What Happened To The Cast Of Eight Is Enough?

"Eight Is Enough" made its TV debut in 1977 and chronicled the everyday exploits of Sacramento newspaper columnist Tom Bradford (Dick Van Patten) and his wife Joan (Diana Hyland) as they raised eight rambunctious kids, ranging in age from 8 to 22. Based on Thomas Braden's book of the same name, the show was a hit with viewers, who clearly related to the joys and challenges the Bradford clan experienced.

When an unforeseen tragedy took place, the show was forced to evolve from a strict comedy to include more dramatic elements — essentially becoming one of TV's first dramedies long before anyone had even coined that particular term. That combination proved a winning one, allowing the show to carve out a niche as wholesome family entertainment that wound up running for five successful seasons.

The series ended its run in 1981 and remains fondly remembered by viewers. But what happened to all of the actors who played the Bradfords? As it turned out, their individual stories run the gamut from heartwarming to unspeakably sad, but all of them are fascinatingly memorable. For the full picture, read on to find out what the cast of "Eight Is Enough" is doing today.

Dick Van Patten remained a fixture on TV screens for decades

When Dick Van Patten was cast as Tom Bradford on "Eight Is Enough," he already had an extensive list of stage and screen credits stretching back to the 1940s. After the show's 1981 cancellation, he remained one of television's go-to guest stars on series including "The Love Boat" (on which he appeared six times), "Murder She Wrote," and "The Facts of Life." He also appeared in Mel Brooks' "Spaceballs" in 1987, the same year he reprised the role of Tom in "Eight Is Enough: A Family Reunion" and again in 1989 for "An Eight Is Enough Wedding." Patten made his final screen appearance in 2011 in a guest spot on sitcom "Hot in Cleveland."

Interviewed by the Television Academy Foundation, Van Patten — who began his career as a child star — recalled the advice he gave the young actors playing his character's eight kids. "I used to tell them to really enjoy this because it's not going to last forever, and you'll think about it when it's all over," he said. "And you'll be wishing you were back doing it again. ... I thought I used to teach them to appreciate what they were doing."

Van Patten died in 2015 at age 86. "I am sorry to report this sad news," his publicist, Jeff Ballard told Entertainment Weekly. "He was the kindest man you could ever meet in life. A loving family man. They don't make them like him anymore."

Diana Hyland's death during the first season changed the show

Diana Hyland played mother-of-eight Joan Bradford on "Eight Is Enough" but appeared in just four episodes; her life was tragically cut short by breast cancer early in the show's run. She was 41 when she died, just 12 days after the series' premiere. Hyland's death left the series' producers in a tough spot, facing a decision to either recast the role and hope viewers wouldn't notice (a gambit taken the previous decade when Dick Sargent replaced Dick York as the bumbling Darrin Stevens on "Bewitched") or face the tragedy head-on by having Hyland's character die as well. They chose the latter. 

However, Joan Bradford wasn't killed off immediately; at first, the character was written off the show, said to be out of town visiting her sister. When "Eight Is Enough" returned for its second season, viewers learned that Tom was now a widower, mourning the loss of his wife. "I think that was hard emotionally on a lot of the kids," series creator William Blinn told the Television Academy Foundation of how the young actors who played Hyland's children were affected. "It wasn't just a funny TV show anymore. All of a sudden she's really dying." 

Early in that second season, a new character was introduced: Abby Abbott, played by Betty Buckley, who gradually became a love interest for Dick Van Patten's Tom; they tied the knot midway through the second season, with Abby becoming the kids' stepmom.

Betty Buckley returned to the Broadway stage

Before joining "Eight Is Enough" in its second season, Betty Buckley got her start onstage. After its cancellation, Buckley returned to Broadway to take on what would become her signature role: Grizabella in the musical "Cats," singing the ballad "Memory" and winning a 1983 Tony Award for her performance. 

In the years that followed, Buckley continued to split her time between Broadway and Hollywood. Onstage, she starred in Broadway productions of "Carrie," "Sunset Boulevard," and "Triumph of Love." She also appeared in the Oscar-nominated film "Tender Mercies," starred in several TV movies, and guest starred on various series. In addition, she played recurring roles on HBO's gritty prison drama "Oz," The CW's "Supergirl," and the supernatural drama "Preacher." More recently, Buckley was seen as Trial Division Chief Lorraine Maxwell on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," a role she played intermittently between 2006 and 2023.

In a 2016 Hollywood Reporter interview, Buckley looked back on joining "Eight Is Enough" under such tragic circumstances. "Those kids were young, they believed they were those characters. It was an immense loss to them, losing Diana Hyland. So it was like being a real stepmother," Buckley recalled. "The first two years were bumpy and then everybody got used to each other, and it became a dream job. ... I look back on it — 29 episodes a year for four years — it was an extraordinary gift. I grew into a better actress. I'm very proud of it."

Lani O'Grady retired from acting to become a talent agent

When "Eight Is Enough" had run its course, Lani O'Grady — who played the eldest Bradford daughter, Mary — stepped away from what had been a promising acting career to embrace another Hollywood vocation. Following in the footsteps of her mother, top talent agent Mary Grady, she became an agent herself. 

Over the course of O'Grady's life, she experienced severe anxiety and panic attacks, which her doctors misdiagnosed. As a result, they prescribed her heavy medication — including Xanax, Valium, and Librium — on which she eventually became dependent. "I drank two bottles of Chardonnay a day, took a ton of prescription pills," she told Geraldo Rivera in a 1994 interview. She went to rehab five times before finally becoming sober in the mid-1990s and taking a job as a recovery counselor with the doctor who'd treated her.

Later that decade, however, she was hospitalized for an addiction to Ativan, a powerful sleeping pill. In 2001, she died at the age of 46. The cause of death was ultimately ruled the result of a drug overdose, with the toxicology test revealing her blood contained lethal levels of Vicodin, a powerful painkiller, and Prozac, which doctors prescribe for depression. The coroner was unable to determine whether the overdose was intentional or accidental.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Connie Needham overcame a serious health crisis

Connie Needham is best known for playing Elizabeth Bradford on "Eight Is Enough" throughout the series' five-season run. She continued acting after that, appearing on the TV series "Fame," and in the two "Eight Is Enough" reunion movies. Her final screen credit was in 1995, when she played a waitress in an episode of Ellen DeGeneres' sitcom "Ellen."

While starring on "Eight Is Enough," she fell in love with set designer David Needham. They married in 1979 and welcomed two children before divorcing in 2005. In 2010, Needham opened up to RadarOnline.com about her health struggles, revealing that she had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. "I was having a lot of bloating and I started having a little difficulty breathing to the point that I thought I had a lung infection," she said. After undergoing a hysterectomy, Needham made a full recovery. 

Needham went on to compete in a "Dancing With the Stars"-themed dance challenge to raise money for the Women's Cancer Research Foundation. "I was very fortunate to end up with the Women's Cancer Research Foundation for my treatment," Needham said in a video documenting her experience. "And I want to make sure that the word gets out about the research that's being done and the opportunities for treatment that can allow all the women who get this nasty disease to recover — like I did." 

Life wasn't easy for Susan Richardson after Eight is Enough

After five seasons playing Susan Bradford on "Eight Is Enough," Susan Richardson landed a few more acting roles in the early 1980s, including guest spots on TV series including "Fantasy Island," "CHiPs," "One Day at a Time," and others. Her acting career, however, flatlined after that; Richardson's most recent screen credit was in the 1990 movie "Soldiers of Innocence." 

In a 2013 interview with the National Enquirer, she admitted she'd fallen on hard times in recent years. "I don't want to complain too much, but I've had my share of problems," she told the tabloid. While acting roles dried up, she experienced a series of health woes, including diabetes, strokes, and a digestive issue she said caused her to lose all her teeth. At the time, she was living in a squalid trailer in Pennsylvania, which she couldn't afford to heat. "There's always something wrong with it," she said. "I desperately need a new trailer but I can't afford it."

In a subsequent interview with "Inside Edition," she revealed she'd been diagnosed with achalasia, a rare hereditary condition that left her esophagus paralyzed and rendered her unable to eat solid food; instead, she was forced to use a feeding tube just to survive. However, she also noted that she'd defied doctors' expectations. "Eight years ago they told me I wouldn't be here," she said. "I'm here!" 

Adam Rich died of a drug overdose

As the youngest member of the "Eight Is Enough" cast, Adam Rich began playing Nicholas Bradford when he was just 8 years old. When the series concluded, he joined the cast of a new series, "Code Red," which was canceled after one season. From there, he lent his voice to the animated series "Dungeons & Dragons" and guest starred on a few other series. Like so many other child stars, Rich's career stalled as he grew older. He also experienced a health crisis in 1989, when a flu virus made its way to his brain, leaving him comatose for five weeks. 

In 1991, Rich was arrested for shoplifting, having stolen a pair of sunglasses and some socks, and police suspected he was intoxicated at the time of his arrest. He was freed on $5,000 bail — which his former TV dad, Dick Van Patten, paid. Just a few weeks earlier, he'd been arrested for breaking into a pharmacy to steal morphine. A year before that, he was arrested for driving drunk. Rich blamed his arrests on his addiction to drugs and alcohol. "Some people are saying it was a cry for help, and I guess that's right," he told UPI. "I am very remorseful, very embarrassed about this whole thing."

Sadly, Rich died in January 2023 at age 54; the cause of death was later revealed to be a fentanyl overdose.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Laurie Walters embraced environmentalism

Laurie Walters played Joannie Bradford on "Eight Is Enough," and like several of her co-stars, she continued acting for a few years before shifting gears in the early 1990s. "It became clear I wasn't making the transition from ingenue to leading lady," she explained in an interview with Ojai Monthly. According to Walters, she'd had a love of nature since childhood, which led her to zero in on two key goals for herself. "I wanted to save the Earth and/or become a respected actress," she said. 

When acting roles eventually grew scarce, Walters decided to pursue her other interest and focused on working with the LA-based environmental group TreePeople. "I'm proud to say I've planted many trees in the urban forest of Los Angeles!" she declared. 

When she and her husband relocated to Ojai, California, she founded the Ojai Church of the Wild. She also served on the boards of the Green Coalition and the Ojai Shakespeare Festival. She established a lending library of environmental literature for the Green Coalition and then founded a theatrical library, The Slade Collection, at the Ojai Art Center. The library was named in memory of her husband, John Slade, who died in 2017. She also continued to act in theatrical productions in Ojai, a place that had become her home. "I've found a sense of place," she said.

Grant Goodeve's acting career continued for long after Eight is Enough

Grant Goodeve played the eldest Bradford son, David, and he parlayed his "Eight Is Enough" role into a successful acting career that continued through the decades that followed. His list of screen credits is impressive, including "Northern Exposure," a brief stint on "One Life to Live," a recurring role on "Dynasty," and three appearances on "Murder, She Wrote" — and that was before the early 1990s. Goodeve later also lent his voice to a variety of video games and appeared in the 2021 holiday movie "Christmas in the Pines." 

Interviewed for SilverDove Films, Goodeve was asked whether "Eight Is Enough" fans still recognize him after all those years. "They do," he confirmed. "I don't know if that's because I looked like an old guy when I was, you know, playing David Bradford, or what." The other project for which he's most recognized is "Northern Exposure," in which he had a recurring role until his character was killed off. "I was on two seasons of 'Northern Exposure,' and [fans of the show] are like Trekkies," he added. 

In addition, Goodeve — who lived in the Pacific Northwest for many years— began hosting his own local travel series on Seattle television in 1998, "Northwest Backroads." "I'm kind of like the Rick Steves of the Northwest," he joked. He's also hosted "If Walls Could Talk" for HGTV, in addition to several HGTV specials under the "Homes of Heritage" banner.

Dianne Kay retired from acting in the late 1990s

Dianne Kay, who played Nancy Bradford on "Eight Is Enough," remained in Hollywood after the series' end. She starred in a few TV movies — including "Cass Malloy" and "Portrait of a Showgirl" — and on the series "Glitter," which ran for a single season in 1984 and 1985. More acting roles followed throughout the 1980s, but her credits became more sporadic in the following decade. Her final screen credit is a 1999 episode of Dick Van Dyke's "Diagnosis Murder," after which she retired from acting. 

While starring on "Eight Is Enough," Kay was cast in a major role in "1941," a World War II comedy directed by Steven Spielberg. While the film is now notorious as one of Spielberg's rare bombs, it was expected to be a huge hit, boasting a cast that included red-hot "Saturday Night Live" stars John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd. Her casting in what appeared to be a prestige project, she said, led to a bit of jealousy from some of her TV siblings. "And who wouldn't feel that way, to work with Steven Spielberg? I would have been jealous too," Kay said in an interview with the "Reimagine That" podcast. "But at the same time, maybe because it wasn't such a super hit, it all boiled down and everyone was fine with it."

Willie Aames hit the high seas, married his pen pal, and inspired a Hallmark movie

Playing Tommy Bradford on "Eight Is Enough," Willie Aames became the show's resident teen idol, regularly appearing in Tiger Beat and its ilk. Like other teen idols of that era, he ventured into music. His band Paradise appeared on "Eight Is Enough," in addition to performing on "American Bandstand" and various talk shows. After the series' end, Aames embarked on a movie career, starring in the films "Paradise" and "Zapped!" After neither burned up the box office, he returned to television, co-starring with Scott Baio in the sitcom "Charles in Charge," which ran from 1984 until 1990. 

After that, Aames fell on hard times, struggling with substance abuse and later filing for bankruptcy in 2008. In 2010, however, he made an unexpected career shift when he was hired by Oceania Cruises as a cruise director. "The guests recognize me about 60% to 70% of the time," Aames told "Oprah: Where Are They Now?" in 2013. "And it's really nice when they do."

During his "Eight Is Enough" days, he answered a fan letter from Winnie Hung, and the two continued exchanging letters over the years. They reconnected years later, and while he was working as a cruise director, they met up during a stop in Vancouver. They fell in love and got married. They decided to tell their amazing true love story in a Hallmark Channel movie, 2022's "Love in the Limelight."

Ralph Macchio went on to The Karate Kid — and then Cobra Kai

In one of his earliest screen roles, Ralph Macchio played Jeremy Andretti, Abby's troubled nephew, who comes to live with the Bradfords during the final season of "Eight Is Enough." Not long after the series ended, Macchio hit it big when he was cast in "The Outsiders," which then led to the title role in "The Karate Kid," a major hit that propelled him to stardom (and two sequels). Subsequent movies also included "Crossroads," and "My Cousin Vinny." His acting career, however, shifted after the late 1990s, and he transitioned from star to supporting roles while steadily continuing to work.  

However, he made a big career comeback in 2018 with "Cobra Kai," a TV series based on the characters of "The Karate Kid," following their lives a quarter-century later. 

Discussing his career in an interview with Vanity Fair, Macchio said he was tapped for "Eight Is Enough" after ABC undertook a talent search for young actors they could add to existing series. "Apparently they didn't think eight was enough," he joked. "But I fortunately got to do 21 episodes that season. It was the final season, so I always say I might've been nine was too many." Becoming part of that ensemble cast, he explained, proved an education in acting that spurred him to improve. "So I dove deeper into the craft and studied acting after 'Eight Is Enough,' and right before "The Outsiders,'" he added.