The late, great, Abe Vigoda was a stalwart of the theater and the screen in his day. He rose to prominence in the iconic film, “The Godfather,” and even landed the lead role in a couple of TV shows. In 1979, Vigoda graced the “Eight Is Enough” set as Ben Ryan. Vigoda only joined for one episode, but fans undoubtedly recognized him.
For much of his career, Vigoda played macho-mafioso characters, thanks to his trademark look of hardly ever smiling. He passed away in 2016, just ahead of his 95th birthday. Vigoda may have landed a small role on “Eight Is Enough,” but he had a large enough legacy to make up for it.
Gary Imhoff – Denis/Henry/Marshall Spector
This actor and former dramatic arts teacher, Gary Imhoff, had starred in several roles in the hit series. His roles include Dennis, Henry, and Marshall Spector. Though Imhoff worked at the Milton Katselas' Playhouse, he had several small roles on TV shows like “How the West Was Won” and “Another Day” before starring in “Eight is Enough.”
After “Eight is Enough,” Imhoff’s acting career took a new direction and Imhoff began taking on voice-acting roles. You may not have seen him before, but you might have heard him. He was the voice of Prince Cornelius in the 1994 adaptation of “Thumbelina.” Imhoff also did the voice for Harry Osborn in “Spider-Man: The Animated Series.” To this day, Imhoff’s most well-known for his role in “Falcon Crest.”
Joan Tompkins – Mary/Gertie Wells/Mrs. Duffek
Not to be confused with Mary Bradford, the eldest sister of the Bradford brood, but Joan Tompkins starred as “Mary” with no known last name. Tompkins also starred as two other characters, Gertie Wells and Mrs. Duffek, in the family series. By the time “Eight is Enough” went on the air, the actress had already a long-spanning career in showbiz. She had acted on stage in productions like “Pride & Prejudice” and “Fly Away Home” and in radio shows like “Our Gal Sunday.”
In fact, “Eight is Enough” was the actress’s penultimate appearance in film and TV. Her final was in the TV film “The Night the City Screamed” in 1980. The actress passed away in 2005 at the age of 89.
Jack Elam – Joe Simons
Interestingly, actor Jack Elam took a break from his type-cast role as the villain and his typical genre, Westerns, when he joined “Eight Is Enough.” Born William Scott “Jack” Elam, in the series, he played Joe Simons, Nicholas’ much older but grandfatherly friend. Long before “Eight Is Enough,” Elam was an already established actor in showbiz. Owing to his misaligned vision, Elam was typecast as the villain in Westerns. Some of his film repertoire includes “High Noon” and “The Battle of Apache Pass.”
In 1994, Simons was inducted into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame. In 1983, he was granted a Golden Boot Award for his dedication and commitment to Westerns. Elam passed away in 2003 at the age of 83.
Lani O’Grady – Mary Bradford
This actress is best known for her role as the eldest Bradford sister, Mary Bradford. Though this California-based actress would appear in her first production at 13, it took a long time for her to get the break she needed. O’Grady’s first appearance was in the TV series “The High Chaparral” (1969). “Eight Is Enough” was the lucky break O’Grady needed.
Sadly, O’Grady stint in showbiz was rather short-lived. She reunited with her “Eight Is Enough” cast members as Mary Bradford again in the two feature films. O’Grady also starred in the TV film “The Kid with the Broken Halo” co-starring Gary Coleman. When O’Grady began suffering from blackouts and agoraphobia in the 1990s, she retired from acting and took up work as a talent scout.