Previously Known For: Fright Night and as Marcy D’Arcy on Married… with Children
|Currently Known For: Appearances at Horror Movie Conventions and Advocate of LGBT Community|
“The outing really was quite a freeing experience. I know that sounds sort of clichéd, but it really was very liberating. That one thing, that one big secret is out. For a lot of people, it was just a confirmation of what they thought about me. I mean, I look like the girl next door, but I was always kind of off-center.” Long before she ever became the first primetime actress to come out as gay in the early 1990s, Amanda Bearse had already made a name for herself as a talented actress after getting her start on the daytime soap opera, All My Children. Going on to star in a string of independent and B-list movies like Fright Night and Fraternity Vacation, she caught a huge break in 1987 when she was cast as Marcy Rhoades in what would become Fox’s biggest hit sitcom, Married… with Children. So, how exactly did she end up as Ed Bundy’s neighbor for a decade and what’s she been up to since the show ended in the late 1990s? Let’s take a look!
Amanda Bearse was born on August 9, 1958 in Winter Park, Florida but spent much of her childhood in Atlanta, Georgia before she returned to The Sunshine State in the mid-1970s where she graduated from Winter Park High School. She attended Rollins College and later pursued her associate of arts degree at Birmingham Southern College. Not yet knowing where life would take her, she moved to New York City and took a huge leap of faith when she signed on to study acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse under the talented Sanford Meisner. Within a few years, she snagged her first acting gig when she was cast as Amanda Cousins on All My Children, a role that she played from 1982 to 1983 as her interest in multi-camera work blossomed.
Using All My Children as a jumping point to launch her career, Bearse appeared in a string of B-list movies like Protocol, Fraternity Vacation and Fright Night, the latter of which became a cult classic and made Bearse a household name among horror fans. Then, in 1987, she caught her biggest break yet when she was cast as Marcy Rhoades D’Arcy on Fox’s newest hit sitcom, Married… with Children, starring Ed O’Neill, Katey Sagal, Christina Applegate and David Faustino. With audiences tuning in week after week to follow the Bundy family, Married… became the network’s longest running live-action sitcom and put Bearse on the map as she expanded her talents into directing and took the helm on over 30 episodes between 1991 and 1997.
“I saw that my character had built-in limitations,” Bearse said of playing Marcy and her move behind the camera. “I was playing a secondary character and, the way the show was structured, that was not going to change—it wouldn’t shift focus so I would get a leading role. I thought with directing that, first of all, I might have an ability for it because when I watched other people’s performances, it stimulated me with ideas, and we’ve always been the kind of cast where we’re open with each other in talking about our choices as actors. And directing has expanded my life on Married… with Children in a way that wasn’t going to happen for me on camera. When I step behind the camera, it’s a whole new world.”
Amid her early success on the series as both an actor and director, Bearse took a brief hiatus from the show and adopted a daughter, Zoe, which put her in the media’s crosshairs as rumors ran wild that she was a lesbian. In 1993, Bearse confirmed the rumors and publicly came out with the support of her Married… costars, family and friends. “I’m in a committed relationship with another woman and we have a balance between our two careers,” Bearse reported. “She is a freelance commercial producer and can to some extent rearrange her schedule. We also have a nanny. I didn’t want to have a child that would be raised by someone else. My partner and I spend the majority of our time with her… My coming out was sort of initiated by the tabloids finding out about the adoption of my baby daughter. They had already known about my living in a gay relationship. I gave a press conference to say that, yes there was some information that was put out there about me that I want to confirm, and I also want to confirm that I don’t have any shame around being homosexual, and it doesn’t affect the way I do my job.”
Proving as much by raising her daughter and continuing to work on the series, Bearse wrapped up Married… in 1997 and pursued her interest in directing on shows like Reba, Mad TV, Nick Reno: Licensed Teacher, Malcolm & Eddie, The Jamie Foxx Show, Dharma & Greg, Veronica’s Closet and Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place. “I chose to stop acting because I wanted to direct and I had to show people that I was serious,” Bearse said of her decision to work behind the scenes. “I’d like to get back in front of the camera eventually, but only if I can play something a little bit different.” Over the last decade, those different parts have been few and far between for Bearse who’s appeared in episodes of Nikki, Here! Family, Totally Baked and Drop Dead Diva with her most recent credit coming in an episode of Anger Management in 2013. So, what’s the 59-year-old Bearse been up to over the last few years?
Constantly searching to better herself and improve her skills, Bearse packed up her family—her longtime partner, Carrie Schenken, and their two children—and moved to Washington where she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Antioch University. Also joining the Seattle Film Institute as an instructor, she’s spent the last few years teaching aspiring actors about the ins and outs of Hollywood while embracing the diverse Washington culture and the chance to slow down and truly catch her breath. In fact, Bearse is often spotted at horror movie conventions where fans can’t help but gush over her performance in Fright Night as well as her decade-long run on Married… with Children. “It’s pretty cool to be at these conventions where the two things I’m most known for as an actor turns out to be these cult classic wonderful things that I get to talk about,” she says. Does that mean a reunion show of Married… with Children might be in the works? “It was great fun, and my career has stayed behind the camera in comedy and it works for me,” Bearse says, “but I wouldn’t hold my breath on a reunion… I seriously doubt it.”