Room 222 46 Years Later
Being one of the biggest shows of the ‘70s, “Room 222” brought the perfect mix of comedy and drama to the family homes where it was shown between 1969 and 1974. Over four decades later, we couldn’t help but wonder what the cast members are up to now. In this article, we will review what career moves the actors took, as well as disclose some behind the scenes facts you never knew about!
THE PLOT OF THE SHOW
For those that have seen the show back in the seventies, or in case you have never seen an episode, the plot is quite easy to explain: it all takes place in a high school in Los Angeles, where History teacher Pete Dixon and his girlfriend Liz McIntyre, have a troubled relationship with the principal of the school, Seymore Kaufman.
Along comes Alice Johnson, the English teacher, which helps the other characters deal with the different issues that arise daily at the Walt Whitman High school, based in Los Angeles. While there are several students attending this school, the most popular on the show are Alice, Bernie, Jason, and Richie.
THE IMPORTANCE OF “ROOM 222”
Being set in a fictional school, “Room 222” was seen as a breath of fresh air back in the ‘70s due to the diversity of its cast, and as one of the first shows to cast people of color. Having a teacher who is described as “an idealistic African-American school teacher,” the show opened the doors for many future shows.
THE ACTORS BEHIND THE CHARACTERS
With a cast that was skilled enough to turn the characters into loveable personas, “Room 222” became one of the audience’s favorites. At a time when the competition was high, this ABC’s show made its way to the top of the audience lists.
LLOYD HAYNES / PETE DIXON
Born on 19 September 1934, Lloyd Haynes became famous for playing Lieutenant Alden in the “Star Trek: The Original Series”, this was one of his first television roles, however, his role as Pete Dixon was also the reason why he became easily recognized by fans. Sadly, Haynes passed away from cancer in December 1986, at the age of 52.
DENISE NICHOLAS / LIZ MCINTYRE
Being mainly known for her role in “Room 222”, Denise Nicholas has a side of herself outside the cameras, she was often involved in activist causes. She also became known for her acting in the role of Councilwoman Harriet DeLong on the NBC/CBS drama series “In the Heat of the Night”.
MICHAEL CONSTANTINE / PRINCIPAL SEYMOUR KAUFMAN
Constantine kept his career on a high-note after leaving the show, bring mostly known for his appearance in the hit movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”. He won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series in 1970 for his role in “Room 222”, being also recognized by the Emmys and the Golden Globes in 1971.
KAREN VALENTINE / ALICE JOHNSON
While Karen Valentine (born May 25, 1947) became famous for her role in the series, she had previously gotten the spotlight as a competitor on the Miss Teenage America pageant, where she represented the State of California. Valentine was awarded an Emmy for her role in “Room 222”, and kept a recurrent position as a panelist on “The Hollywood Squares”.
HESHIMU CUMBUKA / JASON
Born as Arlington Banks, Heshimu Cumbuka’s career developed into television movies, being the actor best know for his roles in “Born to Be Sold” (1981), “They Call Me Bruce?” (1982), and “Sunnyside” (1979). He also made appearances in two episodes of the television series “Hill Street Blues”.
DAVID JOLLIFFE / BERNIE
Originally from Los Angeles, David Jolliffe became well known for his role as a voice actor for the role of Larry on “Clue Club”, having had also a guest role on “Capitol Critters”. Other than his acting career, he plays in a band called The Jenerators with fellow artists Bill Mumy and Miguel Ferrer.
JUDY STRANGIS / HELEN LOOMIS
Born on December 23rd, 1949, Judy Strangis is also a writer, however, her acting career is what she is best known for. Strangis made herself recognized for her roles in “Electra Woman and Dyna Girl” (1976), “CBS Schoolbreak Special” (1984), and “The Spike Jones Show” (1960).
NOMINATIONS: HOW THE AWARDS RECOGNIZED THE SHOW
“Room 222” has won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding New Series, being that two actors of the show, namely Michael Constantine and Karen Valentine, won the awards for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, respectively.
VALENTINE HAS OPENED UP ABOUT HER THOUGHTS ON THE SHOW
“I remember when Room 222 turned 30,” Karen Valentine, who played Alice, said, adding that her perception of the series was quite positive. She admitted that she felt a bit uneasy about how fast time has gone, especially since 50 years have passed since it first aired, concluding that “Room 222 just started so many things for me.”
According to her, entering the entertainment business through “Room 222” was the “most amazing way”. Having shared that the quality of the cast and their personalities were some of the main reasons as to why it became so successful, Valentine recalled how she managed to get a role for the show.
HOW DID VALENTINE GET THE ROLE?
The actress explained that she actually felt she wouldn’t get the role, as her first meeting with one of the interviewers was quite odd. Adding that the person in front of her never lifted her eyes from the paper, she was quickly dismissed from the meeting, and honestly she was prepared for the worst.
However, she was wrong, as she explained that “Six months later I got a call from my agent saying, ‘You have a callback,’ and I asked, ‘For what?’ ‘Room 222.’” The actress indicated that back then she had a meeting with Gene and Terry Becker for her audition, and she couldn’t have been happier after reading the script.
VALENTINE ON READING THE SCRIPT FOR THE FIRST TIME
But while getting the positive news left her with excitement, it would only be doubled once she finally read the official script of “Room 222”. Valentine admitted that it was an excellent script, filled with fun bits and that spoke to the people of today. “Everything just seemed to flow together perfectly with it,” the actress explained.
FROM COMEDY TO DRAMA
“Room 222” had thirty minutes long episodes and, back then, it was categorized by ABC as comedy, which insisted it should have a laugh track when jokes or comments were made. However, it was pretty obvious for the producers and the actors that the laugh track was not meant to be there, as it didn’t fit with the series.
Karen explained how Gene Reynolds, the show’s director, was tirelessly trying to remove the track from the episodes, as he believed that the audiences didn’t need a cue to know when the show was being funny. After his suggestions were taken into consideration, many have come forward to share how they thought it was one of his best decisions.
THE RESEARCH THAT WENT INTO THE SHOW
According to Karen Valentine, everyone on the show was involved in its making, ensuring that it was as accurate as possible to the real lives of students and teachers across the country. She indicated that the writers were actually visiting schools where they would try to understand what were the main topics being discussed at the time.
STUDENTS AND TEACHERS ALIKE
After sharing how the students reacted to “Room 222”, Valentine added that the teachers were also giving a positive feedback about the show. According to her, the balance between funny and serious moments were one of the main reasons why the show worked so well with the audience.
KAREN VALENTINE DISCLOSES THE INTERACTIONS BETWEEN THE CHARACTERS
“The series gave different characters time in the spotlight,” Karen mentioned. She took some time to recall the romantic relationship that developed between Pete and Liz, and how it impacted the storyline of the show. But romance was not the only topic being mentioned on the show, as family dynamics were also spoken about.
Continuing that “And, as a team, the four of us [...] were meeting up to discuss problems and getting four different points of view.” It was not just the researchers trying to find out the best way to depict youth and school time, and perhaps, the show’s success had a lot to do with how involved the cast members were.
THE SHOW WAS CANCELLED AFTER FIVE SEASONS
The show run a successful period of five seasons, and while there were some rocky times in terms of audiences and ratings, it seemed to have picked up during the third season. Nevertheless, in 1974, ABC decided to cancel the show, having just informed the actors that they didn’t need to come to the set any longer.
“ABC did have the kindness to come and tell us before we read it in the papers because that’s how things were cut in those days: You just didn’t come to work the next day. But they did have the wherewithal to give us the word that it was happening, and it was sad …” she shared.
Even though “Room 222” was canceled 46 years ago, it did mark an entire generation. We will never know the true impact that this series had, not only on the entertainment world but also on society as a whole. What was your favorite character in the show? Let us know in the comments and make sure to share this story with your friends!
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