Lisa Whelchel on Reuniting With Her ‘Facts of Life’ Family for ‘Collector’s Call’
This time, the show is featuring a special collector — Larry Strauss — the son of actress Charlotte Rae. Rae featured alongside Whelchel in Facts as Mrs.
We caught up with Whelchel ahead of the special episode, and she opened up about reuniting with her Facts of Life family onscreen and off and shared what it was like learning more about Rae. She also talked the upcoming veterans season of Survivor and rooting on her fellow former castaways.
Read on below for the full chat, and get an exclusive sneak peek at the episode above!
Was it always planned that Collector’s Call would do a Facts of Life episode or just pure coincidence?
Lisa Whelchel: About a year after [Charlotte Rae passed], her son Larry was going through his mom’s things and he reached out to us girls and said, “You know, I’m going through my mom’s things and I’ve got duplicates so you might want some of them. And also I just don’t know what to do with everything.”
And so I called him up and I said, “What do you have? What did you find?” And as he was telling me some of it, and I told him about my show… So it really did seem to be a blessing to all of us. We got to go down memory lane.
One of the things that surprised me about the episode was, I’ve known Charlotte for 40 years, and yet I knew her after she had lived a ton of life, and she had a huge career before she was ever on Facts of Life. And I learned more about her [career] after her passing. I think her fans that loved her so much will feel the same way. It is a real gift to be able to get to learn so much about her through her memorabilia from her personal collection.
What was it like sharing this experience with Charlotte Rae’s son and granddaughter Carly, who also appears in this episode?
There was a tenderness about the whole episode and about the whole day of filming it. I’ve known Larry for 40 years, I’ve known Carly all her life, but there was a safety about knowing that each of these pieces that he was sharing with us, he knew that we were trustworthy about sharing them, even with the MeTV audience.
He knew that this was something that the fans who loved Charlotte would love to be let in on this part of her life. And so I think he was excited to be able to show off this part of his mom’s career that not a lot of people know about, because her Broadway career, and her recording career are not as well known and yet she deserves to be applauded for that.
Outside of the Facts of Life connection, what else sets this episode apart from a typical installment?
There are a couple of things — we don’t make a trade, for one … [Also], I bring something to share from the set. I’ve never brought anything to share, and I borrowed it from Nancy McKeon [who played Jo on Facts of Life]. I’m really excited about sharing that with everyone. And then also [Geri Jewell, who played Blair’s cousin Geri] brings an incredible item from her own collection that ties to the Facts of Life, to Charlotte, and to me that just brought us all to tears. So yeah, there are some moments from this episode that are going to be hard to beat.
What was it like getting to reunite with Geri in this celebration of Charlotte’s life?
It was really fun. Geri and I have kept in touch over the years, so it wasn’t like a reunion for us since we have stayed in touch. What was fun [is] I was recently engaged, and my fiance is a humongous Geri Jewell fan from her run on Deadwood. You know, of all the people that I’ve worked with I don’t think that I got more brownie points for anybody other than getting him to meet Geri Jewell.
What was one piece in Charlotte’s collection that surprised you the most?
You know what? I think the most fun for me was her Molly the Mail Lady hat from Sesame Street. I didn’t know she was Molly the Mail Lady on Sesame Street, and what an iconic, timeless and impactful role to be in our generation.
We’re all about TV here, is there anything you’re binging or watching now?
My daughter turned me on to The Morning Show, so I just finish watching that and I loved it. I just think it’s excellence in television, and important storylines for today. I’m also looking forward to the premiere of Survivor: Winners at War. I’m obviously rooting for Denise Stapley, won the season when I was there. I’m going to watch for a couple of other Survivor alumni.
Collector’s Call, Sunday, 9:30/8:30 c, MeTV