“My character was obnoxious, had stinky feet and wore things like purple tights and a yellow top. I hated the clothes.” Joining Steve Urkel as one of primetime television’s most obnoxious neighbors in the 1980s and 1990s, Andrea Barber made a name for herself in her teens when she was cast as the annoying and quirky Kimmy Gibbler on Full House. So, how exactly did the Los Angeles native make her way into the industry and go on to reprise her role for a new generation of fans in the Netflix spinoff series, Fuller House? The youngest and only daughter of three children, Andrea Laura Barber was born on July 3, 1976 and knew from an early age that she wanted to take the stage since her own made-up skits were a surefire way to capture her parent’s attention in an already busy household. Don’t believe it? Join us as we travel down memory lane with Barber herself!
“I started acting when I was four years old,” Barber recalled, “so I probably earned my SAG card at first doing a bazillion commercials. Then, at age six, I landed my first full-time role as the original Carrie Brady on Days of Our Lives.” Spending four seasons on the popular daytime drama, Barber earned credits in popular television series like Fantasy Island, St. Elsewhere, The Twilight Zone and The Wonderful World of Color as well as in the 1985 television film, Do You Remember Love. Then, just months after she ended her contract with Days of Our Lives, she auditioned for and won the part of DJ Tanner’s best friend, Kimmy Gibbler on Full House, a family sitcom starring John Stamos, Bob Saget, Dave Coulier, Candace Cameron, Jodie Sweetin, Lori Loughlin, and Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen.
Although Kimmy Gibbler was only meant to be a recurring role with occasional appearances throughout the show’s run, Barber’s performance and catchphrases like “Hola, Tanneritos!” left audiences wanting and demanding more as the show’s creators extended her role and brought her on as a regular cast member in the fifth season. “I’m not sure I had any awareness of just how big this show had gotten and how iconic these characters had become,” Barber admitted after the series’ eight-season run. In fact, Barber didn’t realize the show’s impact or her own level of stardom until Gibbler was given her first real storyline when DJ Tanner forgot her 16th birthday. It was only then that Barber realized her performance had struck a chord with the Full House audience.
In 1995, Full House ended after its eighth season with Barber earning three Young Artist Award nominations and taking home two wins for Best Young Actress in a Supporting Role in 1990 and 1991. By then, she was ready to bid farewell to Hollywood and made one final appearance in The Skateboard Kid II before finishing up her senior year at La Serna High School and enrolling at Whittier College. Spending the next four years working toward her Bachelor of Arts degree in English, she studied abroad in Denmark and briefly worked as a Program Director of International Education at Whittier College, a job she truly enjoyed. “My favorite job outside of acting was as a Program Director… coordinating study abroad programs for students,” Barber said. “It involved a lot of travel and I found it very rewarding working with students during a pivotal time in their lives.” The position even inspired Barber’s own journey abroad where she earned her Master’s Degree in Women’s Studies from the University of York in England.
Returning to the United States after earning her graduate degree, Barber settled down and started a family with her husband, Jeremy Rytky, in 2000. They welcomed their first child, a son named Tate James, on April 30, 2004 and, three years later, welcomed their daughter, Felicity Ruth, into the world on April 10, 2007. As a new mother, Barber spent the next decade focused on her family before slowly making her return to television when she joined her longtime friend and former costar, Dave Coulier, on an episode of Funny or Die in 2012. Reprising her role as Kimmy Gibbler for the episode, Barber realized that her passion for acting was still there after all these years.
With her marriage ending in divorce in 2014, Barber was determined to start over and got that opportunity in 2016 when Full House creator Jeff Franklin invited her to reprise her role as Kimmy Gibbler in a new spinoff series on Netflix called Fuller House. Fortunately for Full House fans, Barber’s decision to return was incredibly easy especially since her children had already started school and she had plenty of free time on her hands. “My decision to return to acting for Fuller House was 100 percent based on the positive experience I had as a child actor on Full House,” Barber said. “I love the people I work with; I love the character of Kimmy Gibbler. I never planned to return to acting as an adult, but when creator Jeff Franklin called and asked if I would consider reprising my role, I didn’t even hesitate to say yes!”
Making her grand return as Gibbler in Fuller House on February 26, 2016, Barber and her costars, Jodie Sweetin and Candace Cameron Bure, are currently working on the third season, which is set to release in December 2017. Of course, Barber isn’t surprised that the show still resonates with audiences today after sharing similar themes with Full House from over two decades ago. “Fuller House is like comfort food: audiences crave the familiarity, the beloved characters, and the same family themes we had on Full House,” Barber says. “There is comfort in nostalgia. Our show has always been about family and love—family that may or may not be biologically related to each other, but family that is comprised of people who unconditionally love and support one another. I think, at the core, everyone wants to be part of a family like that.”
Apart from Fuller House, the 41-year-old Barber continues to pursue her dreams of becoming a writer but says she doesn’t have any regrets about carrying on the legacy of Gibbler and Full House even if it means her writing career has taken a seat on the sidelines. “I had never planned to come back to Hollywood, but I came back just for this show,” she says. “I couldn't say, ‘no.’ I love this show, I love the legacy and I love the people most of all.” Needless to say, Full House fans are certainly glad Gibbler is back… stinky feet and all!