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Andrea Fay Friedman, Groundbreaking ‘Life Goes On’ Actor, Dies at 53

Andrea Fay Friedman, Groundbreaking ‘Life Goes On’ Actor, Dies at 53

Andrea Fay Friedman, the actress known for her role as Amanda Swanson in the TV drama Life Goes On, has passed away. As reported by the New York Times, she died on December 3rd at her residence in Santa Monica. She was 53 years old.

Hal Friedman, her father, confirmed she passed away due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease, which commonly affects individuals with Down syndrome over the age of 50. He also shared that she had been non-verbal for the past year as the disease progressed.

Born on June 1, 1970, in Santa Monica, Friedman made significant contributions to the onscreen representation of individuals with Down syndrome. Her breakthrough came in 1992 with the role of the girlfriend and eventual wife of Charles “Corky” Thatcher, a main character who also had Down syndrome, in the acclaimed series Life Goes On. This groundbreaking show achieved a milestone by featuring two prominent characters with Down syndrome.

Friedman starred on the show with notable stars like Patti LuPone, Chris Burke, and Kellie Martin for two years. Since then, she has dedicated her career to defying stereotypes through humor and using her influence to enlighten the world about individuals with Down syndrome.

After ‘Life Goes On’, Andrea Fay Friedman Encountered Controversy for ‘Family Guy’ Role

However, Andrea Fay Friedman’s career wasn’t without controversy. In a 2010 episode of Family Guy, she portrayed Ellen, a young woman with Down syndrome who becomes romantically involved with Chris Griffin (voiced by Seth Green).

The role humorously mocked Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska, as Friedman’s character quipped, “My dad is an accountant and my mom is the former governor of Alaska.” Palin, whose son Trig has Down syndrome, later criticized the show as unfunny and accused the creators of being cruel and heartless. In response, Friedman defended the role and suggested that Palin lacks a sense of humor. 

In addition to her notable roles in Baywatch, Touched by an Angel, Chicago Hope, 7th Heaven, and ER, Friedman has also been featured in the 2009 documentary A Possible Dream: The Andrea Friedman Story. Her last onscreen performance was in the 2019 holiday drama Carol of the Bells.

In addition to her acting career, she also dedicated her time as an assistant teacher at UCLA’s Pathways program, supporting students with intellectual disabilities. She leaves behind her sister, brother-in-law, two nephews, and her father as her cherished family members.