thirtysomething, circa 1987
Before This Is Us, there was thirtysomething, an ensemble drama about a group of friends in their 30s living in Philadelphia and trying to navigate the challenges of career, family, love, and growing up. Now entering the same decade as its central characters, thirtysomething remains a beloved series for its groundbreaking exploration of the angst and unique challenges facing baby boomers entering adulthood. Even though it only lasted four seasons, it had a lasting impact on the television landscape influencing everything from Seinfeld to Parenthood. The term “thirtysomething” first entered the Oxford English Dictionary as a word to describe people in their thirties in 1993 as a result of the show’s popularity. Many of the cast members have gone on to memorable roles (on and off camera) in TV in the 30 years since.
Mel Harris (Hope Murdoch Steadman)
Harris was a relative newcomer when she was cast as Hope Murdoch Steadman, a dissatisfied stay-at-home mom with dreams of being a writer. Since then, Harris had a series regular role on Brady Bunch-esque divorce comedy Something So Right, as a twice-divorced woman who finds love again (Harris herself has been married six times). Recently, she had recurring roles on Hulu’s Shut Eye and Bravo’s Imposters, as well as guest-starred on a holiday episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend as Greg’s mom.
Ken Olin (Michael Steadman)
Before thirtysomething, Olin made memorable impressions with his swarthy good looks in single-season stints on Hill Street Blues and Falcon Crest. He shot to major stardom as Michael Steadman, a man struggling to be a good husband and father while working in advertising and dreaming of being a writer. On thirtysomething, Olin also fed his appetite for behind-the-camera work, directing several episodes. He is now a major force in television, executive producing shows like Alias, Brothers & Sisters, Sleepy Hollow, and This is Us. He still regularly directs as well, often on the shows he has a hand in producing, most recently helming the devastating season 2 premiere of This Is Us.
Timothy Busfield (Elliot Weston)
Busfield had already had major recurring roles on Reggie and Trapper John, MD when he took on the role of Elliot Weston, a graphic designer who works with and is friends with Michael and Hope Steadman. Since thirtysomething ended in 1991, Busfield has gone on to a string of supporting roles on screens big and small. He’s been a favored player of writer Aaron Sorkin, appearing as Washington Post White House Correspondent Danny Concannon on The West Wing and Studio 60 director Cal Shanley on Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Busfield also took an interest behind the camera during thirtysomething and has moved steadily into television directing in the years since, overseeing episodes of This Is Us, Nashville, Rosewood, and more.
Polly Draper (Ellyn Warren)
Draper first caught Hollywood’s eye with her portrayal of thirtysomething’s Ellyn Warren, Hope Steadman’s childhood friend and a career politician with a rocky love life. She earned an Emmy nomination for her portrayal of Warren in the show’s first season. Since then, Warren has guest starred on a diverse range of shows from The Good Wife to Monk to The Big C. In recent years, she’s switched more to writing and directing, creating Nickelodeon’s musical comedy series The Naked Brothers Band, which starred her two sons Nat and Alex Wolff. She is currently in production on a film Stella’s Last Weekend, which she is writing, directing, and starring in; it also features her two actor sons.
Peter Horton (Gary Sheperd)
Horton broke hearts as the womanizing literature professor Gary Sheperd who met abrupt tragedy only shortly after settling down with Susannah Hart. Horton continues to act in guest star roles and appeared more regularly in the short-lived Brimstone and The Geena Davis Show. But after delving into television directing on thirtysomething, his interests have mainly been behind the camera. He’s directed numerous episodes of television, including the pilot episode of Grey’s Anatomy on which he also served as an executive producer.
Melanie Mayron (Melissa Steadman)
Mayron won an Emmy for her portrayal of Melissa Steadman, a successful photographer who is also Michael’s cousin and Gary’s ex-girlfriend. She has continued to take on guest-starring roles in television, and most recently, has recurred as Marlene Donaldson, Jane’s college adviser, on Jane the Virgin. Mayron is yet another member of the thirtysomething cast to build an active life behind the camera. She’s directed episodes of shows ranging from GLOW to Grace and Frankie to Switched at Birth to Pretty Little Liars.
Patricia Wettig (Nancy Krieger Weston)
Already married to fellow castmember Ken Olin when she scored the role of Nancy Weston, Wettig and Olin often confused audiences as her character was married to Timothy Busfield’s Elliot. She had a recurring role on St. Elsewhere before breaking out as a dramatic actress as dissatisfied homemaker and aspiring artist Nancy Krieger Weston. She had a memorable role as Billy Crystal’s wife in City Slickers, but has since mostly appeared in recurring roles on television ranging from Alias to portraying the Vice President (and eventual President) on Prison Break. She had another major role as the family friend and secret mistress of William Walker, Holly Harper, on Brothers & Sisters.
David Clennon (Miles Drentell)
Clennon already had a robust list of credits when he signed on to play Miles Drentell, Michael and Elliot’s ethically challenged, ruthless boss. He reprised the role nearly a decade later on Once and Again, marking the rare appearance of the same character in two series that are not spin-offs or directly correlating properties. In addition to many guest-starring roles, he’s played recurring characters on House of Cards, Weeds, Ghost Whisperer, Boston Legal, and more.
Patricia Kalember (Susannah Hart)
Kalember had several series regular roles under her belt when she joined thirtysomething in its second season as Susannah Hart, the social worker who wins the heart of womanizing Gary Sheperd and ultimately faces immense tragedy. Kalember has had an impressive onscreen career since, portraying level-headed sister “Georgie” Reed Whitsig on NBC drama Sisters. She recurred as a judge on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, as well as featuring in shows like Veep, Madam Secretary, and Orange Is the New Black. Most recently, she’s been seen as Kate Egan on Starz’s Power and plays Joan on Amazon’s reboot of The Tick.
David Marshall Grant (Russell Weller)
As Russell Weller, Grant played one of the first “gay best friends” on television and was the subject of a storyline that cost the network several sponsors when an episode depicted his relationship with another man. Grant has continued to act playing A.D.A. Charlie Harmon on Law and Order, as well as guest-starring on shows like Alias, CSI: Miami, and Party Down. He had a memorable turn as Andy’s (Anne Hathaway) father Richard in The Devil Wears Prada. Lately though, like many of his costars, he’s concentrated his efforts behind-the-camera, executive producing shows like Brothers & Sisters, Smash, and Code Black.