‘Growing Pains’: Julie McCullough’s Character Was Quickly Written Out of the Series

The ’80s sitcom Growing Pains was a classic TV show of its time. The family-friendly show featured wholesome storylines and morals served with a laugh.

One of the stars of the show, Kirk Cameron, played Mike. Mike was a rambunctious young man with a talent for getting into trouble. During the fourth season, Mike met Julie, played by Julie McCullough, and the fresh-faced couple was head over heels for each other on-screen.

But behind the scenes, a problem cropped up — and it resulted in McCullough being fired from the show. 

Julie McCullough’s eclectic career

Julie McCullough
Julie McCullough | Michael Schwartz/WireImage

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McCullough was born in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1965, but according to IMDb, she didn’t stick around in the island paradise. She graduated from Allen High School in Texas in 1983, and then she went on to pursue work in show business. 

She’s done a huge variety of work, posing as a model, appearing as a magician’s assistant at the Magic Castle in Hollywood, and acting in a number of plays, such as the French farce Pajama Tops. She’s even a published poet and won Outstanding Achievement in Poetry and Poet Of Merit Awards from The International Society of Poets in Washington, DC in 2005.

But she’s best known for two jobs: appearing on the popular ’80s sitcom Growing Pains, and a modeling job that caused controversy and changed the course of her career. 

Julie on ‘Growing Pains’

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Mental Floss reports that in 1988, during season four of Growing Pains, McCullough joined the cast, playing Julie Costello. She was dating Cameron’s character, Mike, and their on-screen relationship was intense. By the end of that season, Mike proposed to Julie, and season five was supposed to start with their wedding. 

But then Cameron found out that in 1986, McCullough had appeared in the pages of Playboy magazine, as the February Playmate of the Month. Cameron, who has recently become a born-again Christian, was offended. Since his conversion, he had problems with a lot of what happened on the show, even accusing three of the executive producers of being pornographers. He disapproved so much of McCullough’s Playboy appearance that he reportedly demanded that she be fired. 

Season five, instead of kicking off with a wedding, began instead with an episode where Julie abruptly broke up with Mike. McCullough was quickly written off the show with little explanation. 

Life after being fired

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According to the Las Vegas Sun, finding work again after Growing Pains wasn’t easy for McCullough. 

“It was a dream job for me,” she said. “Then, when the show was done, it was kind of a catch-22 for me because everyone knew me so well as that character, people didn’t want to book me on other sitcoms.”

After a few years, she managed to land some small roles on TV shows such as Drexel’s Class, Harry and the Hendersons, and The Drew Carey Show. She also built a career as a stand up comedian, and she has toured frequently, appearing in thousands of shows. 

Despite the controversy, McCullough says she doesn’t regret appearing in Playboy. However, the experience, “has not helped me in my career at all. The only thing it did for me was it gave me enough money to move to Los Angeles to pursue the acting and modeling side of the business.”

In the end, she seems to have found her own way forward, whether Cameron approves of her choices or not.