originated by Lisa Whelchel in the original 1979 series.

The Facts of Life aired from 1979 to 1988, and it followed the lives of both the students and the housemother of an all-girls private school. This upcoming special revisits the sitcom with an entirely new cast. Also joining Aniston are Gabrielle Union as Tootie, Ann Dowd as Mrs. Garrett, Allison Tolman as Natalie, and Kathryn Hahn as Jo.

In addition to The Facts of Life, the special will be revisiting Diff’rent Strokes. The latter series aired from 1978 to 1986. It featured two boys from Harlem being taken in by a wealthy widower. The two series are connected in that the character of Mrs. Garrett originated in Diff’rent Strokes.

The cast for the Diff’rent Strokes portion of the special includes Kevin Hart as Arnold, Damon Wayans as Willis, and Jon Lithgow as Mr. Drummond. Additionally, Ann Dowd will be playing Mrs. Garrett in this segment as well.

Norman Lear Produces Facts of Life Special

Additionally, The Facts of Life joins a series of revived sitcoms produced by the legendary Norman Lear. Live in Front of a Studio Audience previously aired specials centered around All in the Family and The Jeffersons. Lear became the oldest winner in Emmy history after the first episode won for “Outstanding Variety Special” in 2019.

Also executive producing is Jimmy Kimmel, who praised the new The Facts of Life cast and joked that he “can’t wait to do their hair.” Kimmel and Lear are set to host the special as well.

Jennifer Aniston Returns to Comedy

While Aniston rose to stardom by starring on Friends, she is currently seen in a more dramatic role on The Morning Show. For that role, Aniston received critical acclaim, and she took home her second Screen Actors Guild Award. In addition to starring on The Morning Show, she executive produces the series alongside costar Reese Witherspoon.

Prior to The Morning Show, Aniston transitioned into primarily appearing in film. Her work spans a wide variety of genres. She is considered one of the most popular actresses in the world. Aniston returning to television comedy for one night could boost ratings.

As for her casting as Blair Warner in The Facts of Life, those who’ve seen Friends will not have a hard time finding similarities between Blair and Rachel. Both characters come from wealthy backgrounds and have vain tendencies, but they are also intelligent and caring friends. Stepping into the role of Blair might be a perfect fit for Aniston.

Live in Front of a Studio Audience: The Facts of Life and Diff’rent Strokes is set to air live on Dec. 7 at 8p.m. on ABC.