What The Cast Of 8 Simple Rules Looks Like Today

Making its television debut in 2002, "8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter" boasted an unwieldy title (eventually shortened to just "8 Simple Rules") and a stellar cast. Heading up the cast, as married couple Paul and Cate Hennessy, were a pair of sitcom veterans: John Ritter, who came and knocked on our door in mega-hit "Three's Company," and Katey Sagal, who pushed the envelope for TV moms as Peg Bundy in Fox's "Married... with Children." 

Their titular teenage daughter was played by Kaley Cuoco, who'd already racked up an extensive roster of screen credits as a child actor, with her character's younger siblings portrayed by Amy Davidson and Martin Spanjers. The show proved to be a hit and was renewed for a second season. In the midst of production on that season, however, tragedy struck: Ritter suffered a heart attack that proved to be fatal. The network faced a choice, to either cancel the series or do some serious retooling in order to soldier on without its star; ABC chose the latter, bringing in television veteran James Garner, and then "Saturday Night Live" alum David Spade, for the remainder of the episodes. The show was brought back for a third season but was canceled at the season's completion due to a precipitous slide in ratings. 

Since then, members of the cast have gone on to various other projects. Here's what the cast of "8 Simple Rules" looks like today.

John Ritter's fatal heart attack on the 8 Simple Rules set sparked a lawsuit

John Ritter was rehearsing the fourth episode of the second season of "8 Simple Rules" in 2003 when he became nauseous, complaining about a tight feeling in his chest. Initially suspecting food poisoning, he was taken to a nearby hospital. He died from an aortal dissection, a sudden tear in the inner lining of his heart's aorta. Medical experts told the Los Angeles Times that Ritter's condition was rare and impossible to detect.

Four years later, Ritter's widow, Amy Yasbeck, was joined by his children to launch a $67-million wrongful death lawsuit against the two doctors who treated Ritter. The suit claimed the physicians' misdiagnosis prevented the actor from receiving surgery that could have saved his life. "This is clearly a case of malpractice," the Ritter family attorney, Moses Lebovits, said in his closing argument, as reported by ABC News. "It only takes common sense to know they should have taken a chest X-ray." Lawyers for the defendants, however, insisted that Ritter's condition was such that he would have died regardless of any treatment he would have received.

Ultimately, the jury decided in favor of the doctors. After losing the case, Yasbeck went on to found the John Ritter Foundation for Aortic Health. "There are a lot of ways of keeping John's memory and spirit alive," Yasbeck told Yahoo! Entertainment of her intentions for the foundation. "My job is to keep people's aortas alive."

Katey Sagal starred in a hit biker drama

When Katey Sagal was cast in "8 Simple Rules," she was best known for her sitcom chops, honed by all those seasons playing Peg Bundy on "Married... with Children." Afterwards, Sagal began showcasing her versatility by appearing in dramatic roles, in TV series including "The Shield," "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," and "Lost." In 2008, Sagal was cast in a new role that would ultimately overshadow all her others: Gemma Teller Morrow in "Sons of Anarchy," the scheming, Lady Macbeth-like "old lady" of the leader of a California biker gang. While there was no secret to how she nabbed the role — Sagal's husband, Kurt Sutter, created the series — she played the character to perfection, with highlights including pulling a gun on a baby and beating up her husband's mistress with a skateboard.

Subsequent roles included: A witch in the medieval drama "The Bastard Executioner" (also created by Sutter); Vivian Pressman in a made-for-TV remake of "Dirty Dancing;" a cop in the sitcom "Superior Donuts;" and the recurring role of a psychiatric patient in "Shameless." She also headlined the ABC drama "Rebel," which was canceled after 10 episodes, before returning to her sitcom roots by joining the Roseanne Barr-less "Roseanne" spinoff "The Conners." She also continued to voice Leela in the animated comedy "Futurama" throughout the series' various revivals.

Meanwhile, Sagal — who began her career as a singer — continued to maintain her music career, releasing her third album, "Covered," in 2013.

Kaley Cuoco went on to sitcom glory in The Big Bang Theory

After the cancellation of "8 Simple Rules" in 2005, Kaley Cuoco — who played the eldest Hennessy daughter, Bridget — joined the cast of "Charmed," playing newbie witch Billie Jenkins for the series' final season from 2005 to 2006. The following year, Cuoco was cast in her second sitcom, and it wound up becoming a biggie: "The Big Bang Theory," in which she played a Cheesecake Factory server who moves into an apartment across the hall from a pair of scientists. When "The Big Bang Theory" ended its 12-season run in 2019, Cuoco was one of the world's highest-paid actors, earning in excess of $1 million per episode.

During her stint on the series, Cuoco got married and divorced, twice. Then, in April 2023, she and her boyfriend Tom Pelphrey welcomed their first child, daughter Matilda.

Professionally, Cuoco wasted no time getting back to work after "The Big Bang Theory" ended. Her next project was the dark comedy series "The Flight Attendant" in 2022. "I've never played anything like this," Cuoco told Variety of playing an alcohol-abusing flight attendant entrapped into becoming a spy, earning rave reviews and two consecutive Emmy nominations. Other projects have included the rom-com "Meet Cute" (in which she starred opposite Pete Davidson), voicing the title character in the animated DC Comics series "Harley Quinn," and the Peacock comedy "Based on a True Story." 

Amy Davidson has appeared in numerous TV series

In "8 Simple Rules," Amy Davidson played teenager Kerry Hennessy, the middle child of Cate and Paul Hennessy. After the series' 2005 cancellation, Davidson maintained a hectic acting schedule, appearing as a guest star in numerous TV series. That list is a lengthy one, highlighted by "Criminal Minds," "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," "House," "Bones," "Better Call Saul," "The Rookie," and Netflix legal drama "The Lincoln Lawyer." And if those credits seem light on comedy, that's intentional.

"After '8 Simple Rules' ended I chose to focus on drama," Davidson explained in an interview with Sitcoms Online. "I thought that was where I wanted to be. Now I realize I can and want to do both," the actress said of drama and comedy.

Davidson demonstrated how much "8 Simple Rules" continued to mean to her when she reunited with her TV sister, Kaley Cuoco, and Amy Yasbeck, widow of the late John Ritter, at a 2023 fundraising event for the John Ritter Foundation. "This is really awesome," Cuoco said of their reunion during her speech at the event, reported People. "I think John is laughing his ass off right now. He cannot believe we're here."

Martin Spanjers has branched out into producing

During all three seasons of "8 Simple Rules," Martin Spanjers portrayed Rory Hennessey, the youngest child and only son of Cate and Paul Hennessy. Like Amy Davidson, he chose to focus on drama after the sitcom's cancellation, with post-"8 Simple Rules" roles in such TV series as "Cold Case," "Grey's Anatomy," and two different series focusing on vampires, "Moonlight," and "True Blood." On the big screen, Spanjer's film credits include "The Curse of Downers Grove," "Body at Brighton Rock," and "Send It!"

And while Spanjers has maintained his acting career over the years, he's also built up a parallel career behind the camera as a producer. Among his production credits are the TV series "Holloway Heights," and the film "They Grow Up So Fast."

Interviewed by Tucson.com in 2007, Spanjers said that of all the acting jobs he'd had before and after, "8 Simple Rules" remained his favorite. "Doing a series for comedy is absolutely the perfect job," Spanjers said. "It was a great schedule. You always knew what was going to happen, what you were going to be doing and I really liked it. It was a dream job. Movies are a lot of fun, but a lot more time-consuming and more unpredictable. But it's exciting to see the end result."

TV legend James Garner died in 2014

When producers decided to continue "8 Simple Rules" after the death of its star John Ritter, the plan that emerged involved his character, Paul Hennessy, dying on the show. "We are in uncharted territory here," then-ABC Entertainment chairman Lloyd Braun told The New York Times of moving forward without Ritter. "I do believe it will be great television. It may not be funny television, but it will be great television. Eventually, it will have to get funny again."

In the first episode following Ritter's passing, veteran actor James Garner — who hit it big on TV with "Wild Wild West," and then "The Rockford Files" — joined the cast as Jim Egan, father of Katey Sagal's character, who comes to live with the family as they grapple with Paul's death. "It's going to be tough," Garner told the South Florida Sun Sentinel after signing on (originally for just four episodes, but ultimately agreeing to remain permanently). "People tuned in to the show because they loved John. I hope they'll accept this." According to Sagal, Garner's presence on the set proved to be stabilizing for everyone. "Jim Garner came, I mean, he was like a big shoulder," Sagal said of her TV dad in an interview with Today. "Jim Garner was really amazing."

After "8 Simple Rules," Garner starred in 2004's "The Notebook," 2006's "The Ultimate Gift," and also did some voice acting in various animated series. He died in 2014 at age 86.

David Spade performed standup, launched an SNL podcast, and hosted a game show

Several episodes after James Garner made his first appearance on "8 Simple Rules," David Spade was cast in the role of C.J., Cate Hennessy's deadbeat nephew. He later joined the cast permanently. 

Following the series' 2005 cancellation, Spade dove right into his next project, hosting Comedy Central's "The Showbiz Show with David Spade." When that series was axed after two seasons, he jumped into another sitcom, "Rules of Engagement," which ran from 2007 until 2013. Spade continued to appear in TV and film projects (particularly those produced by his pal Adam Sandler), and in 2019 he returned to Comedy Central with another show, "Lights Out with David Spade." However, the following spring, production on the show was halted due to the pandemic, with the network ultimately opting not to move forward with new episodes. Through it all, Spade has continued to perform standup comedy, on display in his 2022 Netflix special, "David Spade: Nothing Personal."

That same year, he teamed up with fellow "SNL" alum Dana Carvey for a new podcast, "Fly on the Wall." The following year, he returned to network television as the host of the new game show "Snail Oil." "When Fox asked me to host their new show, I was flattered," said Spade in a statement. "But then they told me it was about a shady snake oil salesman, and I was a little less flattered to be the guy that immediately comes to mind."

Comedian Larry Miller was injured in a serious accident but resumed his acting career

Larry Miller was a veteran standup comic and character actor before he was tapped for "8 Simple Rules." In the first two seasons, he played Tommy, an obnoxious and irresponsible co-worker of John Ritter's character. After his exit from the show, Miller continued racking up screen credits, guest starring in numerous TV shows and appearing in supporting roles in various movies. In 2006, he wrote a book, "Spoiled Rotten America: Outrages of Everyday Life." He was also an early adopter of podcasting, launching his podcast — "The Week with Larry Miller" — in 2010, hosted by fellow comic Adam Carolla's podcasting venture, Carolla Digital. He also continued performing live, and toured with a one-man show, "Cocktails with Larry Miller."

In 2012, Miller's life changed in an instant when, while holding open a door for someone, he accidentally fell backward and severely injured his head. He was comatose, on life support, and the prognosis was grim. "He was hovering between life and death," Miller's spokesperson, Michael Hansen, told People in 2013. "It's a miracle he woke up. ... He's lucky to be alive."  Miller eventually made a full recovery, but it wasn't easy, and it required him to rebuild some fundamental cognitive abilities.

Miller eventually returned to his podcast and resumed acting. Among his later credits are the 2018 Jennifer Lopez rom-com "Second Act," and the slightly bonkers feature, "The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot."

Adam Arkin went behind the camera as director

Adam Arkin had held numerous roles in TV and film before taking on the recurring role of Ed Gibb, principal of Bridget Hennessy's high school — and the ex-boyfriend of Katey Sagal's character, Cate Hennessy. After "8 Simple Rules," Arkin continued to build upon his already impressive acting career, with notable roles in the TV series "Life," "Justified," and the miniseries "The Act." He also reunited with Sagal twice, with a recurring role in "Sons of Anarchy," and another in her ABC series "Rebel." He's also been featured in films, including the acclaimed 2021 feature "Pig," starring Nicolas Cage.

In conjunction with his acting, Arkin has also built up a rather impressive resume as a television director. In fact, the list of series that Arkin has helmed is as lengthy as it is varied, ranging from Sagal's "Rebel," to Netflix thriller "The Night Agent," to FX's acclaimed "Fargo." He also directed four episodes of "The Offer," the Paramount+ series that dramatized the real-life events behind the making of "The Godfather."

Like other actors who segued into directing, Arkin can envision the process of crafting a TV series from multiple perspectives. "I know from experience that it's very empowering as an actor, that if you're playing a character that has to embody certain elements if you're surrounded by people that are behaving as if you own those elements, it empowers you," he told Gold Derby

Cheers alum John Ratzenberger has been Pixar's good luck charm

John Ratzenberger will forever be associated with barfly mailman Cliff Clavin on "Cheers," a role that was far behind him when he signed on as a guest star on "8 Simple Rules." He made his debut on the show as Fred Doyle, the Hennessys' neighbor, in a Season 1 episode titled "The Doyle Wedding," in which his former "Cheers" co-star Shelly Long played his character's wife. He went on to reprise the character in three episodes early in the second season. 

After that, Ratzenberger continued to make the occasional guest-starring appearance on TV. However, apart from his memorable role on "Cheers," he's also become well known as Pixar's good luck charm for his unbroken streak of appearing in every single one of Pixar's subsequent animated features after voicing the toy pig Hamm in 1995's "Toy Story." That streak, however, came to an end after the film "Onward," and he didn't appear in any subsequent Pixar movies.

Looking back on how it all started, Ratzenberger told Awards Daily that he never could have anticipated such a longstanding relationship. "It was simply a call from Pixar because they knew Cliff," he said of connecting with Pixar, referencing his "Cheers" character. "They were approximating the Cliff voice when they were rendering the Hamm character."

Paul Wesley went on to star in The Vampire Diaries

During the second season of "8 Simple Rules," Paul Wesley — then billed as Paul Wasilewski — appeared in two episodes. He played Damian, the love interest of Kaley Cuoco's Bridget Hennessy. It wasn't long after that Wesley's career took off, bolstered by recurring roles in "Everwood" and then the retro drama "American Dreams." His big breakthrough came in 2009 when he was cast as Stefan Salvatore in "The Vampire Diaries," a smash hit for The CW that ran for eight seasons until completing its run in 2017.

Wesley then starred in the horror series "Tell Me a Story," and in 2022, appeared in Lifetime's "Flowers in the Attic: The Origin." That same year, he was cast as a young James T. Kirk in the "Star Trek" prequel series "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds." Meanwhile, he also went into business with his "Vampire Diaries" co-star Ian Somerhalder with their award-winning Brother's Bond bourbon.

Speaking with Variety about stepping into his "Star Trek" role most famously inhabited by William Shatner, he said, "We're really respecting who he is and his character traits. But it's not an imitation," he shared. "I really aim to be honest and truthful and in the moment. Pay respect to the character of James T. Kirk, but do not try in any way shape or form to imitate something that you cannot touch. It would be almost blasphemous, in a way."