Kristy McNichol earned considerable renown when she played spunky teen Letitia “Buddy” Lawrence in the heartwarming ABC drama Family (1976–80). Her wholesome, down-to-earth portrayal was recognized with Emmy Awards in 1977 and 1979, plus a Golden Globe.
Turner Classic Movies lauded her as “[t]he most popular and acclaimed teen actor of her era.”
McNichol, who was born Christina Ann McNichol on September 11, 1962 in Los Angeles, has had an active and successful acting career in movies and television in addition to being in Family.
McNichol’s fans would like to know what she has been doing since she retired from acting years ago. This is what we found out about this talented former star who still has a loyal following.
She Announced Her Retirement From Acting In 2001
Her career kept her busy, and she made guest appearances on shows such as The Bionic Woman, The Love Boat, and Starsky & Hutch. She was in a trio of ABC Afterschool Specials—Me and My Dad’s New Wife, Pinballs, and Fawn Story. McNichol was in films including Little Darlings (1980) with Tatum O’Neal and The Night the Light Went Out in Georgia (1981) with Mark Hamill and Dennis Quaid.
In 1988, Kristy McNichol landed a role in the NBC sitcom Empty Nest. It was a spin-off of the hugely successful sitcom The Golden Girls. McNichol departed from the show four years later when she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She came back in 1995 for Empty Nest’s concluding episode. That was McNichol’s final on-screen appearance.
She voiced the character of Angie Romar in the TV series Invasion America (1998). It was McNichol’s last acting role. In 2001, she released a statement (per MSN Entertainment) explaining the reason why she decided to leave acting permanently. She seemed glad to have the opportunity to concentrate on her well-being.
“A lot of people have wondered what I’ve been up to,” McNichol said. “I retired from my career after 24 years. My feeling was that it was time to play my biggest part—MYSELF! I must say that it has been the best thing that ever happened to me. So many fans are disappointed that I’m not currently acting; however, some may not realize that the process I’m in at this time is necessary and vital for my personal happiness and well-being.”
After Retiring, She Focused On Teaching And Charity
McNichol has seemingly been comfortable with maintaining a low public profile. She reportedly has been involved with charitable endeavors and taught acting at a private school in Los Angeles (per Turner Classic Movies).
For three years, McNichol hosted a tennis tournament that benefited the Help Group charity. McNichol is also a volunteer at Emerald City Assisted Living in Glendale, California. In 2022, she filmed a video asking for donations to Aspiranet’s holiday gift drive so underserved youngsters could have holiday presents.
She Came Out In 2012
In 2012, Kristy McNichol announced her sexuality via People. She was nearing the age of 50 and said she wanted to be authentic about who she was while also supporting young people who got mistreated by their peers because of their own sexuality.
People ran a story and a snap of McNichol with her longtime partner, Martie Allen. They had been together for 20 years at that point. Jeff Ballard, McNichol’s publicist, said, “She hopes that coming out can help kids who need support. She would like to help others who feel different.”
After stepping back from acting and constantly being in the public eye, McNichol seems to have found contentment. She reportedly enjoys travel, yoga, tennis, and raising miniature dachshunds (per People). According to Ballard in 2012, “She is very happy and healthy. And she enjoys living a very private life.”
McNichol had ample reason to walk away from acting and her very public life. Her decision to do so is more readily understood when you are aware of what preceded it.
McNichol Deserves The Quiet Life Now
She had previously spent much of her existence squarely in front of millions as a famous, widely admired celebrity. Kristy McNichol seemed to have the enviable life of a golden girl, but behind the scenes, she said she was beset by doubts, depression, and inner turmoil.
A People cover story from 1989 titled “To Hell And Back” described McNichol’s torment in painful detail. According to People, her emotional crisis came to a head in 1982 when she was on her way to France to film a movie called Just the Way You Are.
“I was so confused,” she remembered. “I was so depressed. I was so full of anxiety. I was a wreck. And there I was filming a movie.”
McNichol admitted that at that time, she could not eat or sleep, she lost weight, and she felt like she was always crying. She acknowledged that leading up to this moment, she went through “years of hell.”
McNichol had experienced an emotional breakdown, People reported. All her pent-up feelings from having a high-profile, high-pressure career at such an early age came roaring out. “It all came to a head. All the rejection, all the ups and downs of my career—not having a childhood, coming from a broken home …”
Things reached rock bottom for McNichol, then she found her footing again with the help of a psychiatrist. Eventually going back to work doing Empty Nest was restorative for her, too. Years afterward, the formula for McNichol’s happiness turned out to involve exiting the limelight and living her life on her own terms.
McNichol apparently has no regrets. She told ABC News in 2014, “This phase of my life is so good. My home life is happy and serene. I love singing. I also enjoy traveling and seeing the world. One of my favorite stops is Hawaii. I like everything about it and may eventually move there part-time.”
McNichol responded cryptically at that time when questioned about possibly returning to acting someday. ”Never say never,” she replied.
Kristy McNichol earned a place in America’s heart as a teenager with her precocious acting skill, especially in Family, and later on, with her forthrightness about her own sexuality.
Since McNichol began leading a more private life, she has helped others through volunteering while spending time on leisure pursuits she likes. McNichol also finds joy by being at the side of her partner of many years, Martie Allen.
We, along with her other fans, would love to see McNichol back on the screen again at some time in the future. Regardless of whether that ever happens, we wish her the abundant happiness she deserves.