Charlotte Rae, the beloved actress best known for her roles in the 1970s sitcom Diff’rent Strokes and its long-running spinoff, The Facts of Life, has died. Rae’s representative said the 92-year-old actress died surrounded by family and friends at her Los Angeles home after a battle with bone cancer, according to the Los Angeles Times. She is survived by her son, Larry Strauss.
While Rae’s earliest TV work included roles on the sitcom Car 54, Where Are You? And a stint as Molly the Mail Lady in early episodes of Sesame Street, the actress caught the eye of famed producer Norman Lear who cast her in guest parts on Good Times, All in the Family, and finally her breakout role as housekeeper Edna Garrett on Diff’rent Strokes. The character became so popular that Rae got her own NBC spinoff, The Facts of Life, in 1979. The series, set at an all-girls boarding school in Peekskill, N.Y., followed housemother Mrs. Garrett and her teen charges, played by Lisa Whelchel, Mindy Cohn, Kim Fields, and Nancy McKeon.
After Charlotte Rae’s death was announced, many of her TV co-stars, including Facts Of Life stars Kim Fields and Mindy Cohn and Diff’rent Strokes’ Todd Bridges, took to social media to pay tribute to their beloved Mrs. Garrett.
— Deadline Hollywood (@DEADLINE) August 6, 2018
Kim Fields, who played roller skate-wearing Dorothy “Tootie” Ramsey on The Facts of Life, posted to Twitter to tell fans she is at a loss for words after the death of Charlotte Rae.
— Kim Fields (@KimVFields) August 6, 2018
Mindy Cohn, who played Natalie Green on the long-running NBC sitcom, posted a poignant tribute to the late actress on Instagram.
“It’s with a heavy heart & tears (but a smile as I think of her) that I now move through the world without this incredible force of a woman being it. She was my champion, a teacher, a proud example of the tenacity and perseverance needed to live as a creative, along with your talent and gifts. I love you Char. As I send sympathies to Larry and the rest of the family, I wish you the happiest of homecomings.”
Todd Bridges, who is now the only living star of Diff’rent Strokes (in addition to Rae, the actor’s co-stars Gary Coleman, Dana Plato, and Conrad Bain have all passed away), posted a photo of his late co-star to Twitter with a sweet caption.
“Different Strokes would not have been the same without you #CharlotteRae. You were loved by everyone on our show and you were loved by everyone on the facts of life will miss you. ‘My heart is full of Pain.’ Rest in peace my friend.”
Charlotte Rae remained close with her TV co-stars in the decades following Diff’rent Strokes and The Facts of Life. Two years ago, she even supported Kim Fields in the audience when the actress competed on Dancing with the Stars.
In 2016, Rae told On Milwaukee, “I am very close with Nancy (McKeon) and recently visited her on her ranch in Austin. I had a ‘jammie party’ with her children. We had so much fun. I’m also still close with Lisa (Whelchel) and Kim (Fields) and Mindy (Cohn). They are all doing very well with beautiful families.”
News of the death of Charlotte Rae comes as a reboot of the classic NBC series is being considered at Sony Pictures TV. Appian Way, the company run by Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson, is in negotiations to executive produce a reboot of The Facts of Life alongside Jessica Biel’s Iron Ocean Films, according to Deadline. The project is in early talks, but it’s a fact of life that Charlotte Rae is irreplaceable.