More than three decades after Family Ties wrapped, the cast convened for a fun-filled reunion on Tuesday night.
The stars of the beloved 1980s NBC sitcom got together on the daily series Stars in the House to reminisce about their time filming the show, which aired for seven seasons from 1982 to 1989.
The first half of the reunion, hosted by Seth Rudetsky and James Wesley, featured multiple original cast members, including Michael J. Fox (Alex P. Keaton), Meredith Baxter (Elyse Keaton), Michael Gross (Steven Keaton) and Tina Yothers (Jennifer Keaton). For the second half of the taping, they were joined by Marc Price (Irwin "Skippy" Handelman), Scott Valentine (Nick Moore) and Brian Bonsall (Andrew "Andy" Keaton).
During the reunion, the cast discussed their time on Family Ties, which followed parents Elyse and Steven Keaton — former 1960s radicals now raising a family in the suburbs — and their family, who faced a series of day-to-day obstacles, including frequently grappling with son Alex's Ronald Reagan-loving ways.
Here's seven things we learned during the cast reunion.
1. America needs to “come back to the Keaton’s kitchen table”
"I just want to say one thing and that is, I loved the time that we were together. I think as you'll all agree, a kinder, gentler politics," said Gross, 73, "when … Tip O'Neill and Ronald Reagan could sit down over a glass of Irish Whiskey and these two guys could hammer out compromises. And it was a great time. In the same way, we hammered out our compromises in the family and I think that's one of the things that people loved about us."
Yothers, 47, chimed in: "I'm trying to raise a 13-year-old and a 15-year-old and trying to … navigate them through our democracy and how to make this work and it's been really difficult to try to set the example with what's been going on. It's really unfortunate. My daughter is going to vote in the next election, so I want her to get a feel of what America's about. So we need to definitely come back to the Keaton's kitchen table."
From Baxter's perspective, "Yeah, 'cause this show could not have, would not survive now."
But to Yothers, "It would! It would! We have family members that are on different pages and we do get along."
"I think people want a show like this," Gross suggested, as Baxter, 73, said: "Well, that may be true."
2. How they scored their roles
Gross said he auditioned for the show in New York City, "where I was primarily a stage actor and soon heard in a couple of days that they wanted to see me out west. I was put on tape and the story from our executive producer, Gary David Goldberg, was that his daughter, Shana, was looking at some of these VHS tapes he was running and went, 'Oh, I like that guy! I like that guy!'"
"And Shana … still takes 10 percent of my income for the rest of my life," he joked. "No, apparently, I owe my success to the producer's daughter, who at that time was maybe 4 or 5 years of age."
Baxter: "Gary Goldberg and his wife, Diana, came to our house for dinner many months before the actual casting of the show. So they were talking to a fellow I was married to at the time about a project. And then some months later, they called me and asked if I would like to be in Family Ties. I had no idea what they saw or what happened, but I got the job and he didn't."
Yothers said that she was "just a kid being a kid" when she chose doing Family Ties over Disney show.
"I was 7 or 8 and I did a movie called Shoot the Moon and Gary [David Goldberg] really liked the movie and liked my character. I was just a kid being a kid. And he brought me into his big office with his big chair and his big desk and I sat there and I had just shot a pilot for Disney for a Disney western and it was so much fun, with horses and a stagecoach and, you know, all the fun you could ever have. And he asked me, 'Would be interested in doing this family sitcom?' And I said, 'Are there going to be horses?' And he said, 'Probably not horses.' And I said, 'Yeah, I'll have to think about it.' Well, I made the right decision not going with the Disney show."
3. Things they “stole” from set
"I'll tell you what I do have, check this out," Gross said as he showcased a clapperboard from "show No. 83," which "John Pasquin directed."
When the co-hosts asked Gross if he was given the clapperboard or took it, Yothers chimed in: "We stole this s—!"
"I stole this lamp," said Yothers. "I stole this thing behind me that hung in the kitchen."
4. Early on, Michael Gross took his bicycle while Michael J. Fox took the bus to set
"Hey Mike, is it true that like the first several episodes or something that you were filming before it went on the air that you either rode your book or took the bus to Paramount?" Fox, 59, was asked by one of the co-hosts.
"I took the bus," Fox confirmed.
"And I road my bike!" said Gross, who said he decided to use his bicycle to be eco-friendly. "It was because I was green. I had just always been a bicycle rider. Honest to God … they wouldn't let me on the lot with a bike. They said, 'You can't bring that bike.' I said, 'You've given me a parking place.' "
"It was crazy, they wouldn't let me in," continued Gross, who lived in West L.A. at the time. "I finally had to get permission to bring a bicycle on the Paramount lot. It was so weird. For two years, I was a bicycle commuter."
5. Meredith Baxter would drive Michael J. Fox to work
"I used to live in a cheesy little apartment in Brentwood," Fox recalled of his former westside pad, which was over a back alley.
"Meredith would kindly give me rides to work. And she would show up — and of course, if we were supposed to leave at 8:30, she would pick me up at 8:30, I woke up at 8:29. She would honk the horn and I'd get in the shower," he recalled. "I wouldn't have my script, I wouldn't have whatever I need, I was just a mess."
Once he got outside, "this beautiful Mercedes" was waiting for him, "and this beautiful movie star, television star, actress, driving me to work every day."
For Baxter, she also had fond memories of driving Fox to the set. "I thought that was so much fun. I thought it was cool, except, you know, I am punctual. … I pulled in and I could hear the shower turn on and it's like, 'Really, that's what you're doing now?' "
6. They had lots of fun — and “got in a lot of trouble”
Said Yothers: "Behind the scenes, we talked about Gary and running the show and how great it was, but behind the scenes we had so much fun. I mean, seriously, the water gun fights, Michael. The wrestling matches. We got in a lot of trouble, we weren't the most well-disciplined cast because we would have so much fun together. And people would come up to me and say, 'Oh my God, you touched Michael J. Fox. Can I just touch you?' And I'd say, 'Gross! He just pinned me down and farted on my head! He's my brother, he's gross!' And the girls just went wild in the '80s for these people that were my family."
7. There was no behind-the-scenes drama
Gross admitted that "I think I took some of how great we were together for granted. I didn't know how contrary some shows could be and how some casts quarreled the way they did. I mean, I just thought it was all perfection the way ours was and I didn't really understand that things don't always go this particularly well — that there was no controversy, not a lot of problems."
Baxter went on to explain something that the cast "would do" to make guest stars feel welcome on set.
"We made a point of any time we had a guest actor on — because I had been guests on shows and it's hard, it's hard to come in from outside and come into a group that's really tight and funny and they've got their own tricks and stuff and you're sitting around on the outside. And we really made a point of pulling them in and showing them craft services and just playing with them too just so they felt as ease. And I think that always worked for us."
Added Gross: "We welcomed our guests. We were good hosts in that respect, and that means a lot to people coming into an established show, as you said."
Tuesday's event was held in support of The Actors Fund, which helps "anyone in the artistic community with essential needs like financial support to buy groceries, pay rent and pay doctor's bills," according to a previous statement from the hosts.
"During this time of what seems like unending national stress, we find that our audiences are drawn to reunions of what we call 'comfort TV,' those TV shows from yesteryear that brought us all so much joy," the statement continued. "Some of our most popular episodes featured TV shows like Taxi, Frasier, and Melrose Place, and we have no doubt the Family Ties reunion is going to be one of our most viewed!"
Other casts that have reunited on Stars in the House include Night at the Museum, Scandal, Knots Landing, Melrose Place, Frasier, Glee, 30 Rock, Desperate Housewives and more.
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