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Joanna Kerns (1953)

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Joanna Kerns 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
Kerns was born Joanne Crussie DeVarona in San Francisco, California. Her father, David Thomas DeVarona, a Mexican-American, was an insurance agent and her mother, Martha Louise (née Smith), was a clothing store manager. 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 in competition with her sister, Donna, who won two gold medals in swimming in 1964. Kerns stated in an interview, "Donna was the golden girl. There was pressure inside me to duplicate Donna's success" . Joanna tried swimming, but realized it was not her sport, so she switched from swimming 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 .

 Early roles
Kerns got her start in show business as a dancer before turning to acting. She attended UCLA and majored in dance. It was here where she saw an advertisement for a Gene Kelly production called Clown Around. Joanna 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. Taking the part; however, would mean she would have to drop out of college and move to New York. Kerns jumped at the chance and did just that. 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'' .

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". 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 going on auditions for TV commercials and steady acting jobs. During the late 1970s & early 1980s Kerns turned heads and started making a name for herself in guest spots on many televisions shows that included: The A-Team, Starsky & Hutch, Street Hawk, Laverne and Shirley, Three's Company, Hill Street Blues, The Love Boat, Hunter, and Magnum P.I., 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, Joanna got her first steady job acting in 1983, staring as Pat Devon on a new series called The Four Seasons, which ironically 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
After the cancellation of "The Four Seasons", soon Joanna was looking for another job when she auditioned for a new series in 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. .

During the success of Growing Pains, Kerns began to star in television movies where she played controversial parts much different than the beloved all American mom, Maggie Seaver from Growing Pains. 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, No One Could Protect Her and many more.

 Post-Growing Pains roles and directorial career
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" . She loved directing and decided to change the focus of her career from acting to directing, but makes 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, and Army Wives. 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.

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.

 Personal life

Kerns married commercial producer, Richard Kerns in 1976. She met him on a commercial shoot in 1974. Their marriage lasted 9 years and produced their only child, daughter, Ashely Cooper. Immediately after the dissolution of her marriage, Kerns won the role of Maggie Seaver on "Growing Pains", and was attracted to her co-star, Alan Thicke. Kerns is currently married to Marc Appleton, a Harvard Graduate, who owns Appleton & Associates, Inc. Currently, she has taken off some time from acting and directing to care for her daughter, Ashley, who is currently suffering from a severe case of Lyme disease.

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Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "Joanna Kerns", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.