Joanna Kerns

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Joanna Kerns
BornJoanna Crussie DeVarona
(1953-02-12) February 12, 1953 (age 61)
San Francisco, California, U.S.
OccupationActress, director
Years active1976–present
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Joanna Kerns
BornJoanna Crussie DeVarona
(1953-02-12) February 12, 1953 (age 61)
San Francisco, California, U.S.
OccupationActress, director
Years active1976–present

Joanna Kerns (born February 12, 1953) is an American actress and director best known for her role as Maggie Seaver on the family situation comedy Growing Pains from 1985–1992.

Early life[edit]

Kerns was born Joanne Crussie DeVarona in San Francisco, California.[1] Her father, David Thomas DeVarona, was an insurance agent, and her mother, Martha Louise (née Smith), was a clothing store manager.[2] Kerns is the third child of four. She has an older brother and a younger brother, as well as an older sister. Her older sister, Donna de Varona, is a famed Olympic gold medal swimmer, who won 2 gold medals in the 1964 Olympics. Their aunt is silent film actress Miriam Cooper.

Growing up, Kerns was constantly in competition with her sister, Donna Kerns stated in an interview, "Donna was the golden girl. There was pressure inside me to duplicate Donna's success" (Wallace 16). Joanna tried swimming, but realized it was not her sport, so she switched to gymnastics. In fact, Joanna became so good at gymnastics that she competed in the Olympic trials in 1968 and ranked 14th out of 28 (Wallace 16).


Early roles[edit]

Kerns got her start in show business as a dancer before turning to acting. She attended UCLA and majored in dance. It was there that she saw an advertisement for a Gene Kelly production called Clown Around and immediately jumped at the chance to audition. She joked in an interview that she sent the casting crew a high school senior picture of herself and all of her grades, hoping to get the part. In order to take the part; however, she would have to drop out of college and move to New York which is exactly what she did. After Clown Around, Joanna also got parts in the New York Shakespeare Festival's production of Two Gentlemen of Verona' and Ulysses in Nighttown, where she was directed by Burgess Meredith (Wallace 16).

Meredith and Kerns had a wonderful working relationship. Later in life, Kerns recalled that Burgess Meredith was a great influence on her, saying, "Burgess was the one person who really influenced my acting career" (Radovsky). Meredith also introduced Kerns to Peggy Feury, whom Kerns studied acting under. In 1972, she moved back to California and landed a job as a backup dancer at Disneyland and started auditioning for TV commercials and steady acting jobs. On May 4, 1977, she made an appearance on Charlie's Angels as Natalie, a worker at a massage parlor, in the episode The Blue Angels.[3]

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Kerns turned heads and started making a name for herself in guest spots on many televisions shows that included:"Emergency!" The A-Team, Starsky & Hutch, Street Hawk, Laverne and Shirley, Three's Company, Hill Street Blues, The Love Boat, Hunter, Magnum, P.I. and V, as well as many commercials. During an interview, Kerns said, "I kind of was always looking for the next thing; I auditioned for anything, hoping to get a big break" (Lifetime's Intimate Portrait). Then, Kerns got her first steady acting job in 1983, starring as Pat Devon in a new CBS series called The Four Seasons, which lasted only one season. The sitcom was about three couples who all lived under the same roof in California. Although the show was not received well by television critics, her part proved to producers that she was capable of acting as a leading lady.

Growing Pains[edit]

Soon after the cancellation of The Four Seasons, Kerns was looking for another job when she auditioned for a new series in late 1984, called Growing Pains. She auditioned with Alan Thicke, who was just coming off of the failure of his TV talk show Thicke of the Night. Kerns joked in many interviews that she and Alan had immediate chemistry, especially when she kissed him on his nose by accident during their audition together. Kerns and Thicke's chemistry won them both the parts, and the two became great friends off the show. (They both had many things in common, including both being newly divorced and both being single parents).

During the success of Growing Pains, Kerns began to star in television movies where she played controversial parts very different from the beloved all-American mom, Maggie Seaver. One such performance that shocked audiences was her 1992 movie, The Nightman, in which Kerns played a highly sexual business woman who was a motel owner. Her many TV movies include: Those She Left Behind, Blind Faith, The Big One: The Great Los Angeles Earthquake, Shameful Secrets, and No One Could Protect Her.

Post-Growing Pains roles and directing career[edit]

After Growing Pains ended, Kerns turned to directing. She was granted the opportunity to direct one episode of Growing Pains while starring on the show and got hooked. In an interview, Kerns stated, "Directing is where I've always wanted to go" (Radovsky 38). She loved directing and decided to change the focus of her career from acting to directing, while continuing to make rare appearances in front of the camera when the right part comes along. She has also directed episodes of television shows including Dawson's Creek, Titans, Scrubs, Private Practice, Psych, Grey's Anatomy, Privileged, ER, Ghost Whisperer, Army Wives, Pretty Little Liars, and Switched at Birth. Kerns even got a big break when she was able to direct Annie Potts in an original made for television movie for Lifetime TV entitled: "Defending Our Kids: The Julie Posey Story". Since then, Kerns has directed a number of shorts.[4]

Kerns has also made notable appearances in feature films, including A*P*E, Girl, Interrupted and the 2007 comedy Knocked Up.

She has also co-founded the Lucy Awards given to women in acting.

Kerns was a member of the Motion Picture and Television Fund Board of Trustees from 2004 through 2008.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

In 1974, Kerns met commercial producer, Richard Kerns, on the set of a commercial and they married 2 years later. Their marriage lasted 9 years and produced a daughter, Ashley Cooper. Immediately after the dissolution of her marriage, Kerns won the role of Maggie Seaver on Growing Pains. She is now married to prominent Los Angeles architect Marc Appleton.


Kerns, a registered Democrat, supported John Kerry in the 2004 United States Presidential Election and Hillary Clinton in the 2008 United States Presidential Election.[5]


1976A*P*EMarilyn Bakeras Joanna DeVarona
The Million Dollar Rip-OffJessieTV movie
1977"The Blue Angels"Natalie SandsCharlie's Angels Television Series
1980Marriage Is Alive and WellMegTV movie
1982A Wedding on Walton's MountainDoris MarshallTV movie
Mother's Day on Waltons MountainDoris MarshallTV movie
1983VMarjorie DonovanTV miniseries
1984The Return of Marcus Welby, M.D.TV movie
1985A Bunny's TaleAndreaTV movie
Stormin' HomeLana SingerTV movie
The Rape of Richard BeckAnita ParrishTV movie
1987MistressStephanieTV movie
Cross My HeartNancy
1989Street JusticeCatherine WatsonTV movie
Those She Left BehindDiane PappasTV movie
The Preppie MurderLinda FairsteinTV movie
1990Blind FaithMaria MarshallTV movie
The Great Los Angeles EarthquakeDr. Clare WinslowTV movie
1991An American SummerAunt Sunny
Deadly Intentions... Again?SallyTV movie
CaptiveKathy PlunkTV movie
1992The NightmanEveTV movie
Desperate Choices: To Save My ChildMel RobbinsTV movie
1993Not in My FamilyVeronica RicciTV movie
The Man with Three WivesKatyTV movie
Shameful SecretsMaryanne Walker-TateTV movie
1994No Dessert, Dad, till You Mow the LawnCarol Cochran
Mortal FearDr. Jennifer KesslerTV movie
1995See Jane RunJane RavensonTV movie
Whose Daughter Is She?Laura EagertonTV movie
1996No One Could Protect HerJessica RaynerTV movie
Terror in the FamilyCynthia MartinTV movie
1997Mother Knows BestCeleste CooperTV movie
Sisters and Other StrangersGail Connelly MetzgerTV movie
1998Emma's WishEmmaTV movie
1999At the Mercy of a StrangerElizabeth CooperTV movie
Girl, InterruptedAnnette Kaysen
2000The Growing Pains MovieMaggie Malone SeaverTV movie
2001All Over the GuyLydia
Someone to LoveMatt's motherTV movie
2004Growing Pains: Return of the SeaversMaggie SeaverTV movie
2007Knocked UpMrs. Scott
MaNiCDr. KernsShort film


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