Nancy McKeon is getting support from her TV family as she begins her journey on Dancing with the Stars. The 52-year-old actress, who played wisecracking Jo Polniaczek for eight seasons on the 1980s sitcom The Facts of Life, was encouraged by her longtime NBC co-stars to sign on to the ABC celebrity ballroom competition. Now, as McKeon steps out of her comfort zone with pro partner Val Chmerkovskiy, her sitcom sisters will be her biggest cheerleaders.
Nancy McKeon is not the first Facts of Life star to hit the Dancing with the Stars ballroom. Ten years ago, Cloris Leachman, who played den mother Beverly Ann Stickle on the later seasons of The Facts of Life, was a contestant on the seventh season of the ABC reality show. Leachman, who was paired with pro dancer Corky Ballas, was 82-years-old at the time and is the oldest contestant to have ever danced on the series.
In addition to Leachman, Kim Fields, who played Dorothy “Tootie” Ramsey on the long-running NBC sitcom from 1979 to 1988, competed on Dancing with the Stars in 2016. Fields was partnered with pro dancer Sasha Farber and landed in eighth place in Season 22.
When Nancy McKeon’s Dancing with the Stars casting was announced, Kim Fields and fellow co-stars Lisa Whelchel and Mindy Cohn recorded a sweet message of support for her, which aired on Good Morning America. Whelchel, who has her own reality TV competition past as a runner-up and fan favorite player on Survivor: Philippines, posted the clip to Instagram and promised that she will be cheering for her every week.
“Go get that mirror ball, dear friend!” Whelchel wrote.
Mindy Cohn posted a throwback photo with McKeon, cheering her longtime pal as she embarks on her Dancing with the Stars adventure.
“Rehearsing like a champion to be sure; break legs,” Cohn captioned the snap.
And Kim Fields took to Instagram to repost a poignant message that McKeon wrote to her just ahead of her DWTS journey.
“Nancy McKeon tried to break me down this morning! Her dancing adventure starts Monday!” Fields wrote.
In her tribute to Fields, McKeon wrote that she is honored to “follow in my dear sister and friends literal footsteps.”
“This dancing business is hard work, great fun and one of the most profound learning experiences I could ever be blessed with. You are such an amazing friend kindly looking after me during this fantastical journey!”
In an interview with Parade, Nancy McKeon revealed that Kim Fields encouraged her to accept the invitation to compete on the ABC dancing show. McKeon also shared that all of her Facts of Life sisters sent her supportive messages.
“We’ve been friends for so long,” McKeon said of her Facts of Life co-stars. “Gosh, Lisa’s been out to where I live so many times, and we all see each other when we’re in town, or whenever we can get together. They’re my sisters, you know? Forever, and they’re so supportive. I think they secretly are also having a smile because they know it’s outside anything I would ever do.”
You can see Kim Fields’ tribute to The Facts of Life from her season of Dancing with the Stars below.
Nancy McKeon will start her journey on the Dancing with the Stars premiere Monday, Sept. 24 at 8/7c on ABC.