Former child actor Philip McKeon, best known for his starring role on the classic comedy series Alice, has died. The elder brother of Facts of Life star Nancy McKeon, the actor reportedly passed away on Tuesday in Texas after battling a long illness. He was just 55 years old.
Family spokesman Jeff Ballard also confirmed the news of McKeon's passing with the release of an official statement. "We are all beyond heartbroken and devastated over Phil's passing," the statement reads. "His wonderful sense of humor, kindness and loyalty will be remembered by all who crossed his path in life."
A New York native, McKeon was born on Nov. 11, 1964. Along with his younger sister Nancy, McKeon began his professional career at a very early age when he began working as a child model at the age of four. McKeon spent the next several years of his childhood modeling for various magazines, newspapers, and TV commercials, which led to acting for multiple roles on stage and in film. His big break came in 1976 when he was discovered by Alice star Linda Lavin, who saw McKeon performing on Broadway and personally recommended him for the part of her TV son Tommy.
Debuting in 1976, the classic sitcom Alice is based on Martin Scorsese's 1974 movie Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore. With Lavin as the titular Alice, the show follows a widow moving with her young son to a new town, where she gets a job at a local eatery called Mel's Diner. In the pilot episode, Alice's son Tommy was played by child actor Alfred Lutter, who also played the role in the original movie. However, McKeon replaced Lutter as Tommy starting with the second episode, remaining with the series for its entire duration until it ended in 1985 after airing for nine seasons with over 200 episodes.
During his time on Alice, McKeon had also made sporadic appearances on other television shows. This includes snagging roles on such classics as CHiPs, Fantasy Island, and The Love Boat. Following the end of Alice, McKeon spent several more years in the acting field with roles on the TV shows Amazing Stories and Favorite Son. Additionally, McKeon was a bit of a horror genre star as well, appearing in movies like Return to Horror High, 976-EVIL 2: The Astral Factor, and Ghoulies 4.
As McKeon got older, he stepped away from Hollywood for a job working in the news department at the Los Angeles radio outlet KFWB-AM. He later transferred to Wimberly, Texas, where he got work hosting a local radio show. His decision to move to Texas from California is said to be because McKeon wanted to spend more time around his family. Surely, McKeon's listeners will all be very much missing his voice as well.
McKeon's survivors include his sister Nancy and his mother Barbara. We offer our condolences to the McKeon family along with the late actor's closest friends at this time. May he rest in peace. This news comes to us from Deadline.