Woody Harrelson has long been regarded as one of Hollywood’s most respected and versatile actors. His career has spanned over three decades and has earned him numerous accolades including an Emmy win for True Detective. But with a penchant for activism and a strange family history, there’s so much more to this talented actor than meets the eye.
Did you know that Harrelson had a successful career in the theatre before ever appearing in his first movie? It was also here that Woody met his soon to be wife, Neil Simon’s daughter, Nancy Simon.
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Harrelson always knew he wanted to be a successful actor, which is why he actually got his Bachelor’s Degree in Theatrical Arts. But one degree wasn’t enough for Woody. He double majored and received an English degree as well!
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Harrelson’s big break came during the fourth season of Cheers, a classic American comedy. Harrelson’s performance as the silly bartender “Woody” kick-started his career and brought him praise both from critics and watchers alike. He was so loved, that he stayed on the show for years.
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But he never became the typical star. Hollywood’s worst-kept secret is that Harrelson is a notoriously picky eater. This was especially evident while filming Zombieland, where he refused to eat Twinkies. In order to accommodate his dietary restrictions, production made him cornmeal pastries.
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And it’s not just that he’s picky, Harrelson completely stays away from any and all animal products. He also routinely advocates for animal rights and for raw diets. So not only does he not eat animals, but he also stays away from flour. No wonder Woody has all that energy!
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Harrelson takes his health seriously! Which is why besides being a raw vegan, he regularly practices yoga. He loves the activity so much that he actually spoke at a public yoga class in front of hundreds of fellow yogis. Still, he’s not quite a pro at every sport.
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It’s safe to assume that Harrelson learned a big lesson on the set of White Men Can’t Jump. He famously lied to one of the on-set coaches about his basketball skills. The kicker? The coach was a retired pro who challenged Harrelson to a game. Logically, Harrelson got smoked.
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Harrelson might not be great at basketball, but he is great at chess. Or at least he likes it a lot. So much, in fact, that he attended the FIDE World Chess Championship in 2018. Not only did he attend, but he also made the ceremonial first move.
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The People Vs. Larry Flynt had a seriously talented but complicated cast. The studio was so concerned about Courtney Love’s substance abuse issue that they refused to pay any insurance fees. So, what did director Oliver Stone and Harrelson do? Pay it out of their own pockets!
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Larry Flynt wasn’t exactly America’s favorite man, which is likely the reason he wasn’t invited to the 1997 Oscars. Not feeling right about it, Harrelson took matters into his own hands and brought Mr. Flynt as his plus one.
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After being one of Hollywood’s busiest and most in demand actors, it’s no surprise that Harrelson opted to slow down his lifestyle and move to Hawaii. Woody knows how to unwind! But he knows when to take a stand, too.
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In 2009, Harrelson wanted to make it very clear to the American people that he supported the troops but fundamentally opposed the war. How did he do this? He went on The Colbert Report and let Stephen Colbert shave his head on live television. Talk about proving a point.
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Woody Harrelson loves his weed and that’s no secret. After all, he did get arrested for possession while filming Zombieland! And that wasn’t Woody’s only brush with the law.
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Harrelson has had more than a few marijuana related incidents. When the state of Kentucky didn’t acknowledge the difference between hemp and marijuana, he planted hemp seeds, deliberately got arrested, and then took good-spirited photos with the officers who arrested him.
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Everyone in the world knows Harrelson is talented. His performances have received worldwide praise and he’s even been nominated for three academy awards. Nevertheless, Oscar gold has eluded him thus far.
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You know him as an actor, but did you know that Harrelson became an oxygen bar owner in 2001? The spot was located in West Hollywood, so it’s no surprise that it became a popular place for tourists hoping to relax and catch a glimpse of celebs walking by.
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Matthew McConaughey loves Woody. The two have formed a close friendship throughout the years, often referring to it in press conferences and on red carpets. Their talent, sense of humor, and intellect give them plenty to bond over.
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Harrelson’s life has a dark side that has often been mirrored in his movies. For example, in The People Vs. Larry Flynt, Harrelson’s character puts out a reward for JKF’s murders. Chilling, considering Harrelson’s father was thought to be involved in JFK’s assassination.
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Another one of these mirrors happened after the release of Natural Born Killers, in which Harrelson plays a murderer with daddy issues. It’s pretty creepy that Harrelson’s father in real life was a convicted murderer who actually attempted to escape from prison about a year after the film was released.
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In one of his most violent movies, No Country For Old Men, a very specific line was omitted from the movie. What was it about? Well, it was about the death of Judge John Wood — who was killed by Harrelson’s very own father.
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Though not known to most fans, Woody’s father Charles was a professional hitman! It’s hard to believe that such a peace-loving guy could be the son of a cold-blooded killer. As a matter of fact, Harrelson wasn’t the only Cheers star who hid his violent family background.
You might think being born in a tropical paradise would lead to an idyllic life, but not for Allen Kelsey Grammer. Bouncing back and forth between the Virgin Islands and the American mainland, he learned about the fragility of life at an early age.
Grammer spent most of his childhood with his grandparents, and he could only recall two instances when he saw his father. When he was just 13, his dad was murdered right in front of their home by Arthur Bevan Niles, who was in the middle of a terrifying killing spree.
In 1975, when Kelsey was 20, he got a call from the Colorado Springs police. They believed his younger sister Karen was the latest victim of a serial killer named Freddie Glenn. They needed the young man to fly in and identify the body.
It was her. Grammer never quite got over that loss, explaining, “I was supposed to protect her — I could not…. It very nearly destroyed me.” His support system continued to crumble as two half-brothers drowned while scuba diving. He was alone, but Kelsey clung to one one shred of family legacy.
The Grammers were bohemian types, and that artistic streak ran deep in Kelsey. He started smoking a pipe in his teens, if that’s any indication! Talented in music and drama, he was admitted to Juilliard, though his professors found little joy in teaching him.
He put so little effort into his classes that Juilliard kicked him out. The would-be prodigy was now sleeping in Central Park and working a series of odd jobs just to stay alive. This wasn’t at all what Grammer envisioned for himself.
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Fortunately, Kelsey’s prowess on the stage reversed his fortunes. After shining in smaller cities’ theater scenes, he returned to New York and landed in multiple Shakespeare productions on Broadway. Little did the thespian know that his greatest role would come in a different medium.
For the third season of Cheers, the juggernaut sitcom planned to add a snooty psychiatrist character to be Diane’s love interest for a few episodes. Producers wanted the magnetic John Lithgow for the role — they knew he’d be perfect.
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However, Lithgow turned down the part. The show scrambled and brought in the unknown Grammer in a pinch. But Dr. Frasier Crane fit in so well with the rest of the cast that Kelsey soon became a permanent fixture on Cheers.
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Propelled by his breakout character, Grammer was a star. And he partied like one. His alcohol and cocaine habits spiraled out of control as he came into big money. Afraid for his health, the Cheers cast had to stage multiple interventions for Kelsey.
Grammer hung on until Cheers wrapped, and he even guest-starred as Crane on Wings in 1992. But fans weren’t just done with the barfly intellectual just yet. NBC approached him about a spinoff, but Kelsey was more interested in another concept involving an eccentric, paraplegic publishing mogul.
As TV fans know, Grammer went back to the Dr. Crane idea, but he was adamant that it wouldn’t be a retread of Cheers. He and the writers decided the character would move to Seattle and become a radio host, but Kelsey’s behind-the-scenes contributions didn’t end there.
Grammer also performed “Tossed Salad and Scrambled Eggs,” the theme song for Frasier. While the composition’s lyrics didn’t specifically reference the character, the creators believed it was the perfect way for Kelsey to set the series’ tone. Ironically, however, Frasier may not be his most iconic character.
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He had another one-off guest role that became a longstanding part on The Simpsons. Fans fell in love with Sideshow Bob, the disgraced children’s entertainer obsessed with murdering Bart Simpson. Frasier and Bob were two of the ’90s best written characters, yet Grammer’s personal life went way off-script.
His second wife Leigh-Anne Csuhany, a former exotic dancer, tormented Kelsey at the start of his Frasier fame. “She’d spit in my face. Slap me. Punch me. Kick me. Break glasses over my head. Break windows. Tear up pictures of my loved ones,” he said.
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Even after splitting from Csuhany, Grammer’s problems didn’t end there. His next spouse, Real Housewife Camille Donatacci, accused him of abusive behavior. He also lost hundreds of thousands of dollars and had his name dragged through the mud after unknowingly investing in a Ponzi scheme.
But these troubles didn’t stop Kelsey from branching out professionally. He had appearances in indie projects as well as franchises like Transformers, The Expendables, and X-men. Most notably, however, Grammer returned to his first love.
The new millennium saw Grammer come roaring back to the stage. He received a Tony nomination for his role in La Cage aux Folles and won one as a producer for The Color Purple. Meanwhile, he passed on the family acting gene to the next generation.
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Daughters Greer and Spencer Grammer, below, followed their dad into Hollywood, the latter joining the main voice cast of Rick and Morty. Then again, even fame couldn’t protect Kelsey’s kids. He was aghast when he learned Spencer had been the victim of a knife attack in 2020.
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She survived with minor wounds, though it marked another near-calamity for the Grammers. Examining all his misfortunes, Kelsey isn’t the least bit jaded, however. “Every one of us is going to experience some terrible loss. I just got a big dose,” he reflected.
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As a matter of fact, it wasn’t just Grammer who was battling personal demons on the Cheers set. Kirstie Alley joined the show after him, and, as a result, had to fight even harder to establish herself. Parts of her background always made it difficult for her to fit in with the Hollywood crowd.
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By the time that the behemoth sitcom Cheers aired its final episode in 1993, Kirstie Alley was on top of the world. Her living room was full of awards, her phone was ringing nonstop with offers, yet she never really planned on becoming an actress at all.
Like Dorothy Gale, Kirstie started out as an ordinary Kansas girl with no idea of her winding road ahead. She ignored any signs that she had a talent for acting, including a potential big break.
Her first TV appearances were on 1970s game shows, where she made a decent payday. Alley netted $6,000 on Match Game PM and tacked on an extra $800 on Password Plus a few years later. But she didn’t see her future on television.
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Instead, she moved to Los Angeles to work in interior design — and some less mainstream activities. Alley became a Scientologist and devoted much of her time and money to L. Run Hubbard’s controversial organization. She leaned on Scientology when her life took a tragic turn.
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In 1981, Kirstie received the phone call that nobody ever wants to hear. Her parents were hit by a drunk driver. While Alley’s dad was laid up with serious injuries, her mother perished in the accident.
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Kirstie’s world would never be the same. Though she never admitted an explicit connection, her career took a sharp turn following her mom’s passing. Alley started going out for roles and ended up breaking through in a huge franchise.
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Her feature film debut came in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Kirstie pulled off the Vulcan lieutenant Saavik so well that producers wanted to bring her on for a slew of sequels — if they could get her.
But Alley actually turned them down, as she didn’t think they were offering enough money. Clearly, she had her eyes set on a bigger prize. The actress wanted her first shot as a lead.
In 1987, she nabbed one of the starring parts in the Carl Reiner-directed Summer School. A decent critical and commercial success, it set her up for an opportunity, one that would be possibly the biggest challenge in TV history.
In 1987, Cheers was one of the biggest things on TV, but Shelley Long shocked the world by announcing her departure. Her will-they-won’t-they dynamic with Ted Danson was the backbone of the sitcom. Producers desperately needed a way to go on without their star.
It was a gamble, but they brought in Alley as new character Rebecca Howe — a business-minded basketcase who was the furthest thing from a romantic interest for Danson. Critics were astonished to see Cheers become even better, as Kirstie’s presence transformed it into a joke-a-minute ensemble program.
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Riding high on Cheers fame, Alley fit in some blockbuster films to her busy schedule. Look Who’s Talking, while not a critical favorite, raked in a box office haul forty times its budget. Still, Kirstie’s chemistry with John Travolta did cause some issues.
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Alley and Travolta had strong feelings for each other, but both were married at the time. They settled for lifelong friendship — not that their spouses were thrilled about it. But the ongoing success of the Look Who’s Talking sequels also proved a double-edged sword.
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They pigeonholed Alley as a leading lady for middling comedy films. And once Cheers wrapped up for good, these less-than-juicy offers were all she had left. Kirstie was dismayed to see It Takes Two and For Richer or Poorer flounder in theaters.
Drop Dead Gorgeous did give Kirstie a chance to break her funk in 1999, though much of the film’s cult status grew in subsequent years. That may have been the eye of the storm. The new millennium would not be kind to Alley.
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Personal struggles made the actress’ life tabloid fodder. Besides continued criticism for practicing Scientology, Alley came under fire for her fluctuating weight. She admitted that she had issues with food, though that honesty didn’t help get her the big roles she was used to.
However, Alley refused to bend to the Hollywood naysayers. She spoke out against fat-shaming and discrimination on social media, while also touching on every other topic imaginable. “I stay positive because it’s the only way to live. When I play ball, I play hardball,” she revealed.
Her TV career picked back up in recent years, propelled by an impressive run on Dancing with the Stars. The self-spoken star has carved out a niche for herself that nobody can take away, though some wonder if her brash nature has hurt her career prospects.
It is strange, for example, that Alley was the only living main cast member of Cheers to never make an appearance on the spinoff Frasier. Who can say if that was the result of conflicting schedules or bad blood?
It’s no secret that Cheers was plagued by uncertainty. At first, Norm was only supposed to be an extra meant for one or two jokes in the pilot episode. However, audiences genuinely enjoyed the warmth George Wendt gave the character, and he became part of the main cast.
2. The outside camera shot of the bar was an actual Boston establishment called The Bull & Finch Pub. Once the pub’s owners realized Cheers was driving up the business like mad, they officially changed the name to… Cheers!
3. One frequent complaint from viewers was the excessive volume of the show’s laugh track. Amazingly, though, the show didn’t actually have one. The studio audience was genuinely belting out incredibly loud laughter.
4. The casting director of Cheers certainly didn’t have to stretch too far to find Woody Harrelson’s character’s name, Woody Boyd. The country-turned-city-boy role helped launch Harrelson’s very successful career.
5. Something that played a major part in several storylines throughout the series wasn’t a character at all, but a car. Ted Danson’s red corvette proved vital in helping his character finance the bar.
6. When Cheers finally came to an end in 1993, Ted Danson was the highest paid star on television. Since his role as Sam Malone, the Red Sox pitcher-turned-bar-owner, he’s kept extremely busy with popular shows like C.S.I. and The Good Place.
7. The notoriously-obvious hairpiece Danson wore in the show wasn’t to be ignored by the writing staff; they actually had Danson tear it off to Perlman in a startling but hilarious scene.
8. Actress Rhea Perlman played the sharp-tongued waitress Carla Tortelli, and her character was frequently in different relationships. However, in reality, the actress has been happily married to Danny DeVito for many years.
9. Actor Jay Thomas who played Rhea Perlman’s love interest, Eddie, had himself a pretty sweet gig until he ruined the whole thing on his radio show. After making cruel comments about Perlman, Thomas was never seen on the show again.
10. Cliff Clavin, the man who loved to drink alongside Norm, was played by John Ratzenberger, who went on to have a very successful voiceover career, especially with Pixar movies. Can you believe the know-it-all mailman from Cheers also voiced Hamm from Toy Story?
11. Cliff Clavin was also famous for spewing random facts to his fellow bar patrons. While a script was always provided, writers grew comfortable with Ratzenberger improvising many of the “facts” in later seasons.
12. The character of Frasier Crane quickly became a regular cast member after actor Kelsey Grammer brought him to life. Once Cheers ended, Frasier landed a massively successful spin-off series that earned him four Emmy awards.
13. When the Frasier spinoff debuted, creators wanted the title character’s father to play a role, but there was one huge problem: writers killed him off during the Cheers run. They cleverly avoided the pitfall by having Frasier claim he merely told people his father was dead out of anger.
14. The chemistry between actress BeBe Neuwirth’s character, Lilith Sternin, and Frasier Crane was immediately felt by audiences, and the Tony-winning actress appeared frequently on Frasier after Cheers ended.
15. Ted Danson’s character was once a baseball player, but the original script called for him to be an ex-football player. The writers felt baseball better matched the physical build of Danson once he was cast.
16. One major storyline that never saw the light of day was an HIV scare between Danson’s character and an ex-girlfriend at the very end of the sixth season. However, due to a writer’s strike, the storyline was canceled.
17. The creators of the show were very much aware of unintentionally promoting drinking and driving, so they always made sure to include designated drivers and cabs throughout the episodes.
18. It’s hard to picture a person other than Kelsey Grammer pulling off Frasier Crane’s personality, but the role was originally written with John Lithgow in mind. Lithgow declined, and Grammer stepped up to own the role.
19. Fans had their doubts the show could survive the sixth-season replacement of Shelly Long’s character by newcomer Kirstie Alley, but Alley was a welcome addition. She also went on to become a spokesperson for the wildly popular Jenny Craig weight loss program.
20. Actress Shelley Long played Ted Danson’s love interest for the first five seasons and was an integral part of the show. However, when she quit to pursue a movie career, she never hit the level of fame people thought she would.
21. The United States Treasury Department tried to promote the use of savings bonds through Cheers by hiring a creative team to make a mini-episode about the bonds. However, it was never aired and is contained in none of the DVD collections.
22. Just because a show ends doesn’t mean the fans don’t still crave more from it. Cheers may have stopped its run 25 years ago, but in 2016, the first season was adapted into a two-hour stage play.
23. Cheers hit long before video games became popular, but that didn’t stop the creators of Fallout 4, the wildly successful PlayStation game, from designing a fully rendered version of the bar. The place has clearly seen better days.
24. Even though he was only an actor, you probably got the impression Ted Danson felt comfortable behind the bar serving drinks. This is because he actually attended bartending school prior to the show — so he knew exactly what he was doing.
25. While the first season didn’t pull in high ratings, the Cheers creators quickly found a working formula, and the series finale was one of the most watched in history (nearly 84 million people!).
26. The cast of the show watched the series finale at The Bull & Finch Pub and heavily indulged in alcohol. Later that night they all appeared on Jay Leno’s late-night show and drunkenly entertained everyone in the room, including themselves.
Shows about groups of friends like the ones on Cheers make for great TV fodder and so do TV shows about family. When Cheers was making us laugh until our sides hurt, so was another show about life for the average American family…
1. The show’s original name: Before settling on the now-iconic name, producers used another name for what would eventually become Married… With Children: Not The Cosbys.
2. The show made people mad: Certain circles of folks weren’t exactly jumping for joy when they saw Kelly’s skimpy outfits and flirtatious behavior broadcasted into their living room at prime time. They filed several formal complaints.
3. These complaints made the show popular: Married… With Children really took off once a family activist started a letter writing campaign to condemn the show for anti-family values. Once in the media spotlight, the show flourished.
4. Ed O’Neil’s killer audition: To win the role of Al Bundy, O’Neil was given a simple task: walk through the front door of the Bundy home. Before doing so, O’Neil slumped his shoulders and sighed, and that sealed the deal.
5. Don’t mess with Al: You wouldn’t know it by looking at him, but Ed O’Neil could probably kick your butt. The actor has a black belt in Brazilian jujitsu!
6. Katey Sagal’s audition: When trying out for the part of Peggy, Sagal wore a short dress, tons of makeup, and her hair up all big and tall. In other words, she dressed as she envisioned Peggy, and producers appreciated that.
7. The other Al Bundy: Before producers awarded Ed O’Neil the iconic role, there was another in contention for the part of Al Bundy, Michael Richards! Had he earned the role, he might not have ever played Kramer on Seinfeld.
8. Producer’s other choices: Ed O’Neil and Katey Sagal were not the first choices for Al and Peggy. Producers originally selected Sam Kinison and Roseanne Barr for the roles, but apparently, those selections fell through.
9. It was expensive to produce: Every episode of the show cost Fox $1 million to make, an exorbitant fee given that episodes weren’t exactly brimming with special effects and explosions.
10. Ed O’Neil’s birthday surprises: A true man of the people, O’Neil often called fans on their birthdays or holidays; a man true to his character, O’Neil only made these calls collect, meaning the recipient had to accept the charges.
11. The Dodge’s secret: Al Bundy frequently referred to his “mighty Dodge,” but the car wasn’t actually a Dodge at all. It was a 1972 Plymouth Duster.
12. The lost episode: Fox refused to air a season three episode titled “I’ll See You In Court” after a powerful anti-obscenity activist got advertisements pulled from the show. The episode, which features Al and Peggy being unknowingly recorded in a motel room, was eventually released in 2003.
13. Kelly and Bud swap: Ed O’Neil never met the actors who were first cast as Kelly and Bud. When he did finally meet them, he didn’t like them and demanded a change. That’s when Fox found Christina Applegate and David Faustino.
14. Episode one re-shoot: Before O’Neil realized the original Kelly and Bud actors were as pleasant as a kick to the shins, the cast had already filmed the pilot in its entirety. When the actors were replaced, they had to re-shoot the entire first episode.
15. Christina’s side hustle: As her popularity skyrocketed thanks to the show, Applegate took on modeling and other acting gigs. Producers agreed to give her time off every now and then (she made a guest appearance on Friends) — and fans weren’t happy!
16. Kelly’s hair: In taking on those other roles, Christina Applegate dyed her hair a brunette color. This wouldn’t work for her blonde character, so while filming later seasons, she wore a wig.
17. The on-set feud: On-screen, Al and Peggy got along well with their neighbors, Marcy and Steve. In reality, Ed O’Neil had great contempt for Marcy-actress Amanda Bearse. He was the only cast member she didn’t invite to her wedding.
18. Hooray for the dog: The family dog, Buck, was played by the same pooch for 10 seasons! After that, producers felt the aging dog earned his retirement, so they threw him a party as a sendoff.
19. Ed O’Neil’s vision for the ending: The actor had thoughts on how the show should end. He wanted the Bundys to win the lottery! Only to have a tornado tear through town and wipe out their home — and the winning ticket — during a celebration.
20. News of the show’s demise: While out for a meal on vacation, Ed O’Neil overheard a couple talking about a newspaper article announcing the show had been canceled. This was how he learned he was out of a job!
21. Ed O’Neil made some cash: By the time the show wrapped up after 11 seasons, O’Neil was earning about $500,000 per episode, making him one of the highest paid television actors at the time.
22. No love?: Despite a massive cult-following — and becoming the longest running, scripted live-action show in Fox history — Married… With Children never won a single Emmy. It was the longest running show to go without one (until Baywatch ended).