Remember Willis from 'Diff'rent Strokes'? He's Now the Last Living Member of the Show's Core Cast

Monica Otayza
Sep 23, 2021
07:35 A.M.
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American decades-old sitcom “Diff'rent Strokes" has lost almost all members of its main cast. Todd Bridges, who played Willis Jackson, is the last man standing following Charlotte Rae's death in 2018.

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From 1978 to 1986, "Diff'rent Strokes" was a staple for televisions in the US. It circled around the family of Mr. Drummond, played by the late Conrad Bain and his dead housekeeper's orphaned children. 

The children were Arnold, played by Gary Coleman, and Willis, played by Todd Bridges. It ran for eight seasons and remains a classic up until today.

Todd Bridges at Academy Theatre in Beverly Hills, California in August 2002. | Source: Getty Images

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REMEMBERING CHARLOTTE RAE

Charlotte Rae played Edna Garrett, the motherly figure and housekeeper on "Diff'rent Strokes." Garrett worked for the Drummond Family before getting a new job as a housemother at Eastland School for Girls, the boarding school attended by Kimberly Drummond. 

After her death in 2018, Bridges now remains the only member of the main cast still alive. However, this doesn't mean that he's lived a life free from danger and close encounters with death. 

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LIFE AFTER "DIFF'RENT STROKES"

By the time the hit show ended in 1986, Bridges was using and selling drugs to numb himself from the memory of being assaulted by his former publicist. In 1989, he was accused of shooting a drug dealer, which led to two trials. 

In 1990, he was acquitted of both crimes, particularly attempted murder and assault, due to his hiring of attorney Johnnie Cohran, the same lawyer who defended O.J. Simpson. However, two years later, he had another run-in with the law that led him to spend 90 days in prison. 

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A CHANGE OF HEART

At the time, Bridges was exhausted and worn out. Although he tried to sober himself up, it wasn't working. He wanted to take his life in front of cops, "to give them what I knew they wanted, the chance to say they'd taken down Todd Bridges, the former child star turned drug dealer."

However, he ended up in jail after a judge who happened to be a former addict hoped it would straighten him up once and for all. It worked, and Bridges has been sober for almost three decades now. 

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CHARLOTTE'S PASSING

When Rae passed, the actor remembered her fondly. He explained that even while they filmed, she would step in for the kids whenever they were treated unfairly. 

Bridges and the elder actor had a real-life mother-and-son chemistry. He said:

"When I hung up the phone, I just broke down. I'm the only one left. That's hard to deal with. It's really sad and emotional. I had one piece left from that show. Now I'm the only cast member left." 

Charlotte Rae as Edna Garrett in "Diff'rent Strokes." | Source: Getty Images

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Conrad Bain, who played the role of Philip Drummond, was an excellent actor on the show as he had the most appearances while the sitcom was on. He died in 2013, and at the time, Bridges revealed he had been a strong support system for him while alive.

Gary Coleman played Arnold Jackson, the younger brother of Willis. After the sitcom ended in 1986, Coleman hit hard times. According to Todd Bridges' memoir titled "Killing Willis," Coleman was treated unfairly by his parents, who made him work extra hours as a child actor. He died in 2010 at the age of 42.

Dana Plato, Conrad Bain and Todd Bridges on the set of "Diff'rent Strokes." | Source: Getty Images

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A DOWNWARD SPIRAL

Another child actor on the show was Dana Plato. She portrayed Kimberly Drummond, the biological daughter of Philip. Similar to the rest of the child actors, Plato went through a childhood crisis. 

She got addicted to drugs and suffered an overdose when she was 14. Plato was removed from the show as a result of the drug issues and unfortunately died of a drug overdose in 1999.

While the rest of his castmates are no longer with him, Bridges currently lives a happy life with his family. He has a son named Spencir, who, just like his father, is an actor. He's starred on shows like "House," "ER," "iCarly," and "LAX."

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