What Happened To Them?: The Cast of ‘ALF’
We all know ALF, right? Well, this Saturday, I found all four seasons on Hulu Plus and did a mini-marathon. The show featured an alien life form (ALF – get it?) who crashed-landed into the home of the Tanner family (unsure if they’re related to the Tanners of San Francisco.) Instead of turning him in for lab tests and dissection, they were kind enough to let him wreak havoc on the family in an adorably forgiving way. ALF aired on NBC from September 22, 1986 to March 24, 1990, and was the first television series to be presented in Dolby Surround sound.
On a personal note, the show still has it. I got so wrapped up in the re-watch that I felt a pang of emotion when the marathon was abruptly paused for a solid three hours. In fact, after tweeting my concern about a technical glitch on Hulu’s end during the middle of a very emotional seventh episode, I got this response:
So, uh. Thanks, Hulu. It was through TiVo, but I was too embarrassed to message you back at the time. Anyway!
The heart of the show was voice, creator, and puppeteer of ALF, Paul Fusco. Fusco originally tried pushing the limits with the character – in the pilot ALF drank a beer with the family’s very young son, and throughout the show, ALF mentioned his hearty appetite for cats, which were common eats on his home planet of Melmar. These references became problematic after NBC reported that a child placed a cat in a microwave after watching the show. Even though Fusco believed that ALF was “an adult: he can do it,” the alcohol consumption concept was quickly discarded by the end of season one.
The show was interesting, because the cast has made it no secret that filming was an absolute nightmare. Having a somewhat dangerous stage based on the trap doors used for puppeteering, and working up to 18 hour days, the cast nearly unanimously reported being glad that the show ended when it did.
An informative article in People magazine had this to say:
So – what happened to the cast, after those dangerous trap doors were sealed for good?
Max Wright as Willie Tanner
Max played the innovative father Willie, who had an interest in aliens from the get-go. Unfortunately, Max didn’t have as good of a time working with ALF as his fictional counterpart would, saying that the puppet got most of the good lines of dialogue (which makes sense, as the show wasn’t called ‘Willie Tanner: A Heck Of A Guy!’) “It was hard work and very grim,” Wright said to People.
Unfortunately, Wright had a bit of a slump after the show wrapped. He appeared briefly in the first and second season of the sitcom Friends as Terry, the manager of Central Perk. He also hit up the stage, gaining a nomination in 1998 for Ivanov. He was also on Broadway in Twelfth Night, playing Sir Andrew. His last television credit was appearing in a TV movie called Back to Norm in 2005.
He is currently in remission after being diagnosed with lymphoma in 1995, and also has two DUI’s on his record – one in 2000 which put him under probation, and a second in 2003.
Oh – also, the National Enquirer thinks he did a lot of crack, and slept with some homeless men.
Anne Schedeen as Kate Tanner
Anne played Kate, the mother of two who had some hesitations about keeping ALF in the house, yet grew to love him. At least, enough for him to eat at the table and tag along/ruin their family vacation and Christmas tree with little punishment.
Yet, Anne also had a troubling relationship with her puppet “son”. “Believe me, there was no joy on the set,” said Schedeen.. “It was a technical nightmare—extremely slow, hot and tedious.”
Schedeen also halted her acting career after the end of the series – the most notable recent acting gig was appearing on a few episodes of Judging Amy in 2001, as Detective Peggy Fraser. Currently 64, she’s rumored to be a decorator who also coaches comedy actors part-time.
Liz Sheridan as Mrs. Ochmonek
Mrs. Ochmonek was the bumbling neighbor of the Tanner’s. She always seems to have a good eye on the Tanner house, and if it weren’t for some quick maneuvers by ALF, he probably would have been captured by the government by episode #2, ending the show then and there.
You might remember Liz best as being the hilarious Mrs. Seinfeld – that’s right. Liz moved onto playing Helen Seinfeld for a span of years in the 90’s. She also made brief appearances on Empty Nest, Blossom, and Numb3rs. She also had pretty steady work doing voice-overs, most notably in the television show Life With Louie, created by Louie Anderson.
Here’s another fun fact about Liz – she was engaged to James Dean in 1952, and later wrote a book about the romance called “Dizzy and Jimmy”. While the affair lasted only a year, Sheridan recalls it as “just kind of magical. It was the first love for both of us.”
Andrea Elson as Lynn Tanner
ALF was the last full series for Andrea, who played 16-year-old daughter Lynn. But she gained something from the show that the other cast members didn’t – her husband, Scott Hopper. Hopper was a PA on the set who often delivered scripts to Andrea. (She also developed bulimia in her second season of the show, which isn’t a cause for celebration at all. I figured I’d deliver the good news first. But – she’s currently healthy and happy, which is amazing.)
Andrea picked up a few one-off roles after ALF ended, including appearances on Step By Step, Mad About You, The Young And The Restless, and Married With Children.
Benji Gregory as Brian Tanner
Benji may be best known today as Ben Hertzberger, his full name. After the show, he was cast in three TV movies, and ended his acting career in 1993 with a voiceover role for Edgar the Mole in One Upon A Forest. Or in his words, “”I was on a lot of stupid cartoons… Voice-overs are easy, and I wasn’t actively trying to act anymore.”
Ben was a film major at Academy of Art College in San Francisco, and has been rumored to have been an Aerographer’s Mate for the US Navy.
Paul Fusco as ALF
… Or should I say, Gordon Shumway. While ALF’s real name was no secret to his new family, they refused to adopt it for some reason. But, whatever. ALF seemed fine with it.
Fusco created ALF in 1984 using an alien-looking puppet that was hanging around his house, which he previously used to annoy his family and friends. Fusco also created and produced two animated series for NBC – ALF: The Animated Series, and ALF Tales.
Between 1996 and 2001, ALF made many television guest appearances, including one on Talk Soup (which you might know today as “The Soup”) He was also featured on Hollywood Squares, and became the “spokesalien” for phone company 10-10-220 (remember them?) which required him to be quite chummy with Hulk Hogan.
In August 2012, Fusco confirmed that Sony Pictures Animation aquired the rights to ALF, and had shown interest in developing a CGI-live action film. Which is good for ALF, but probably bad for the world. (Sorry – my pessimism is showing. I cringed at what became of The Smurfs.)
So, in general: You haven’t seen the last of ALF. In fact, you might never see the last of ALF. Sorry, Tanner clan.
And The Winner Is: Yeah, I’m going to have to go with Fusco. While managing to keep four angry cast members on set for four straight years, he also remained completely optimistic with his dream. ALF Lives! (Er – sorry. I mean Gordon.)