The biggest star to come out of ’80s/’90s family sitcom Growing Pains wasn’t Kirk Cameron or Alan Thicke: No, no — true fans will remember that film superstar Leonardo DiCaprio had humble beginnings on the show, appearing as Luke Brower, a homeless teen that the Seaver clan took in during Growing Pains‘ final season from 1991 to 1992.
As you might imagine, the Seaver clan — Thicke, Joanna Kerns, Cameron, Tracey Gold, and Jeremy Miller — say they don’t keep in touch with DiCaprio much anymore, considering his slightly busy schedule. But Kerns — who played mom Maggie Malone Seaver on the show — did offer a few kernels of her experience with the A-list star when EW interviewed her recently for our annual Reunions Issue (on stands now), which features the Seavers brought back together alongside the casts of Home Improvement, Aliens, and other iconic TV shows and movies.
“Did I know that he would not only be the superstar but the great, great talent he is?” Kerns says. “Yes. First of all, Leo on the set could imitate anybody. He was so much fun, and he was so loosey.” (Whatever that means!) Kerns remembers DiCaprio being on set frequently with Tobey Maguire, who had yet to breakout into the star he is today. “They were always on set, they always looked like they were in trouble or had been in trouble and were talking about it,” she says. “He was just great fun. He could imitate you in a way that was so disarming that it really felt comfortable.”
Kerns was taken with DiCaprio’s talent from day one. “I never knew a kid that had that wit and that intelligence and that ability to kind of capture a room,” Kerns remembers. “He had a lot of talent. I think everyone around him saw it — I know Alan and I certainly saw it. Then we saw [DiCaprio’s first project after Growing Pains, the movie] This Boy’s Life, and it was like, There we go. But who would have known he’d become this fabulous human being, too? He’s a really good guy. I love him and will always love him, and I’m really proud of him.”