ActressAndrea Friedman

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Born in southern California, Friedman grew up to be an actress, most notably playing “Amanda”, the girlfriend (then wife) of “Corky” on Life Goes On (1989-1993). Her specialty: convincingly playing a character with Down syndrome; she had Down syndrome herself.

“Ellen” on Family Guy as played by Andrea Friedman.

A guest spot on Family Guy (an animated series on Fox that lampoons American culture) thrust Friedman into the national political spotlight. In the episode “Extra Large Medium” (2010), Friedman’s character “Ellen” said her mother is “the former governor of Alaska” — a reference to Sarah Palin; Palin has a son with Down syndrome. Palin was outraged, claiming that the show “really isn’t funny” and was made by “cruel, cold-hearted people” and the writers were “heartless jerks” who were “mocking my brother and my family.” Friedman stepped forward to defend her character and herself:

I guess former Governor Palin does not have a sense of humor. I thought the line “I am the daughter of the former governor of Alaska” was very funny. I think the word is “sarcasm”. In my family we think laughing is good. My parents raised me to have a sense of humor and to live a normal life. My mother did not carry me around under her arm like a loaf of French bread the way former Governor Palin carries her son Trig around looking for sympathy and votes.

She added in an interview, “I was making fun of Sarah Palin, but not her son.” Friedman got quite a bit of work, playing roles on Baywatch, Touched by an Angel, Chicago Hope, Walker, Texas Ranger, Law and Order: SVU, ER, and more. Between acting gigs, she worked in a law firm’s accounting department, and taught independent living at UCLA’s Pathway extension program. But her career came to a screeching halt when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, which is common in people with Down syndrome after they pass age 50. Her father, Hal Friedman, said she was not even able to speak for the past year. Andrea Fay Friedman died December 3 at her family’s home in Santa Monica. She was 53.

From This is True for 10 December 2023