Easily recognizable for her bright smile, thick brunette hair, brown doe eyes, and all-around athletic good looks, Kristy McNichol was one of the more popular juvenile television stars of the 1970s. She specialized in playing tomboys and tough teens and is best remembered for playing Buddy Lawrence on the popular family melodrama Family (1976-1980). McNichol is the daughter of a former actress -- her brother Jimmy McNichol is also an actor -- and started out in commercials at age six. She was 12 when she was cast for the short-lived family drama Apple's Way (1974-1975). After that, she guest starred on several series, including The Bionic Woman (1976-1978) and Love American Style (1969-1974). McNichol was 14 when she was cast in Family. During its run, McNichol received two Emmys and a People's Choice Award. She also appeared in television movies such as the Emmy-winning Summer of My German Soldier (1979) and occasionally in feature films, beginning with The End (1978), in which she played a supporting role opposite Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise. In 1980, McNichol and fellow child stars Tatum O'Neal and Matt Dillon starred in Little Darlings, a summer camp film in which two teen girls compete to be the first to lose their virginity. McNichol has made a few attempts to establish herself in features, and as her performance in Neil Simon's Only When I Laugh shows, she is a bright and talented actress. Unfortunately, her choice of films has been less than stellar and though her performances in such vehicles as The Pirate Movie (1982) and Just the Way You Are (1984) received praise, the films did not. In 1988, McNichol returned to series television as an unmarried detective who returns home to live with her father and her recently divorced sister in the sitcom Empty Nest (1988-1995). Suffering from severe bouts of manic depression, McNichol left the show during the 1992-1993 season. Since then she has apparently retired from acting.
Biography by Sandra Brennan
- Entered show business at age 8 by appearing in a commercial for Kraft cheese; landed some early TV roles with help from family friend Desi Arnaz.
- Recorded a 1978 album with her brother Jimmy that included the single "He's So Fine," which reached No. 70 on the Billboard chart.
- Popularized in the late '70s by a pair of Kristy dolls sold by Mattel, including one as her character Buddy from Family.
- Was once roommates with Liberace's niece Ina in Beverly Hills.
- Returned to Empty Nest in 1995 for the sitcom's final episode after leaving the show in 1992.
- After retiring from acting, has spent her time teaching drama and doing charity work.