‘Growing Pains’: Tracey Gold Didn’t Play Carol in the Original Unaired Pilot Episode

Growing Pains was a quintessential bridge between the 1980s and 1990s for many young viewers who fell in love with the TV show.

A family sitcom that put stars like Alan Thicke and Kirk Cameron on the map, the series explored the pitfalls of raising a family in Reagan’s America. The show’s eldest daughter, Carol, helped put actress Tracey Gold on the map. Had things gone differently, however, this never would have happened.

What was ‘Growing Pains’?

RELATED: ‘Growing Pains’: Kirk Cameron Went on to Marry 1 of His Co-Stars

According to IMDb, Growing Pains was the story of the Seaver Family. With a struggling television actor in Alan Thicke and an up-and-coming star in Kirk Cameron, the series aired for seven years on ABC. It became one of the most popular sitcoms on television. Kirk Cameron was a megastar, and Thicke got the second wind he’d striven for. Aside from its main cast, the series also featured a young Leonardo DiCaprio in later seasons and a pair of unrelated guest spots by a young Brad Pitt. 

However, one of the show’s biggest breakout stars, Tracey Gold, didn’t get the role right away. Carol Seaver was integral to the series’ success as the foil for Cameron’s Mike. The teenage siblings bickered endlessly, but at the end of the day, they loved one another. However, that role wasn’t Gold’s during the pilot. 

Striking Gold

Tracey Gold (Carol), Kirk Cameron (Mike), Leonardo DiCaprio (Luke)
Tracey Gold (Carol), Kirk Cameron (Mike), Leonardo DiCaprio (Luke) | Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

Speaking with the late Larry King in 2006, Gold revealed that she was not the first actress to take on the role of the Seaver’s eldest daughter. 

“I auditioned for “Growing Pains” when, you know, the pilot was being shot and I didn’t get it,” she told King on CNN. “They cast somebody else… And then probably about two months later, I heard that they were going to recast the part of Carol Seaver, and they called and asked if I would come back in and read for it, and I’m like, no, you already saw me and didn’t like me.”

Initially, the role was played by an actress named Elizabeth Ward. According to Gold, she was on vacation when she got a call back for a role that he had already lost as far as she knew. Luckily, she decided to try again despite her inhibitions. When she got on set to audition next to her future on-screen brother, it was her former co-star in a McDonald’s commercial, Kirk Cameron, 

“I auditioned because I was like, well, I’m not going to get it, ‘They saw me. They didn’t like me,’ ” Gold remembered. “But I went back and auditioned. I auditioned with Kirk. I went to network and it was a long process and then I eventually got it and I was really glad because I remember. like, reading about it in the paper and going, That’s one I would have liked to have done.”

That role would define her for the rest of her life. As good as it was for Gold’s professional career, however, she also acknowledged the ways in which the show became a low-point, too.

‘Growing Pains’: Gold opens up

Gold did not have an easy go-round. When she started on the series, she was still a young girl. As she matured into a young woman, however, she became burdened by the expectations of being a young actress. Trying to fit into the beauty standards that she had set for herself, gold developed an eating disorder that plagued her throughout the show’s final season. 

The struggles did not end there. In a previous interview with King, Gold spoke candidly about her public low point, a DUI where her young children were in the car. While Gold claimed that she wasn’t drunk, the embarrassment and the realization that her kids’ lives could have been forever altered, she began to change. 

Now, while she occasionally stretches her acting chops on television movies and smaller productions, Gold is a proud mother who uses her personal experiences to try to encourage others not to follow the same dark path. It goes to show how quickly one’s life can change in show business, and while Gold’s career never went too far after the series, her thumbprint on television remains as big as ever.