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Lisa Whelchel says 'Facts of Life' co-stars are like her sisters

By
Karen Butler
Actress Lisa Whelchel's new MeTV show is to debut on Sunday. Photo courtesy of Weigel Productions
Actress Lisa Whelchel's new MeTV show is to debut on Sunday. Photo courtesy of Weigel Productions

April 6 (UPI) -- Actress, singer and life coach Lisa Whelchel doesn't know if a Facts of Life reboot will happen, but she would love to share the screen with her former co-stars again.

Co-starring Mindy Cohn, Kim Fields and Nancy McKeon, the show ran for nine seasons, from 1979 to 1988. It started out following a quartet of students at an all-girls' high school in upstate New York and then depicted the young women as they transitioned to college and careers.

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"We really are lifelong friends. We just all got on a conference call last week, just catching up," Whelchel told UPI in a recent phone interview.

"I think we all really appreciate the fact that our experience of working together is rare in that we all truly got along. We had fun," she added.

Whelchel said that the cast members were like sisters.

"Surely, there were sisterly fights and disagreements, but then we also made up and grew stronger because of it," she said.

Whelchel -- who also competed on Survivor: Philippines in 2012 -- has parlayed her status as a pop-culture icon into a hosting gig on the new unscripted series, Collector's Call.

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Set to debut Sunday on the MeTV channel, the 13-episode program follows the 55-year-old actress and singer as she travels across the United States to showcase people's memorabilia collections that include everything from presidential artifacts and rare books to film and TV props.

"I'm very curious by nature. I love nothing more than to learn, and I like to learn when it's fun. What I did not anticipate was how much I would learn about not only cultures and subcultures, but about history," Whelchel said. "There are whole areas I knew nothing about."

Most collectors fall in love with an object or theme, frequently something from their childhood, and then continue to experience joy as they add pieces to their collections.

"They just want to water that and watch it grow," Whelchel said, likening collectors to gardeners.

"In some places, it's overgrown. One woman bought the house next door because her [primary] house was no longer big enough for all of her Winnie the Pooh items."

Collectors also often associate new acquisitions with specific loved ones.

"Every time they buy something or find something, it brings them back to that very first beautiful connection and feeling," Whelchel said, emphasizing that she admires people's bravery to risk having their passions judged or misunderstood instead of celebrated.

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"There's a measure of vulnerability to it, too, because this is something that is so important and meaningful to them," she said.

With an entertainment landscape expanding so rapidly, and young people embracing and discarding trends so quickly, it's unclear if individuals still form the strong nostalgic attachments to what they read and watch that previous generations did.

"We had three TV channels. It was easier for all of us kids to be excited about the same things, and there was something about sharing it that makes it grow and also deepens the sentimentality of it," Whelchel said.

Collector's Call will premiere after a three-hour Facts of Life marathon that Whelchel curated and will host in honor of the sitcom's 40th anniversary.

The actress remains proud of the show and is glad people remember it fondly and enjoy it in reruns.

"It gave a whole generation of young people a beautiful vision of the power of friendship and connection and loyalty and love," she said, recalling how a middle-aged woman recently approached her at the gym and enthusiastically told her she felt like they were old friends.

"I really appreciate not only the impact [the show] had when it was airing, but also the impact I get to have meeting people and the joy that brings to them in that morning or that afternoon."

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