Melissa Ann Francis is an American former actress who currently serves as a commentator for the Fox Business Network (FBN) and Fox News (FNC). Her acting credits include the TV shows and films ‘Little House on the Prairie’, ‘Morningstar/Eveningstar’, and ‘The Dictator’. A California native, Francis is a Harvard graduate. She began her career on the small screen when she was six months old in a Johnson & Johnson shampoo commercial. At the age of five, she made her acting debut in the TV movie ‘The Ghost of Flight 401’. In 1979, she had her big screen debut in Michael Schultz’s comedy film ‘Scavenger Hunt’. Francis was highly active as an actress in the 1980s but the roles started to dwindle down in the following decade. Her last film was the 2012 satirical comedy ‘The Dictator’. In 2005, she was hired to host CNBC’s ‘On the Money’. At present, she is the co-host of FBN’s ‘After the Bell’.
Melissa Francis’ career began even before she turned one. She was featured in a Johnson & Johnson shampoo commercial when she was six months old. In the ensuing few years, she appeared in numerous other commercials. In 1978, she appeared in her first TV project, a telefilm called ‘The Ghost of Flight 401’. She had her big screen debut a year later, in ‘Scavenger Hunt’. In 1980, she got the chance to share screen space with Robin Williams in a season two episode of the ABC sitcom ‘Mork & Mindy’. She played the younger version of Mindy and used to walk around the set with a one-eyed teddy bear in her arms. After the shooting was over, she wanted to keep the toy but the show’s property manager told her that it was not possible. Williams stepped in and convinced him to give the toy to Francis. She still has the bear and now her children play with it.
Between 1979 and 1980, she played Linda Wabash in 11 episodes of the NBC sitcom ‘Joe’s World’. In 1981, she joined the cast of NBC’s drama series ‘Little House on the Prairie’ as Cassandra Cooper Ingalls, the adopted daughter of Caroline and Charles Ingalls. Francis appeared in 21 episodes of the show before leaving in 1982. In the short-lived CBS family-drama series ‘Morningstar/Eveningstar’ (1986), she portrayed Sarah Bishop.
In 1983, she played the daughter of Martin Sheen and Blythe Danner in Dick Richards’ drama film ‘Man, Woman and Child’. Francis had a small role in the 1988 horror thriller ‘Bad Dreams’. Her most recent cinematic appearance was in the 2012 comedy ‘The Dictator’.
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Career as an Announcer & Pundit
In 2005, Francis was hired to host CNBC’s ‘On the Money’. She later served as the anchor on three episodes of ‘CNBC Business News’. She was also employed at CNET before she joined Fox Business Network in January 2012. She was the guest hostess of two episodes of ‘Lou Dobbs Tonight’ between 2012 and 2013. She has served as the panellist on 25 episodes of ‘America Live’. From 2013 to 2018, she was one of the co-hosts of FNC’s ‘Happening Now’. Since 2015, she has been co-hosting FBN’s ‘After the Bell’ with David Asman. She also makes regular appearances on FNC's afternoon talk show ‘Outnumbered’.
In November 2012, Francis released her non-fiction book ‘Diary of a Stage Mother's Daughter: A Memoir’, in which she documents her relationship with her parents. She released ‘Lessons from the Prairie’ in April 2017. It is a book about her experience on the set of the classic show and the life lessons she accumulated there.
Family & Personal Life
Born Vini Melissa Ann Francis on December 12, 1972, in Los Angeles, California, USA, Melissa is the daughter of a small businessman father and homemaker mother. She grew up alongside her older sister Tiffany. As a child, Francis experienced a semi-Hollywood life. Her mother used to devote most of her time to make her two daughters successful child actresses. They were taught riding and skiing and were enrolled at the best school their parents could afford. Francis’ relationship with her mother was complex. According to her, her mother was “mercurial, domineering, but also devoted.”
After graduating from high school, Francis attended Harvard University, from where she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in economics in 1995. At Harvard, she was the captain of the polo team. She also served as the executive editor of the Harvard College Economist Magazine.
In 1997, Francis exchanged wedding vows with financier and asset manager Wray Thorn. They have three children together: sons Thompson (born 2007) and Greyson (born April 26, 2010) and daughter Gemma (born 2015). Francis has been diagnosed with a rare hereditary condition called Factor V Leiden, which makes pregnancy dangerous for her. The birth of her two sons had been quite difficult. When Francis and her husband told their doctor that they wanted a third child, they were informed that it could lead to her death. Eventually, they had Gemma with the help of a surrogate mother.