Cast Biographies

Cast Biographies

As TV Guide said in 1992, Empty Nest was home to an experienced ensemble cast that knew its way around a sitcom. The stars of the show had successful careers both before and after it ended. Here is a little more about each of the nine series regulars.

Richard Mulligan, born November 13, 1932, in New York, New York, worked on stage, screen and television during his impressive career. In addition to Dr. Harry Weston, he is best remembered as Burt Campbell on another Susan Harris-created sitcom, Soap. His feature film debut was in 1963’s Love With the Proper Stranger. Other notable films include Little Big Man and Pueblo, his first television appearance. Mulligan married several times and was the brother of director Robert Mulligan. After battling colon cancer, Richard passed away in September of 2000.

Emmy award-winner Kristy McNichol, born September 11, 1962, in Los Angeles, California, began acting in commercials at age six. Her role as Buddy Lawrence in the drama Family made her one of the most popular teen stars of the seventies. She has appeared in many television movies and feature films over the years including Little Darlings, The Pirate Movie and Only When I LaughShe returned to series work with Empty Nest in 1988, but left the show in 1992. She retired from acting after leaving Nest but has done some voiceover work and worked as an acting teacher.

Tony award-winner Dinah Manoff was born January 25, 1958, in New York, New York. She is the daughter of actress Lee Grant and TV writer Arnold Manoff. A graduate of California School of the Arts, she made her feature film debut in the classic musical Grease as Marty, the sex-kitten of the Pink Ladies. She won a Tony for her role in Neil Simon’s play I Ought to Be in Pictures, and reprised the role for the movie version with Walter Matthau. Dinah became the first sitcom regular to be “murdered” on-camera during her years on the series Soap, starring fellow Empty Nest cast member Richard Mulligan. After that, she worked in various film, stage and television roles before landing the role of Carol Weston. After Empty Nest, she continued to act, direct and write screenplays, popping up again on televion in 2001 with the cable series State of Grace. She gave birth to a son in 1997 and twin boys in 2002. Throughout her career, Dinah has guest starred on such series as Mork & Mindy, Touched By An Angel, Cybill, Lou Grant, Murder, She Wrote, Blossom, George & Leo, Night Court and others. Her directing credits include episodes of Sister, Sister, Minor Adjustments, Brother’s Keeper, and several episodes of Empty Nest.

David Leisure, born November 16, 1950, is perhaps best known, other than Empty Nest, for playing lying car salesman Joe Isuzu in a series of outrageous Isuzu commercials in the 1980s. While at San Diego State University, he roomed with Robert Hays, and graduated with a degree in fine arts. He pursued acting for 6 years before landing a bit part in the movie Airplane!, starring former roommate Hays. Work was scarce afterward, and David lived for a time out of his VW bus. Following a girlfriend’s advice, he joined a TV commercial acting workshop and became spokesman for Bell Atlantic Yellow Pages before landing the Joe Isuzu role. David was the only Empty Nest cast member to have appeared in the show’s original pilot episode of The Golden Girls starring Rita Moreno, only as a different character than Charley Dietz. He has worked steadily in film and television since Empty Nest ended, including reprising the Joe Isuzu role in a new series of Isuzu ads in 2001 and a spoof endorsement campaign for Mitt Romney’s presidential candidacy in 2012.

Golden Globe nominee Park Overall hails from Greeneville, Tennessee, and was born March 15, 1957. Despite being best known as Laverne on Empty Nest, Park has compiled an impressive resume of versatile roles. Throughout her career, she has worked with such stars as Matthew Broderick (Biloxi Blues), Arnold Schwarzenegger (Kindergarten Cop), Reba McEntire (Reba) and Cyndi Lauper (Vibes). She was nominated for a Golden Globe for Empty Nest, and won three Viewers for Quality Television awards for the role. Since Nest, she has appeared in numerous stage productions, sitcoms, independent films and made-for-television movies. She is an active environmentalist and works in her hometown of Greeneville on various causes.

Paul Provenza, born in 1958 in New York, New York, has starred in such shows as Northern Exposure and The Facts of Life in addition to Empty Nest. He attended the Bronx High School of Science and the University of Pennsylvania (where he was a writer/performer for the school’s comedy troup Mask and Wig). Paul directed the critically-acclaimed film “The Aristocrats” and is a respected comedian, writer, director and television host. He is the author of the book Satiristas and hosted The Green Room with Paul Provenza on Showtime.

Lisa Rieffel, born January 12, 1975, in Denville, New Jersey, has appeared in The King of Queens, The Cosby Show, The Trials of Rosie O’Niell, and the short-lived Designing Women spin-off Women of the House with Delta Burke. She has appeared in such feature films as Forget Paris, starred in the Broadway production of Raggedy Ann and was a member of the Ensemble Studio Theatre. Her role in a public service announcement about drug abuse won Lisa a Gold Lion at the Cannes Film Festival. In recent years, Lisa has focused on music and is lead singer for the popular indie rock band Killola.

Marsha Warfield, born March 5, 1954, in Chicago, Illinois, is perhaps best known for her role as tough-talking baliff Roz on the hit sitcom Night Court. She made her film debut in 1981’s The Marva Collins Story. Other work includes The Richard Pryor Show, Caddyshack II and Doomsday Rock. Besides acting, Marsha is also a respected stand-up comic. She hosted her own short-lived talk show, The Marsha Warfield Show, in 1990. Marsha continued to make television appearances following Empty Nest‘s end before retiring. In 2015, however, she resurfaced on the stand-up circuit in Las Vegas.

Emmy and Golden Globe winner Estelle Getty, born July 25, 1924, in New York, New York, was 47 years old whe she made her first stage appearance. Her first movie role was in 1982’s Tootsie. Other films include Mask, Mannequin and the Sylvester Stallone movie Stop! or My Mom Will Shoot. She starred for 10 years, through three series (The Golden Girls, The Golden Palace, Empty Nest), as wisecracking Sophia Petrillo. After auditioning four times for the role of Sophia, Estelle was called in again for another reading. She hired a makeup artist to age her, went shopping in thrift shops looking for a worn polyester dress way too big for her, and a handbag. She went to the audition in her “costume,” stayed in character the whole time and landed the part. Estelle suffered from dementia in her later years and died in July 2008 at the age of 84.