Who is Kristy McNichol?
Kristy McNichol, born Christina Ann McNichol, is an American actor, comedian, producer, and singer, best known for starring in films such as ‘Only When I Laugh’ and ‘Little Darlings’ and series such as ‘Family.’ Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Kristy began modeling when she was a kid. She appeared in many TV commercials, along with her brother. She eventually made her on-screen acting debut with a small role in the series titled ‘Love, American Style’ in 1973. She had her major break in 1976, when she began playing ‘Buddy Lawrence,’ one of the key roles in the popular drama series ‘Family.’ Her role won her two ‘Emmy Awards’ in the late 1970s. She was hailed as a critically acclaimed actor and later starred in films such as ‘Little Darlings’ and ‘White Dog,’ gathering more appreciation. Her role in the 1981 film titled ‘Only When I Laugh’ won her a ‘People’s Choice Award’ and a nomination for a ‘Golden Globe.’ She also appeared in major roles in series such as ‘Empty Nest’ and ‘Invasion America.’ She has battled mental health issues such as bipolar disorder throughout her life, which led her to quit acting toward the late 1990s.
Childhood & Early Life
Kristy McNichol was born Christina Ann McNichol, on September 11, 1962, in Los Angeles, California, to Carolyn and Jim McNichol. She grew up with her two brothers, Jimmy and Thomas. Jimmy also became a famous child actor and was once hailed as a teen idol.
However, when Kristy was 3 years old, her parents divorced. Following this, all the children went to live with their mother. Carolyn soon remarried. Kristy had a half-sister named Jennifer Lucas from her mother’s second marriage.
Since a tender age, Kristy had shown an inclination toward the entertainment industry. She modeled and appeared in a few print advertisements while she was still a toddler. She eventually began appearing in TV commercials.
She appeared in the first TV commercial of her career when she was 6 years old. In a few of her early commercials, she also appeared with her brother Jimmy. Their mother acted as their manager during the early years.
She also loved singing, but acting remained her priority. She soon decided to audition for TV and film roles. By the time she was 11 years old, she had already made her TV debut.
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In 1973, she made her TV debut with the small role of ‘Steffi’ in an episode of the series ‘Love, American Style,’ titled ‘Love and the Unsteady Steady.’ She was 11 years old at the time.
The following year, she played a supporting role in the series titled ‘Apple’s Way,’ playing the key role of ‘Patricia Apple.’ She played the role in 15 episodes of the series.
Following this, she played guest roles in series such as ‘ABC Afterschool Special,’ ‘Sara,’ and ‘The Bionic Woman.’
She had the first major breakthrough of her career in 1976, when she was signed to play ‘Letitia “Buddy” Lawrence’ in the family drama ‘Family.’ She played the younger daughter of the leading family in the series. The series was a major critical and commercial success and ran for five seasons.
This was the first time in her career that Kristy received universal appreciation for her performance. The series won many ‘Primetime Emmy Awards.’ Kristy won two ‘Emmy Awards’ for ‘Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series.’ Additionally, she was also nominated for a ‘Golden Globe’ for her performance.
While her TV career was soaring in the late 1970s, her film career was not too great initially. Her debut film was supposed to be the 1977 movie ‘Black Sunday,’ but her scenes were chopped off from the final edit. She eventually made her debut with a supporting role in the 1978 film titled ‘The End.’
In 1980, she played the first lead role of her career, in the film titled ‘Little Darlings.’ The teen comedy–drama was a critical and commercial hit.
In 1981, Kristy played ‘Polly Hines’ in the comedy–drama film titled ‘Only When I Laugh.’ The film received mixed response from critics, but there was universal praise for all the performances in the film. Kristy was nominated for a ‘Golden Globe Award’ for her performance in the leading role.
The immense critical appreciation continued in 1982, with the release of the film ‘White Dog,’ in which Kristy played a struggling actor. The film, however, ran into controversy, as it was thrashed by the American media, who claimed it was a racist film. However, everywhere else, it received accolades for being anti-racist.
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The same year, Kristy appeared in yet another lead role, in the Australian film titled ‘The Pirate Movie.’ The film received poor reviews at the time of its release but was eventually considered a successful film.
In 1984, she starred in the comedy drama ‘Just the Way You Are.’ Its shooting was halted due to her mental health issues.
In the late 1980s and the early 1990s, she appeared in films such as ‘Dream Lover,’ ‘Two Moon Junction,’ and ‘Baby of the Bride.’
She appeared in 100 episodes of the series ‘Empty Nest.’ She made her final on-screen appearance to date in 1998, appearing in 13 episodes of the series titled ‘Invasion America.’
She voiced the character ‘The Princess’ in the 1982 film ‘Aladdin and the Magic Lamp.’
She co-produced the 1993 TV movie ‘Mother of the Bride’ and worked as an assistant producer for the 1989 short film ‘Dirty Tennis.’
She has contributed to the soundtracks of ‘The Pirate Movie,’ ‘Only When I Laugh,’ and ‘The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia.’
Family & Personal Life
Kristy McNichol was diagnosed with bipolar disorder during the prime of her acting career. She struggled with mental health issues throughout the 1990s, before officially retiring from acting in 2001.
She once stated that most of her psychological issues resulted from her being an active actor since her childhood.
Kristy came out as a lesbian during an interview in 2012. She revealed that she had been living with her lover, Martie Allen, since the 1990s. She said that she chose to come out of the closet to give courage to those who are bullied for their sexuality.