The ‘80s were really something, huh? The decade that brought us neon clothing and aerobics videos also gave us some pretty stellar TV shows. Charles in Charge was definitely one of the sitcoms many of us enjoyed watching after school or dinner with the fam. For those who are old enough to remember, Wednesday evening was the highlight of the week.
Remember the theme song? “New boy in the neighborhood, lives downstairs, and it’s understood. He’s there just to take good care of me like he’s one of the family…” For fans and curious readers alike, this is a look into the show and its cast, then and now.
Oh, Charles, What Have You Done?
Charles was the perfect gentleman next door – a guy with a heart of gold – a character that entertained us from 1984 to 1990 for five seasons. The show was actually canceled after the first season due to poor ratings, but thanks to loyal fans and some plot changes, the series came back, and ratings went through the roof.
Three decades later, fans are still nostalgic about the cast and the show. Of course, most cast members have moved on with their lives – some are no longer in the spotlight, some are still in it – and others, like Scott Baio, have been placed smack dab in the middle of a hot mess.
Goodbye Happy Days, Hello Charles in Charge
Back in the mid-‘80s, after years of playing Chachi Arcola on Happy Days, the chance to be in the new sitcom Charles in Charge was a breath of fresh air for Scott Baio. At the time, he called the move away from Happy Days a “healthy” one for him.
“It’s a different comedy than in Happy Days,” Baio said. “The humor comes from real situations, real problems… not the setup and the joke.” Michael Jacobs and Barbara Weisberg created the show, and it revolved around Baio, or rather his character Charles.
A Little Recap Won’t Hurt
Just in case you never watched the show or just can’t remember (it’s been 30 years, after all), you won’t mind a short recap, right? Okay, so Charles was a college student going to Brunswick, New Jersey’s Copeland College (not a real school).
He answered an ad for a couple searching for a caretaker for their kids, and so Charles ends up moving in with the family. He took care of the kids in exchange for room and board. Charles lived with the Pembroke family: Stan and Jill (played by James Widdoes and Julie Cobb) and their kids, Lila (April Lerman), Douglas (Jonathan Ward), and Jason (Michael Pearlman).
With the Second Season Came a New Family
Willie Aames (from Eight Is Enough) played Charles’ best friend, Buddy. Jennifer Runyon was Charles’ girlfriend, played by Gwendolyn Pierce. After the show returned after its initial cancellation, there was one main difference: the Pembroke family (seemingly) moved to Seattle and rented out the house to the Powell family.
Charles, apparently, came with the house. Oh, and how convenient – the new family also had kids that needed taking care of. With the new family came new cast members: single mom Ellen (played by Sandra Kerns), father Walter (James T. Callahan) and kids, Jamie (Nicole Eggert), Sarah (Josh Davis), and Adam (Alexander Polinsky). Oh, and Ellen Travolta (John’s sister) played Charles’ mother, Lillian.
What Could Have Been
Like most sitcoms we grew to love, the main character in Charles in Charge was originally offered to another actor and a major one. Initially, the role of Charles was written for America’s sweetheart Michael J. Fox. Fox, however, declined the offer.
Fox played Alex P. Keaton on Family Ties – a show that became a major hit for NBC. Family Ties was also nowhere near any sort of threat of cancellation that would even give the opportunity to take the role anyway.
Willie Aames (Buddy Lembeck)
Willie Aames was born Albert William Upton in 1960 in Newport Beach, California. His acting debut was in a 1971 episode of The Odd Couple as Felix Unger’s son, Leonard. Afterward, he was seen on The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, Gunsmoke, Adam-12, and Medical Center.
From 1972 to 1974, he voiced the character of Jamie Boyle on the cartoon series Wait Till Your Father Gets Home. In the ‘70s, he was a regular on the series We’ll Get By (1975), The Swift Family Robinson (1975 to 1976), Family (1976 to 1977), and Eight Is Enough (1977 to 1981).
Willie Ames Got Into Some Trouble
Aames’ role as Buddy lasted the entire series, and after the final season of Charles in Charge, he moved onto other shows. He appeared in various movies like Eight Is Enough: A Family. Unfortunately, things took a turn for the worse in the actor’s life.
Aames was battling alcohol abuse and fell into financial problems. He’s been married three times: to Vicki Weatherman from 1979 to 1984; Maylo McCaslin from 1986 to 2009; and Winnie Hung since 2014. He has two children. His most recent credit is 2020’s Bottle Monster.
Jennifer Runyon (Gwendolyn Pierce)
Jennifer Runyon was 24 years old when she played Gwendolyn Pierce, Charles’ girlfriend, in the show’s first season. She only appeared in the first season because her character had to move to California abruptly. Runyon’s time was short-lived in the show, but she is still remembered by the biggest Charles in Charge fans.
Runyon was born in 1960 in Chicago, Illinois, to radio announcer and DJ Jim Runyon and actress Jane Roberts. Her first role was in the horror film To All a Goodnight (1980), and she went on to act in Kenny Rogers’ Six Pack (1983), Ghostbusters (1984), Killing Streets (1991), Carnosaur (1993), and Silent Night.
Jennifer Runyon Has a Cooking Podcast
After Charges in Charge, Runyon starred in the miniseries Space (1985) and showed up on shows like Who’s the Boss? Quantum Leap, Beverly Hills 90210, and Vinnie & Bobby. In 1991, she married former actor and college basketball coach and director Todd Corman.
They have a son named Wyatt and a daughter, Bayley. The actress has described herself as semi-retired. She spends her time as a host of a cooking podcast and working as a teacher. One of her more recent acting gigs was in the movie Terror Tales in 2016.
April Lerman (Lila Pembroke)
The actress, who now goes as April Haney, was born in 1969 in Chicago, Illinois. Her career began when she was nine years old when she appeared in the musical Annie as Tessie. Lerman became famous when she starred as Lila Pembroke in Charles in Charge.
But once the show entered its second season, Lerman was replaced. She continued acting and guest-starred in shows like Growing Pains, Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, and Kate and Allie. She eventually made a career change and went back to school.
April Lerman Left Show Business
She wanted to leave show business and focus on her education, which some say came after appearing in some embarrassing scenes in the movie Rock and Roll Fantasy in 1992 (which is her last credit seen on IMDb). She almost became a lawyer but said it would be too stressful. She chose counseling instead.
Lerman earned a master’s degree in Counseling Psychology and works with children and adolescents. Lerman went on to marry attorney William Pearson, but they divorced in 2015. They have a son together named Sean.
Jonathan Ward (Douglas Pembroke)
Born in 1970 in Elkridge, Maryland, Jonathan Ward made his acting debut as Michael Darling in the Broadway show Peter Pan. In the ‘80s, he appeared on the TV shows Heart of the City, Beauty and the Beast, and In the Heat of the Night. Of course, he was also known as Douglas on the first season of Charles in Charge.
Ward also left his acting career behind. As of 1995, Ward and his wife Jamie have been co-owners of a repair and restoration shop they named TLC: Toyota Land Cruisers. The couple are the parents of sons Quinn and Nash.
Michael Pearlman (Jason Pembroke)
Michael Pearlman’s earlier life was mostly in front of the camera. He debuted in Paul Simon’s film One-Trick Pony (1980) and then played in Soup for One (1982). Other than playing Jason in Charles in Charge, he acted in the TV movies Muggable Mary, Street Cop (1982), and The Gift of Love: A Christmas Story (1983).
He then left the acting world and earned a degree in journalism from New York University, after which he moved to Wyoming to work as a journalist. In 2019, he joined Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon’s office as Communications Director.
Josie Davis (Sarah Powell)
Josie Davis, born in 1973 in Los Angeles, starred in commercials when she was only three. After her run on Charles in Charge as Sarah, she realized that she was already being typecast – something she actively had to push back against.
She’s appeared in a total of 30 films and TV movies, with one of her recurring roles on the original Beverly Hills, 90210 (as Camille Desmond) and Hollywood Heights (as Daphne Miller). She was also a regular on Titans.
And now for the more headlining actors…
Scott Baio (Charles)
Born Scott Vincent James Baio in 1960 (although some sources say 1961) in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, the kid made his way into acting early on. In 1976, he made his big-screen debut as the title character of Bugsy Malone, a musical about gangsters where the characters break into song, armed with Tommy guns that fired pies instead of bullets.
A year later, he joined the cast of Blansky’s Beauties, which only lasted 13 episodes. Afterward, producer Garry Marshall invited Baio to be a part of Happy Days.
Becoming a Teen Heart Throb
When he was 16, Baio started playing Chachi Arcola, Fonzie’s younger cousin. It was then that the actor gained a huge teen following. In 1982, he and Erin Moran – the actress who played Chachi’s girlfriend on the show – were spun off into their own show called Joanie Loves Chachi.
As soon as Happy Days ended, Baio moved over to Charles in Charge. The show gave him the option to write one episode, which he did, and he even served as director of 36 others.
Scott Baio in the Hot Seat
When Charles in Charge wrapped up, Baio made guest appearances and starred in several TV movies. He was the star of Baby Talk from 1991 to 1992 and then joined Dick Van Dyke’s Diagnosis: Murder in the mid-‘90s.
He entered the reality TV world in 2008 when he starred in Scott Baio is 45… and Single. Then in 2009, he hosted Confessions of a Teen Idol. Baio married Renee Sloan in 2007 (whom he met at the Playboy Mansion in the ‘90s), and they have one child.
Nicole Eggert (Jamie Powell)
Baio faced the heat when he was accused of sexual abuse by not one but two Charles in Charge co-stars. The first was Nicole Eggert. Nicole Elizabeth Eggert, born in 1972 in Glendale, California, was also a child actress.
At the age of five, Eggert’s mother entered her into a beauty contest. She won the title of Miss Universe, which led to Johnson’s baby shampoo commercial, and then in 1980, to her big-screen debut in the film Rich and Famous, playing Candice’s daughter.
Nicole Eggert Blew the Whistle
Eggert went on to play Marci Ferguson on Who’s the Boss? Before joining the Charles in Charge cast. Nicole was previously engaged to the late Corey Haim. She was married to former actor Justin Herwick and has two kids.
For Eggert, the time she spent on the show was bittersweet. She has accused her former co-star Baio of sexual abuse, but he has repeatedly denied the claims. She blew the whistle on Megyn Kelly Today, claiming that Baio molested her when she was still a minor.
She Was “Really Good” at Covering It Up
Eggert said she hid the abuse for years because she felt the need to protect the show’s legacy. In her exclusive interview with Megyn Kelly, Eggert said she was “really good” at covering up the alleged incidents since she felt ashamed.
“My truth is that I wasn’t ready to tell my story. And for me, it was always protecting the show and protecting the legacy that nothing happened there,” Eggert explained. “That was my delusion, and that was my cover-up always. And that’s not the first time I covered it up. I did it my whole life.”
He Vehemently Denies It
According to Eggert, Baio molested her, and the two engaged in sex while they were both working on the show together. At the time, she was still in her teens. In a statement to NBC News, Baio’s representative said the “false claims” are part of a “regular pattern of making outrageous and untrue statements.”
The representative then noted that Eggert herself acknowledged that she had no response to the fact that her core claim of underage sex was proven to be untrue in a 2013 radio interview – “not just in her own words, but actually in her own voice.”
He Kept His Mouth Shut
In a Facebook live post, Baio spoke about the issue, saying that Eggert first made her claims against him in 2012 and 2013 while she was promoting three reality shows. Why didn’t he make a comment back then?
“I kept my mouth shut because usually, when false claims in the past have been made against me, they just go away. But for some reason, she will not let this one go away,” Baio said. For Eggert, it’s not something she can just “let go.”
“You Can’t Tell Anybody. This Is Illegal.”
Eggert said the first incident occurred when she was 14. “We were at his house, in his car, in his garage, and he reached over and penetrated me with his finger, and that’s when sexual touching and abuse started after that.”
According to Eggert, those were her first sexual encounters, and Baio even warned her the interaction was illegal. She recalls him telling her, “You can’t tell anybody. This is illegal. I’ll go to jail. The show will be over. Everybody will be sued.”
He Said, She Said
Baio had confessed to having had a one-time consensual sexual encounter with Eggert, which he says occurred when Eggert was already 18. Eggert, however, claims that she was actually 17, making her a minor and under the age of consent in the state of California.
The way she sees it, she was manipulated into having sex. The way Baio recalls it, she was the one who initiated it. Eggert took to Twitter to make claims of inappropriate touching: “Ask @scottbaio what happened in his garage at his house when I was a minor. Creep,” she wrote.
She’s Not the Only One From the Show
Eggert later deleted her numerous replies to Twitter users, in which she made allegations against Baio. It was only hours after her Twitter accusations that Baio responded with his 16-minute video on Facebook.
The thing is, though, that Eggert wasn’t the only Charles in Charge co-star who claimed that Baio made a move on them during their time on the show. And the other whistleblower wasn’t even a woman. The other co-star who came forward about sexual abuse on the show was actor Alexander Polinsky, who played Adam Powell on the show.
Alexander Polinsky (Adam Powell)
Alexander Polinsky, a known voice actor, was born in 1974 in San Francisco. He’s best known as Adam on Charles in Charge, but he’s made waves with his vocal performances in video games, on TV, and in movies like Teen Titans Go! The Boondocks, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Spider-Man: The New Animated Series.
Polinsky is the second Charles in Charge cast member to allege abuse by Baio while still a minor. The actor has claimed child abuse and sexual harassment by Baio.
He Walked In on Them
“I was sexually harassed by Scott Baio and ultimately assaulted by him between the ages of 12 to 15 years old,” Polinsky stated. The actor spoke publicly about it for the first time in February 2018 during a press conference with Hollywood attorney Lisa Bloom.
Nicole Eggert was there to support Polinsky’s claims. Polinsky traced the alleged incident back to his first year working on the show when he was 11. At the time, he walked in on Baio and Eggert in an act that was “sexual in nature” – 14-year-old Eggert was sitting on the adult star’s lap.
He Was His Hero
Polinsky recalled what happened that day: “I was so naive, I innocently hopped on his lap expecting to hear a story about Fonzie or Happy Days.” He went on to say that Baio “was a hero to me. Instead of telling us a story, Scott immediately threw me off him and began angrily calling me ‘fa**ot’ while Nicole laughed.”
Polinsky said he entered a “pattern of abuse that was unrelenting” while on the show. He said that seeing his “hero” behaving in such a way with Eggert – a girl close to him in age – ultimately sent him into a depression.
A Period of Mental Torture
Polinsky says that the ensuing harassment from Baio, after catching them in “the act,” was “mental torture.” According to Polinsky, Baio would continue to describe “gay sex acts” to the kid and share his “sexual conquests with young girls and co-stars.”
The actor also claims that homophobic slurs came to be a “running gag” on the set. “Scott pulled down my pants in front of over 100 people,” Polinsky claimed. “Another time, he laughed as he cut a hole in the canvas wall of my private dressing room on set and exposed his genitals to me.”
A Different Kind of Hazing
Polinsky recalled one time when he and Baio were backstage: he “assaulted me by throwing a burning hot cup of tea in my face,” Polinsky said. Baio apologized, but the abuse continued. Polinsky referred to his behavior as “sexual-themed hazing.”
Eggert read a statement, saying that she felt guilty for not standing up for her co-star Polinsky at the time. She said it was because she was enduring her own abuse from Baio and was a child herself as well.
The Adults Kept Silent
Polinsky also noted that the adults on set were aware of what was happening. Why didn’t they do anything about it? Well, according to Polinsky, they chose to remain silent for fear of losing their jobs.
Polinsky filed a report with the LAPD sexual assault unit on Feb. 6, corroborating Eggert’s claims against Baio as well as detailing his own. Reportedly, at least ten on-set witnesses also spoke to police about Eggert’s claims… One of them said they witnessed Baio dragging Eggert around the set by her hair.
He Was a “Tyrant” on Set
At the press conference, Eggert and Polinsky referred to Baio as a “tyrant” on set. Baio has denied Polinsky’s claims, just as he did with Eggert’s. He thinks his two former co-stars “decided to team up against” him.
He even told the two of them to go to the police if they had legitimate claims. “This is a lesson to be careful of what you wish for,” said Polinsky’s attorney. “Scott did say Nicole should go to the police. Not only did Nicole do so, but Alexander also went to the police.”
Waiting for an Apology
The accusing pair said they are waiting for an apology from Baio. “I don’t think that anything I’ve seen from him seems to make any sense,” Eggert said. “I think the truth is hitting him, and I think the truth looks obvious when he is confronted with all the accusations.”
Polinsky acknowledged that Baio called him ten years ago to apologize for “very basic things he had said,” but Polinsky wasn’t ready to have that conversation. “He abused me in public in front of hundreds of people; I would like a public apology.”
A Process of Manipulation
The Dr. Oz Show aired a segment on Eggert’s story, where she revealed new details about the garage incident. Since she was only 14 at the time, she saw Baio as a “power figure” on set and said he “conditioned” her through a “manipulation process.”
“It was strange, and it was in a weird way okay,” she explained, “or I thought it was okay.” She never told anyone about it. Both Eggert and Baio have different accounts of the first time they had sex…
She “Seduced” Him
Baio said she came to his house after the show was over and “seduced” him. Eggert, on the other hand, said the act took place in the spare bedroom of her own house when her parents weren’t home and while the sitcom was still filming.
She continued to tell Oz that Baio told her how much he loved her and that one day when she was of age, they could be together. “I have no doubt in my mind,” she said when she referred to being under 18.
She Wanted to Be With Boys Her Own Age
“In fact, he didn’t treat me well after on set — he was quite mean to me after.” She explained to Oz: “When I turned 17, I wanted to be around boys my own age, go out and have a social life.” According to Eggert, Baio used that to manipulate her.
He told her things like, “Let me get you ready for boys your own age.” She admits that she agreed to it at the time. She knows that it was wrong, but she felt the need to remind Oz that she was also a teenager.