Joanna Kerns

Joanna Kerns is an American actress and director best known for her role as Maggie Seaver on the family situation comedy Growing Pains from 1985 to 1992.

Joanna Kerns
Joanna Crussie DeVarona

Occupation(s)Actress, director
Years active1976–present
  • Richard Kerns
    (m. 1976; div. 1985)
  • Marc Appleton
    (m. 1994; div. 2019)

Early lifeEdit

Kerns was born Joanna Crussie DeVarona in San Francisco, California.[1][better source needed] Her father, David Thomas DeVarona, was an insurance agent, and her mother, Martha Louise (née Smith), was a clothing store manager. Kerns is the third child of four. She has an older brother and a younger brother, as well as an older sister. Her older sister, Donna de Varona, is an Olympic gold medal swimmer, winning two gold medals in the 1964 Olympics. Their aunt was silent film actress Miriam Cooper.[2]

Growing up, Kerns was constantly in competition with Donna. Kerns stated in an interview, "Donna was the golden girl. There was pressure inside me to duplicate Donna's success". Joanna tried swimming, but realized it was not her sport, so she switched to gymnastics. She competed in the Olympic trials in 1968 and ranked 14th out of 28.[3][4]


Early rolesEdit

Kerns got her start in show business as a dancer before turning to acting. She attended UCLA and majored in dance. There, she saw an advertisement for a Gene Kelly production called Clown Around and immediately jumped at the chance to audition. She joked in an interview that she sent the casting crew a high school senior picture of herself and all of her grades, hoping to get the part. To take the part, however, she would have to drop out of college and move to New York, so she did. After Clown Around, Joanna also got parts in the New York Shakespeare Festival's production of Two Gentlemen of Verona and Ulysses in Nighttown, where she was directed by Burgess Meredith.[3]

Meredith and Kerns had a wonderful working relationship. Later in life, Kerns recalled that Meredith was a great influence on her, saying, "Burgess was the one person who really influenced my acting career". Meredith also introduced Kerns to Peggy Feury, under whom Kerns studied acting. In 1972, she moved back to California and landed a job as a backup dancer at Disneyland, and started auditioning for TV commercials and steady acting jobs.

On May 4, 1977, she made an appearance on Charlie's Angels as Natalie, a worker at a massage parlor in the episode "The Blue Angels".

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Kerns started making a name for herself in guest spots on many televisions shows that included: Emergency!, CHiPs, The A-Team, Starsky & Hutch, Street Hawk, Laverne and Shirley, Three's Company, Hill Street Blues, The Love Boat, Hunter, Quincy, M.E., Magnum, P.I., and V, as well as many commercials. During an interview, Kerns said, "I kind of was always looking for the next thing; I auditioned for anything, hoping to get a big break" (Lifetime's Intimate Portrait). Then, Kerns got her first steady acting job in 1983, starring as Pat Devon in a new CBS series called The Four Seasons, which lasted only one season. The sitcom, which was based on a 1981 movie of the same name, was about three couples who all lived under the same roof in California. Although the show was not well received by television critics, her part proved to producers that she was capable of acting as a leading lady.

Growing PainsEdit

Soon after the cancellation of The Four Seasons, Kerns auditioned for a new series in late 1984, called Growing Pains. She auditioned with Alan Thicke, who was just coming off the failure of his TV talk show Thicke of the Night. Kerns joked in many interviews that Alan and she had immediate chemistry, especially when she kissed him on his nose by accident during their audition together. Kerns and Thicke's chemistry won them both the parts, and the two became great friends off the show.

During the success of Growing Pains, Kerns began to star in television movies, where she played controversial parts very different from the beloved all-American mom, Maggie Seaver. One such performance that shocked audiences was her 1992 movie, The Nightman, in which Kerns played a highly sexual business woman who was a motel owner. Her many TV movies include: Those She Left Behind, Blind Faith, The Big One: The Great Los Angeles Earthquake, Shameful Secrets, and No One Could Protect Her.

After Growing Pains roles and directing careerEdit

After Growing Pains ended, Kerns turned to directing. She directed one episode of Growing Pains while starring on the show and got hooked. In an interview, Kerns stated, "Directing is where I've always wanted to go". She loved directing and decided to change the focus of her career from acting to directing, while continuing to make rare appearances in front of the camera when the right parts come along. She has also directed episodes of television shows including Dawson's Creek, Titans, Scrubs, Private Practice, Psych, Felicity, Grey's Anatomy, Privileged, ER, Ghost Whisperer, Army Wives, Pretty Little Liars, Switched at Birth, The Goldbergs, This Is Us, and Fuller House.[citation needed] Kerns also directed Annie Potts in an original made-for-television movie for Lifetime TV entitled: Defending Our Kids: The Julie Posey Story. She has since made a number of shorts,[5] and directed the sixth episode of Pitch, a sports drama on Fox.

Kerns has also made notable appearances in feature films, including A*P*E, Girl, Interrupted, and the 2007 comedy Knocked Up.

She has also co-founded the Women in Film Crystal + Lucy Awards given to women in acting.

Kerns was a member of the Motion Picture and Television Fund Board of Trustees from 2004 through 2008.[citation needed]

Personal lifeEdit

In 1974, Kerns met a commercial producer, Richard Kerns, on the set of a commercial, and they married two years later. Their marriage lasted nine years and the couple had a daughter, Ashley Cooper. In 1994 Kerns married Marc Appleton, a prominent Los Angeles architect. In August 2019, Kerns filed for divorce from Appleton.[6][7]

Kerns dated comedian and actor Freddie Prinze a short time before he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The two had worked together on the 1976 TV movie, The Million Dollar Rip-Off.[8]


Kerns, a registered Democrat, supported John Kerry in the 2004 United States Presidential Election and Hillary Clinton in the 2016 United States Presidential Election.[citation needed]


Year Title Role Notes
1976 A.P.E. Marilyn Baker as Joanna DeVarona
Starsky & Hutch Joy Episode: "Gillian", as Joanna De Varona
The Million Dollar Rip-Off Jessie TV film
1977 Charlie's Angels Natalie Sands Episode: "The Blue Angels"
Quincy, M.E. Lily Episode: "Touch of Death"
Emergency! Gymnast Episode: “Firehouse Quintet” (Listed as Joanna DeVarona)
1978 Coma Diane
1980 Three's Company Bobby Trilling Episode: "The Love Lesson"
Marriage is Alive and Well Meg TV film
1982 A Wedding on Walton's Mountain Doris Marshall TV film
Mother's Day on Waltons Mountain Doris Marshall TV film
Magnum, P.I. Mary Kanfer Episode: "The Last Page"
1983 V Marjorie Donovan TV miniseries
The A-Team Trish Brenner Episode: "A Nice Place to Visit"
Three's Company Cheryl Episode: "Jack Be Quick"
Magnum, P.I. Jenny 'Jen' Hunter Episode: "Two Birds of a Feather"
1984 The Return of Marcus Welby, M.D. Pamela Saletta TV film
1985–92 Growing Pains Maggie Seaver TV series. Main role.
1985 A Bunny's Tale Andrea TV film
Stormin' Home Lana Singer TV film
The Rape of Richard Beck Anita Parrish TV film
1987 Mistress Stephanie TV film
1987 Cross My Heart Nancy
1989 Street Justice Catherine Watson TV film
Those She Left Behind Diane Pappas TV film
The Preppie Murder Linda Fairstein TV film
1990 Blind Faith Maria Marshall TV film
1990 The Great Los Angeles Earthquake Dr. Clare Winslow TV film
1991 An American Summer Aunt Sunny
Deadly Intentions... Again? Sally TV film
Captive Kathy Plunk TV film
1992 The Nightman Eve TV film
Desperate Choices: To Save My Child Mel Robbins TV film
1993 Not in My Family Veronica Ricci TV film
The Man with Three Wives Katy TV film
Shameful Secrets Maryanne Walker-Tate TV film
1994 No Dessert, Dad, till You Mow the Lawn Carol Cochran
Mortal Fear Dr. Jennifer Kessler TV film
1995 See Jane Run Jane Ravenson TV film
Whose Daughter Is She? Laura Eagerton TV film
1996 No One Could Protect Her Jessica Rayner TV film
Terror in the Family Cynthia Martin TV film
1997 Mother Knows Best Celeste Cooper TV film
Sisters and Other Strangers Gail Connelly Metzger TV film
1998 Emma's Wish Emma TV film
1999 At the Mercy of a Stranger Elizabeth Cooper TV film
Girl, Interrupted Annette Kaysen
2000 The Growing Pains Movie Maggie Malone Seaver TV film
2001 All Over the Guy Lydia
Someone to Love Matt's mother TV film
2004 Growing Pains: Return of the Seavers Maggie Seaver TV film
2007 Knocked Up Mrs. Scott
Manic Dr. Kerns Short film
2009 Eastwick Edie Episode: "Tears and Mind Erasers"
2010 Love & Other Unstable States of Matter Joan Short film
2017 Danny Brown: Ain't It Funny Mom


Year Title Notes
1988-1992 Growing Pains 2 episodes
1995 The Mommies 2 episodes
Hope & Gloria Episode: "A Dupree Family Christmas"
1997-98 Remember WENN 2 episodes
1997-99 Clueless 3 episodes
1998 Suddenly Susan Episode: "Poetry In Notion"
1998-99 Love Boat: The Next Wave 2 episodes
1999-2001 Ally McBeal
2000-02 Any Day Now 4 episodes
2000 Beggars and Choosers 2 episodes
Titans Episode: "Payback's A Bitch"
2001 Boston Public Episode: "Chapter Fourteen"
That's Life Episode: "Something Battered, Something Blue"
Judging Amy Episode: "The Right Thing To Do"
2001-02 Felicity 2 episodes
2002 Leap of Faith
2002-03 Strong Medicine 3 episodes
2002 For the People Episode: "Come Blow Your Whistle"
Dawson's Creek Episode: "The Importance Of Not Being Too Earnest"
2003 The O'Keefes Episode: "Substitute Teacher"
Defending Our Kids: The Julie Posey Story TV movie
2004 The Division Episode: "Rush To The Door"
One Tree Hill Episode: "You Can't Always Get You Want"
2004-06 Scrubs 2 episodes
2004 Growing Pains: Return Of The Seavers TV movie
Clubhouse Episode: "Trade Talks"
2005 Phil of the Future Episode: "Double Trouble"
Dr. Vegas Episode: "Babe In The Woods"
Joan of Arcadia Episode: "Romancing The Joan"
Related 2 episodes
Ghost Whisperer
2006 ER
2006-08 Men in Trees 4 episodes
2007-08 Psych 2 episodes
2007 Medium Episode: "Head Games"
2007-12 Army Wives 6 episodes
2008 Notes from the Underbelly Episode: "Friends And Neighbors"
The Gold Lunch Short
Privileged Episode: "All About Friends And Family"
Grey's Anatomy Episode: "Rise Up"
Private Practice Episode: "Serving Two Masters"
2009 Samantha Who? Episode: "The Dream Job"
2011 Gigantic Episode: "Back To Normal"
Friends with Benefits Episode: "The Benefit Of The Right Track"
2012-13 The Lying Game 2 episodes
2012-16 Pretty Little Liars 4 episodes
2013-14 The Fosters 2 episodes
Switched at Birth 3 episodes
2014-15 Chasing Life 2 episodes
2015-16 Jane the Virgin 3 episodes
2015 Awkward Episode: "The Big Reveal"
Nashville Episode: "The Slender Threads That Bind Us Here"
2015-16 Crazy Ex-Girlfriend 2 episodes
2016 Recovery Road Episode: "Parties Without Borders"
2016-18 The Goldbergs 3 episodes
2016 Pitch Episode: "Wear It"
Fuller House 3 episodes
2018 This Is Us Episode: "Vegas, Baby"
Man with a Plan Episode: "Everybody's a Winner"
American Woman Episode: "The Cost Of Living"
The Good Doctor Episode: "Empathy"
2019 Dynasty Episode: "How Two-Faced Can You Get?"
What/If Episode: "What History"
Light as a Feather 4 episodes
Mad About You Episode: "Happy Birthday, Bon Voyage, Goodbye For Now"
High School Musical: The Musical: The Series 6 episodes
2020 The Baker and the Beauty Episode: "Get Carried Away"
Roswell, New Mexico Episode: Crash Into Me"
Tiny Pretty Things 2 episodes
2021 FBI Episode: "Short Squeeze"
Why Women Kill Episode: "The Woman in Question"
2021-23 A Million Little Things 5 episodes
2023 Night Court Episode: "Marathon-Thon-Thon-Thon-Thon"


  1. ^ "Joanna Kerns Biography". Yahoo! Movies.
  2. ^ Cooper, Miriam; Herndon, Bonnie (1973). Dark Lady of the Silents: My Life in Early Hollywood. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Company. pp. 28–29. ISBN 0-672-51725-6.
  3. ^ a b Wallace, David. "Kerns Turns". Philip Morris Magazine. Spring 1991.
  4. ^ Scott, Vernon (July 1991). "Joanna Kerns: At Long Last Love". Good Housekeeping. Retrieved March 13, 2022 – via 50megs.
  5. ^ "Growing Pains Stars: Where Are They Now?". Fox News. December 18, 2008. Retrieved March 13, 2022.
  6. ^ "'Growing Pains' Star Joanna Kerns Files for Divorce". TMZ. August 9, 2019.
  7. ^ Stone, Natalie (August 12, 2019). "Growing Pains Star Joanna Kerns Files for Divorce After Almost 25 Years of Marriage". People.
  8. ^ "The Talk".

External linksEdit