Andrea Fay Friedman, ‘Life Goes On’ Star, Dead at 53

Andrea Fay Friedman, ‘Life Goes On’ Star, Dead at 53

Life Goes On star Andrea Fay Friedman died Sunday at her home in Santa Monica, California. She was 53. Her father, Hal Friedman, confirmed the news to The New York Times on Thursday, revealing that she died from complications of Alzheimer’s disease.

Andrea, who became known for her significant contributions to the onscreen representation of people with Down syndrome, broke ground with her portrayal of Amanda Swanson on the hit TV drama Life Goes On. The series premiered in 1992 and also starred Patti LuPone, Chris Burke and Kellie Martin. 

Andrea played the girlfriend and eventual wife of the show’s main character, Charles “Corky” Thatcher, who also had Down syndrome. The show was the first major series to feature two characters with Down syndrome.

After two years on the show, Andrea continued challenging stigmas with humor and using her platform to educate the world about people with Down syndrome. She called her Down syndrome her “up syndrome,” her father told the Times

When not acting, she served as an assistant teacher at UCLA’s Pathways program, where she worked with students with intellectual disabilities.

Chris Hatcher/Getty Images

She appeared in other hit shows, including Baywatch, ER, Touched by an Angel, Chicago Hope, 7th Heaven and Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. She was also the subject of the 2009 documentary A Possible Dream: The Andrea Friedman Story. Her final screen appearance was in the 2019 holiday drama Carol of the Bells.

Andrea made headlines in 2010, when she appeared in a Family Guy episode and voiced a character named Ellen, a girl with Down syndrome who dates Chris Griffin (voiced by Seth Green). The episode took a shot at former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, whom Andrea’s character alluded to being her mother. 

“My dad’s an accountant and my mom is the former governor of Alaska,” Ellen said at one point during the episode. Palin, whose son Trig has Down syndrome, later said the show “isn’t funny” and that the episode was the result of “cruel, cold-hearted people.” 

Andrea responded in an email to the Times, writing, “I guess former Governor Palin does not have a sense of humor. I think the word is ‘sarcasm.'” 

“In my family we think laughing is good,” she added, arguing that representation for the Down syndrome community should serve as an inspiration. “My parents raised me to have a sense of humor and to live a normal life.”

Andrea is survived by her father, her sister, Katherine Holland, and her two nephews. 


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