Married... With Children Actors Who Sadly Passed Away

If you were around the late '80s and early '90s, you were probably at least a casual viewer of Fox's beloved series "Married... With Children." The show followed the escapades of the Bundy family, made up of dad Al, mom Peggy, and their kids, Kelly and Bud, per IMDb. The show definitely tapped into stereotypes of the era, with Al portraying the downtrodden father and husband who can't stand his family. While some of the show's content might surprise viewers in 2021, "Married... With Children" was crowned a new classic television show by Entertainment Tonight back in 2008.

Fans of the show might find it hard to believe that it's been over 30 years since it originally premiered, but it certainly has! Those 30 years have seen a lot for the cast and crew: marriages, births, new jobs, stardom, and, sadly, deaths. In fact, quite a few cast members have passed on since the show's ending in 1997.

Joseph Bologna

Joseph Bologna was featured in two episodes of "Married... With Children" and actually enjoyed a successful career both on TV and in movies. His first role was in "Lovers and Other Strangers," a play that he co-wrote and co-starred in with his wife, Renée Taylor (via Review Journal).

Bologna played Al Bundy's construction worker friend Charlie Verducci on "Married." His character was joined by his son, Vinny, who was played by a young Matt LeBlanc. The episode was titled "Top of the Heap," and even led to a spin-off series by the same name (via IMDb).

Bologna passed away in 2017 after fighting pancreatic cancer for three years. Taylor confirmed his death to the media, noting that her husband led "a beautiful life and a beautiful death" and that he passed away only two days after the pair celebrated their 52nd anniversary (via Variety). Taylor and Bologna wrote 22 plays together, and worked together on quite a few programs.

Kathleen Freeman

Kathleen Freeman had a curious role in the show. As the voice of Ma Wanker, Peg Bundy's mother, she never actually appeared on the show. Freeman passed away in August 2001 following a battle with lung cancer (via Playbill).

Freeman's career kicked off in 1948's "The Naked City," and she went on to have roles in hundreds of movies and TV shows. She also directed, composed, and acted for Los Angeles' The Circle and Players Ring Theatre (via Playbill), and was the founder of the SAG-AFTRA Conservatory. Freeman once told the Conservatory's publication, The Focus, that she was only interested in doing the best work possible. "I'm not interested in ever showing up without doing my best. I've been trained. You've got to be great every time, not once."

She also once explained to the Associated Press that making people laugh is her life's work. "This will sound very corny and I'm sorry, but I have always had the sense I was put here to do this: I am somebody who is around to help the world laugh. I have always had that sense. Corny but absolutely true" (via Backstage).

Diana Bellamy

"Married... With Children" featured a running gag: different women would come and go from Al Bundy's shoe shop. The women all have one thing in common: They consistently make Al Bundy's life more complicated. Bellamy played one of these women on the show, but actually also appeared on the show as Kathleen Morgan, who made a pass at Joseph Bologna's Charlie Verducci and had a third appearance as Nancy, who was the leader of an organization called Crimes Against Obesity, per IMDb.

Bellamy's real life intersected with her career later in her life. The treatment she received for cancer interacted with her diabetes and caused her to go blind. She won the role of Principal Cecilia Show on the WB's "Popular," who was also blind. She ended up explaining, "I had tried crying and being in a snit about [blindness] but that was real boring. I've learned to live with it as best I can, and I feel very blessed that this has happened" (via The Los Angeles Times).

Bellamy passed away in June 2001. 

Tim Conway

Tim Conway starred as Peg Bundy's alcoholic father, Ephraim Wanker, in a handful of episodes, per IMDb. Conway also starred on the "The Carol Burnett Show," and many members of the cast remembered the star fondly when he passed away in May 2019 at the age of 85. 

Carol Burnett released a statement following news of Conway's passing. "I'm heartbroken. He was one in a million, not only as a brilliant comedian but as a loving human being. I cherish the times we had together both on the screen and off. He'll be in my heart forever" (via Variety).

In 2012, Burnett was asked in an interview if the team on her show ever worries about running out of material for the show, but she said they never had to thanks to Conway.

"No, because we could always count on Tim to go over. So there was always enough show. In fact, sometimes, because he would get on a roll and do stuff we had never seen before, so maybe a four-minute sketch would turn into a 10-minute sketch — thanks to Conway — and we could then bank another sketch that we were going to do that week for another week."

Sam Kinison

The story goes that the show was inspired by comedians Roseanne Barr and Sam Kinison, who were each told they could play their respective characters — Peg and Al Bundy — if they chose to do so (via Vulture). While both opted out, Kinison did eventually appear on the show's 1989 Christmas special titled "It's a Bundyful Life" (via IMDb). Kinison played an angel in the holiday episode, which was inspired by "It's A Wonderful Life." In the episode, Al Bundy sees what life would be like for his family if he wasn't alive. Kinson is sent to make sure Bundy doesn't kill himself (even though he wasn't planning to).

Sadly, Kinison passed away at the age of 38 years old in April 1992. He was killed in a head-on collision near Needles, California, and his wife was injured in the same accident. The New York Times reported, "On Friday night, he was on his way to perform at the Riverside Resort Hotel and Casino in Laughlin, Nev., when his sports car collided with a pickup truck on U.S. Highway 95 about 200 miles east of Los Angeles. His wife, Malika, whom he married only last Sunday, was injured in the crash and was taken to Needles Desert Community Hospital in serious condition."

Janet Carroll

Actress Janet Carroll was a living legend, her role as Tom Cruise's mother in "Risky Business" propelling her to superstardom, as Variety noted in an announcement of the actress' death in 2012. Her IMDb page lists a whopping 104 acting credits overall, including high-profile parts in "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," "Scrubs," "Ally McBeal," and plenty more. Carroll appeared on "Married... with Children" from 1994 to 1997 as Gary, the owner of shoe company Gary's Shoes, where Al worked (via The Wrap). Considering her male-sounding name, the show played with the idea Gary was a man to frequently hilarious ends, but once Carroll actually showed up, it was clear nobody else could possibly be the boss. 

Carroll died at the age of 71, after a long battle with an unnamed illness. Born in Chicago, she began her acting career immediately after finishing high school, quickly graduating from the stage to the screen after moving to California. Among other productions, she appeared in "Lady Windemere's Fan," alongside Lynn Redgrave and John Lithgow. As notes, Carroll also featured in movies with stars including Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck. Shockingly, she was never nominated for the prestigious TV award.

Bubba Smith

You'd be hard-pressed to find a character name better than "Spare Tire" Dixon but, in reality, the actor who portrayed him boasted an even cooler moniker — Bubba Smith. Funnily enough, although he played a wannabe football star who frequently sparred with high school rival Al in "Married... with Children," Smith was actually a former NFL player offscreen. As The New York Times noted, he passed away in 2011 after suffering with "chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the degenerative brain disease linked to repeated head trauma." 

Smith enjoyed a lucrative second career as an actor, having said goodbye to football after the 1976 season. He was most well known for playing Moses Hightower in the "Police Academy" movies, but Spare Tire was just as beloved a character. In keeping with the former athlete's lovable reputation on and off the field, the Los Angeles Times detailed that he actually parlayed a commercial job with beer brand Miller Light into a successful acting career, with appearances in TV series including "Blue Thunder" and "Good Times" alongside "Married... with Children." 

Alan Thicke

As IMDb notes, Alan Thicke actually played two characters on "Married... with Children." The legendary Canadian portrayed Henry, who dated Kelly, and later Bruce, who dated Peggy. TMZ confirmed the "Growing Pains" star had died suddenly, in 2016, reportedly of a heart attack while in the middle of a hockey game with son Carter. Thicke's elder son, Robin, the pop star behind "Blurred Lines," told the Los Angeles Times some of his father's last words were "a compliment to his son on a nice shot." 

Looking back on his father's final moments, Robin explained, "The good thing was that he was beloved and he had closure. I saw him a few days ago and told him how much I loved and respected him." Thicke's career was hugely impressive, with roles in the likes of "The Love Boat" and "The Bold and the Beautiful" giving way to funny cameos on modern fare such as "How I Met Your Mother. In one of his final interviews, with The Hollywood Reporter, the beloved actor opined, "There's not much that I haven't done in my life, but there's lots of things that I'd like to do better." 

Kevin Curran

Kevin Curran was a veteran comedy star, but he wasn't known predominantly as an actor. In fact, as IMDb details, Curran's sole onscreen role was in "Married... with Children." Funnily enough, he mostly provided the voice of family dog Buck, who only actually appeared as his human self in Season 6's "Psychic Veterans," no doubt making an impression. He was a writer and producer on "Married...with Children" too, providing his talents to the show in different ways. As Variety noted, in a 2016 article about his death, Curran was primarily known for the 15 years he spent writing on "The Simpsons." He was 59 at the time of his death, which occurred following a lengthy illness. 

Curran was a Harvard graduate, and he actually met future "Simpsons" showrunner Al Jean while studying at the Ivy League institution. "He was one of the funniest guys I ever met," Jean enthused, adding, "He also had one of the sweetest, biggest hearts. He really was a terrific guy." As The New York Times reports, Curran earned three Emmys for his celebrated work on "The Simpsons." Elsewhere, the prolific writer worked on "Late Night with David Letterman."

Jean Speegle Howard

Even if you don't know the name Jean Speegle Howard, you definitely know one of her sons, prolific filmmaker Ron Howard. In 2006, ABC News reported on the sad death of the legendary actress, who counted roles in the likes of "Apollo 13," "Cocoon," and, of course, "Married... with Children" among her impressive slate (via IMDb). Speegle Howard took a break from her theater career to raise sons Ron and Clint, transitioning to film and TV work once they were both grown. She was subsequently forced to retire early due to ill health and died as a result of complications from heart and respiratory illness at the age of 73. 

Reflecting on the success of "Apollo 13," 25 years after the film's release, director Ron admitted he initially didn't think his mother was old enough to play her role. "I'm so happy my dad twisted my arm," he told ET, admitting to being "nervous about it because I knew what a pivotal role it was." Still, Ron acknowledged she killed it. The actress was just as memorable in "Married... with Children," portraying a handful of different characters over the years.

Steve Susskind

Many performers are considered character actors, but when it comes to the prolific Steve Susskind, the moniker is particularly fitting. As IMDb details, over the years, Susskind made his mark on everything from "Friends" to "Frasier," "Seinfeld," "Scrubs," and, naturally, "Married... with Children," in which the actor played Al's BFF, Barney, for eight seasons. In fact, it's likely you've seen Susskind in several different projects and not even realized you were watching the same guy. The Los Angeles Times confirmed his death at the age of 62 in 2005. 

Susskind was reportedly killed in a traffic collision, when the limousine he was driving was hit by another car. Aside from his impressively varied onscreen work, Susskind was also a seasoned voiceover artist, lending his impressive pipes to the likes of Disney movies "The Emperor's New Groove" and "Monsters, Inc." among others. As Variety noted, Susskind's memorial was held at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills — a fitting goodbye for someone of his impressive caliber. 

Beckie Mullen

Similar to Bubba Smith, the enigmatic Beckie Mullen had a whole other life before appearing on "Married... with Children." TMZ Sports broke the news of the former pro-wrestler's death in 2020. She died at the age of 55 after a long battle with cancer. She had been diagnosed in October 2019 and "fought as long as she could," according to Mullen's daughter. Known mostly by her moniker, Sally the Farmer's Daughter, Mullen was an original member of the legendary Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (GLOW), which was the basis for the Netflix series "GLOW," as People noted.

Much like Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and John Cena, Mullen was able to parlay her success in the ring into an acting career, landing roles in "MADtv," "Renegade," and even Van Halen's music video for "Poundcake," as per IMDb. Her appearance as Yvonne to Pamela Anderson's Yvette in a saucy dream of Al's naturally made a significant impact on male fans of "Married... with Children." The former wrestler's GLOW colleague and lifelong friend Dana Felton Howard, aka Thunderbolt, told USA Today Mullen didn't want anybody to know she was sick, sharing, "None of her fans and even many friends were not aware what was going on."