‘Diff’rent Strokes’: NBC Liked Gary Coleman So Much They Tried Using His Character Everywhere

Gary Coleman became a famous actor early on in his life. It was The Little Rascals that first put Coleman and his charismatic personality on the map.

In the 1977 remake of the movie Coleman played Stymie. Coleman’s role in the friendly neighborhood flick paid off big time, and producers and directors were smitten with Coleman and his stage presence.

Just one year later Coleman began playing the part of Arnold Jackson on the TV show Diff’rent Strokes, and little did the actor know it would be the beginning of a new era for him. Take a look back at Diff’rent Strokes and why NBC began using Coleman’s character just about everywhere. 

The premise of NBC’s ‘Diff’rent Strokes’

Gary Coleman as Arnold Jackson, Todd Bridges as Willis Jackson, Dana Plato as Kimberly Drummond
Gary Coleman as Arnold Jackson, Todd Bridges as Willis Jackson, Dana Plato as Kimberly Drummond | Paul Drinkwater/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

NBC premiered Diff’rent Strokes in 1978, and the sitcom aired for a total of 8 seasons. When the housekeeper of a rich family in Manhattan unexpectedly died, Mr. Drummond, a relatively young widower, decided to take in and adopt her children.

Arnold and Willis Jackson were those children, and over the years, the non traditional family unit became a huge hit. Through daily adventures and the mishaps that sometimes come with them, the episodes often carried important messages and life lessons. 

The cast and characters from NBC’s ‘Diff’rent Strokes’ 

Diff’rent Strokes quickly took off, and the series produced a lot of unforgettable episodes over the years. The cast and their characters were a huge reason so many people enjoyed watching the show. 

Playing alongside Coleman as his fictional brother was Todd Bridges. Dana Plato was the beautiful actress cast to take on the role of Kimberly Drummond, Arnold and Willis’ adopted sister. And, of course, Conrad Bain was the actor who played the role of their father, Phillip Drummond. 

The show’s success and popularity often resulted in a lot of exciting and interesting guest stars to make appearances on Diff’rent Strokes. Reggie Jackson, Muhammad Ali, and even Nancy Reagan were featured on the series at one point or another. 

NBC liked Gary Coleman so much they tried using his character everywhere 

Coleman’s character was so well-liked by NBC that they kept finding new reasons to put him to work.  All the way up to the actor’s unexpected and early death he was being cast as the infamous Arnold Jackson. His Diff’rent Strokes character first strayed off set in 1979 to appear on the popular sitcom Hello, Larry.

That same year Coleman received the opportunity to take Arnold over to The Facts of Life. Silver Spoons and Amazing Stories were two other titles the actor contributed to during the 1980s. No matter what show Coleman was featured on, the admired character was a hit with just about everyone. However, there was one person who was growing old of Arnold Jackson, and that, surprisingly enough, was Coleman. 

Coleman had grown weary of playing the same juvenile time in and time out. If anything, the actor was hoping for more mature storylines with the passing time. Mental Floss highlighted the details behind Coleman’s attempt to beef up Arnold’s character and role on the series. 

One of the last times Coleman took the screen as Arnold Jackson was in 1996 for the finale of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The frequent guest-appearances made by Arnold definitely seem to be a testament to NBC’s undying love for Coleman and his beloved character. Coleman and his infamous character are definitely still missed by his fans and followers today.

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