Gimme A Break ran for six seasons on NBC. The show starred Nell Carter as the housekeeper for a widowed police chief (Dolph Sweet) and his three daughters Katie, Julie, and Samantha. A foster son, Joey (Joey Lawrence), was added to the Kanisky household in Season 3.
So…The Cast Of Gimme A Break…Where Are They Now?
Nell Carter as Nellie Ruth “Nell” Harper.
The character of Nell was a talented singer from Tuscaloosa County, Alabama who ran away from home when she was 18. She met and became friends with Margaret Kanisky and promised to look after her family after she had died from cancer. In keeping her promise, Nell took on the role of housekeeper and mother to the kids and remained in the series for the entire 6-year run. She later became a foster mother to Joey Donovan in Season 3. Nell moved to Greenwich Village in New York City in Season 6 with Joey and Addy and worked as an assistant editor for a publishing company.
Carter attempted suicide in the early 1980s, and she entered a drug detoxification facility around 1985 to break a long-standing cocaine addiction.
Sadly, On January 23, 2003, Carter collapsed and died at her home in Beverly Hills. Using blood tests, x-rays, and a cursory physical examination, the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office ruled that Carter’s death was the likely result of “probable arteriosclerotic heart disease, with diabetes a contributing condition.” She was only 54 years old.
Dolph Sweet as Police Chief Carl “Chief” Kanisky
The character of Police Chief Carl Kanisky, known simply as “the Chief,” was a widower with three teenage daughters. After actor Dolph Sweet’s actual death on May 8, 1985, his character of the Chief was written out of the series as also having died, and the show continued with Nell taking over as head of the household.
Sweet’s best-known television character was his series co-lead role as police chief and father Carl Kanisky. He was constantly at odds with housekeeper Nell Carter. Dolph Sweet appeared in the role of “the Chief” from 1981 until his death. He was diagnosed with cancer during the series’ fourth season but continued to work on the show. The final episode of the fourth season aired on May 11, 1985, three days after he died, and just a few hours after his funeral. Prior to Gimme A Break! Dolph Sweet appeared in such films as Below the Belt (1980) and Reds (1981), the made for television movie Gideon’s Trumpet (1980), and also appeared in television series like Hill Street Blues and Hart to Hart.
Kari Michaelsen as Kathleen “Katie” Kanisky
The character Of Katie Kanisky was the Chief’s oldest daughter, Katie decided not to go to college and opened a boutique called Katie’s Corner. After her boutique went out of business, she was written out of the series in the final season as having obtained a job in San Francisco. Her last appearance was the first episode of Season 6.
Kari Michaelsen is an American actress, television personality, and motivational speaker. As an actress, she is best known for her role as Katie Kanisky on the sitcom Gimme a Break! (1981–1987). She dated pop star Andy Gibb in 1983. Born in Manhattan, Michaelsen followed her parents into show business. Kari sang on the soundtrack for Sesame Street and was performing in Off-Broadway plays by age 11. In 1975, her family moved to Beverly Hills and Michaelsen she guest-starred on such television shows as Diff’rent Strokes and Eight Is Enough. She retired from television work in 2001. She is the Host of the Talk Show “In the Spotlight”, and is a highly respected speaker and trainer, and was Brand Ambassador for the Fashion Line Barefoot Dreams from 2015-2020 on QVC.
Lauri Hendler as Julie Kanisky Maxwell
The Chief’s middle daughter, Julie Kanisky was usually portrayed as being very intelligent. Julie married Jonathan Maxwell at the end of Season 4 and became pregnant in Season 5. In the Season 6 premiere, after her baby Nell Maxwell had been born, the new three-member Maxwell family moved to San Jose and was therefore written out of the series.
Lauri Hendler is an American actress. Besides Gimme A Break!, she has appeared on the television shows CHiPs, Lou Grant, Three’s Company, Magnum, P.I., Mr. Belvedere, Charmed, The West Wing, Becker, Without a Trace, Strong Medicine and ER.
In the 80s, she also appeared on several game shows including The $25,000 Pyramid, The $100,000 Pyramid, Super Password and Body Language.
Lauri appeared in several ABC weekend specials and in 1980 was in Portrait of an Escort. She was cast in Gimme a Break. In 1983, and appeared in the movie High School U.S.A. with Michael J. Fox.
More recently she appeared in the games Saints Row, Saints Row 2, Saints Row: The Third, and Saints Row IV as Jane Valderama, a news reporter and radio station DJ.
Lara Jill Miller as Samantha “Sam” Kanisky
The Chief’s youngest daughter, Sam Kanisky was portrayed as a tomboy who developed into a boy-crazy teenager. She has appeared in The Music Man with Dick Van Dyke. And she has continued to steal the hearts of millions for nearly a decade as the cuddly Lambie on Disney’s Peabody Award-winning Doc McStuffins. Matched in popularity perhaps only by her portrayal of child prodigy Lisa Loud on the Nickelodeon hit The Loud House, Lara Jill can also be heard starring in two of PBS’s Emmy-winning Series: Curious George (as George’s best friend Allie) and SciGirls (as Izzy). And on top of her memorable starring role opposite Henry Winkler as Clifford in PBS’ Clifford’s Puppy Days, are her title roles in both Cartoon Network’s The Life And Times Of Juniper Lee and Disney Jr.’s Henry Hugglemonster.
Other starring credits include Cat on Amazon’s If You Give a Mouse A Cookie, the evil Fink on CN’s OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes, Warner Brothers’ DC Super Hero Girls (Casey Krinsky), Hi Hi Puffy Ami Yumi (evil friend Julie), All Grown Up (Olivia, Tommy Pickles’ first kiss!), My Mom Married A Yeti (opposite Jim Gaffigan), Higglytown Heroes, and many more.
Video game credits range from Kingdom Hearts (Chirithy) to Fortnite (Jilly Teacup). Lara Jill Miller also made a recent return to anime when she was tapped to star as the promiscuous yet conflicted HARU in the captivating Netflix hit Beastars — a fitting return to the genre where years earlier, she began her voice career in the iconic series and accompanying feature film Digimon. You can also catch her in frequent on-camera stints such as General Hospital, All That, The Amanda Show, and iCarly.
Also an accomplished singer, you can hear her voice on numerous recordings, including both Disney Jr’s Doc McStuffins and Henry Hugglemonster soundtracks, The Children’s Museum of Los Angeles Readers’ Theatre, Adiboo’s Discover Series, and NPR’s acclaimed The Wizard of Oz, along with many other popular toys and video games.
Lara Jill Miller graduated Phi Beta Kappa and Magna Cum Laude from New York University and Fordham School of Law. She passed the Bar Exam in three states and was a practicing attorney in NYC.
Joey Lawrence as Joey Donovan
Joey Lawrence is best known for his role as Joey Russo in Blossom and as Joey Donovan on Gimme A Break! He appeared on Diff’rent Strokes and Silver Spoons before landing the role of Joey Donovan on Gimme A Break! He was on the show until the series ended in 1987. He would go on to star in the movie Summer Rental with John Candy and do the voice of Oliver in the Disney animated film Oliver and Company in 1988. More recently, he has appeared on the TV shows Celebrity Family Feud, Cupcake Wars, Hawaii Five-O, Celebrity Big Brother, and Danger Zone. He has also recorded several albums as a singer.