Whatever happened to predictability, the milkman, the paperboy, evening TV…and the young cast of 1994 full-length film, The Little Rascals?
From 1922-1944, Hal Roach Studios (and, beginning in 1927, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) released 220 Our Gangs films, now better known as the complete collection of The Little Rascals. There’s, of course, the well known Alfalfa and Darla and Spanky and Buckwheat, but also less recognized characters, like Waldo and Uh-Huh and Chubby and Pineapple and Smelly, who’s shtick was looking into a car exhaust pipe and getting a faceful of soot.
Almost all of the original actors, if not all of them, have since passed away, however, some at a very young age (the actor who played Froggy, Billy Laughlin, was hit by a bus and died when he was just 16), others much more recently (Shirley Jean Rickert, who played an unnamed girl with curly blonde hair in the shorts and later became a stripper in real life, passed away in 2009; and Our Gang/Superman’s Perry White, Jackie Cooper died just a month ago), and some because of murder or justifiable homicide (read about what happened to Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer here).
To a younger generation, however, the legacy of The Little Rascals begins and ends with the mostly underwhelming but still important 1994 Universal Pictures film, directed by Penelope Spheeris (Wayne’s World). Although Mel Brooks, Lea Thompson, Daryl Hannah, George Wendt, Whoopi Goldberg, and Donald Trump (coincidentally, the exact six people I’d invite to a dinner party) all appear in the film, The Little Rascals is, well, about the rascals.
Here’s what they’re up to today.
Alfalfa, played by Bug Hall
How can you not root for a boy named Bug? Hall was a mainstay of 1990s kids’ movies, starring in The Big Green alongside Steve Guttenberg, The Stupids, Disney’s underrated Hercules, and the direct-to-video Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves, the third and final film in the series. When the 20th century became the 21st, the leading roles for Hall decreased, but he’s made plenty of smaller appearances in TV shows, ranging from CSI and The O.C.; movies, like Tobe Hooper’s Mortuary; and TV movies, such as The Munsters’ Scary Little Christmas (he was Eddie!). Hall also starred in The Book of Love, the seventh (but not final) American Pie film, where he can be seen masturbating with a peanut butter sandwich (Fill in your own Little Rascal joke here). His next role: Boarding School 3D. If his Twitter is any indication, he likes motorcycles and writing about some deep shit (“What if every moment only existed so this one could. Have I said that before? Well, maybe I only said it then to repeat myself now”).
Spanky, played by Travis Tedford
As president of the He-Man Women Hater’s Club, Spanky was the most popular, as well as the best, Rascal in the film (or is my seven-year-old, girl-hating self projecting?). The character was also the first role for Travis Tedford (his Twitter bio reads that he’s “that one kid from that one movie…”), who wouldn’t appear in another movie or TV show until four years later (unless you count those adorable Welch’s Grape Juice ads), when he was cast in Smart Guy, Profiler, The Pretender, Slappy and the Stinkers (a crappy version of The Little Rascals), and A Bug’s Life, providing “additional voices.” He now lives in Texas.
Darla, played by Brittany Ashton Holmes
Like Tedford, playing Darla was Brittany Ashton Holmes’ first Hollywood role, one that would lead to two TV show guest appearances (Ellen and Red Shoe Diaries) and three TV movies (my favorite: Humanoids from the Deep, where she played “Girl on Boat”) — and, well, that’s about it. According to her MySpace, “I was a actress when i was little, and did this movie called Little Rascals. It’s like really embarrassing to watch, and i don’t want to act any more.” But! Under the Who I’d Like to Meet section, it says, “I’d love to meet up with Bug again, and orlando bloom, billie-joe.” The Big Green Day?
Stymie, played by Kevin Jamal Woods
Kevin Jamal Woods’ last role was over a decade ago, in 2000’s The Brainiacs.com (perhaps the first movie to have .com in its title, which is notable, or something?). Before that, outside of the derby hat-wearing Stymie in The Little Rascals, Woods also had a recurring role on Blossom as Frank and voiced one of Fly and Rex’s puppies in the Oscar-nominated film Babe. An anonymous commenter on IMDb says, “Kevin is actually one of my really good friends. I’ve known him for about 9 years now. He hasn’t been in anything lately but he told me he did want to get back into in a couple of years.” On that same message board: “I just saw him on the KDFW Fox 4 Good Day morning news program as a summer intern with Tim Ryan and Megan Henderson. He mentioned that he was going to school at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, FL and wants to eventually have his own talk show.”
Froggy, played by Jordan Warkol and E.G. Daily
The demands of playing Froggy were too much for only one person, so the amphibiously-named character was split in two: Jordan Warkol provided the body, so to speak, and E.G. Daily the voice. What else do the thespians have in common? They both did/do voice acting work: Warkol owned the roles of Chocolate Boy on Hey Arnold! and Eddie “Prince of the Underworld” Valentine on Rocket Power, while Daily worked on another Nickelodeon show, Rugrats, where she voiced Tommy Pickles. She can also be heard in Powerpuff Girls (as Buttercup) and the theme song for Two and a Half Men, lip-syncing Angus T. Jones’ part. Daily continues to be one of the most respected and widely used voice actresses out there (she has three projects coming out this year, including Happy Feet 2), while Warkol is now attempting a career in standup.
Buckwheat, played by Ross Bagley
The casting auditions had to have begin and ended with how well the would-be ‘Wheats were able to say, “OOOOOOOOtay,” right? Well, they picked a good one, because Bagley made for a wonderful Buckwheat. In an impressive one-two punch, while The Little Rascals was raking in literally tens of millions at the box office, Bagley began his role as Will Smith’s cousin, Nicholas “Nicky” Andrew Michael Shawn Nathan Wanyá Banks (yes, he was named after the members of Boyz II Men, who were present at his christening), on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. He would later team up with Will Smith again, as his son Dylan in Independence Day. His most recent role was voicing Gible on a 2010 episode of Pokemon. Little else is publicly known about his private life, other than he really, really, really likes the Los Angeles Lakers.
Waldo, played by Blake McIver Ewing
A.k.a. the kid who looks like a Culkin, but isn’t a Culkin. Outside of playing rich-kid Waldo, he also played obsessive-compulsive Derek (Michelle’s friend) on Full House, Junior’s pre-teen enemy in Problem Child 3: Junior in Love, Arnold’s soup-can headed pal Eugene on Hey Arnold!, and has performed on albums with Natalie Cole and Phil Collins. He’s released a choir album, On This Christmas Night, and has an impressive theatre resume, including tours for Ragtime (for which he received an Ovation Award), The Light in the Piazza, and Teen Witch the Musical. And he’s still not a Culkin.
Butch, played by Sam Saletta
How do you top playing a character named Butch? You appear in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Pt. II as “Obnoxious Boy #2” (“Confidence Man #2” was already taken). Things got a lot less violent from there, with Saletta voicing Squid on Rocket Power from 1999-2000 and playing homeless orphan George on 7th Heaven, as well as smaller roles on Beverly Hills 90210 and E.R. He also played scheming tween Ryan in Billboard Dad alongside the Olsen Twins, which I mention simply because I love the movie’s Wikipedia description: “Some have seen [Billboard Dad] as a modern retelling of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, mostly because at the end of the film, every character is satisfied and happy, except, of course, for the villainous minority character.” So, basically, Sam Saletta is Shylock. He’s now in a band, Jubala, and his influences include Bradley Nowell, Paul Simon, and Muse.
Porky, as played by Zachary Mabry
Zachary Mabry was only four years old when he played Spanky’s brother, Porky. It was his first role — and also his last. Not in a depressing, “he’s dead” way or anything; he just hasn’t acted in anything since, at least according to IMDb. He now goes to the University of Oklahoma and recalled this about the Rascals on his sic’d MySpace:
“So I saw on IMDB someone asking me to post some memories from back when we filmed the movie, so I figured I would post one. Please remember that this was a LONG time ago so my memory is somewhat fuzzy. Okay, do you guys remember the scene where Alfalfa is on trial for burning down the clubhouse? Well we were all sitting on “chairs” that were random things like boxes and stuff. Well I was sitting right next to Bug (Alfalfa) and some crew member made the mistake of showing me that the part of his chair thing that he sat on was removable. It was a round disk thing he sat on and you could pull it right off, and what was left was just a big ring that someone would fall right through if they tried to sit in it. Well during the scene I thought it was so funny and kept taking it off and it made it to where he couldn’t sit down. I thought it was hilarious but the director did not (Penelope) didn’t and the fact that I KEPT doing it was delaying the shooting for that scene…it wasn’t good lol. I think in the end my mom had to tell me not to do that anymore haha.”
By the time seven-year-old Courtland Mead appeared in The Little Rascals, he was already an established acting veteran, having appeared in The Young and the Restless, Only You with Helen Hunt, and Dragonworld. He had a mighty fine post-Rascal career, too, most notably voicing Gus Griswald on Recess, as well as playing one of the puppies from Babe (the casting director of that movie must really have loved The Little Rascals), Kirk Cameron’s brother on Kirk, and as Danny in the absolutely terrible The Shining miniseries (he also appeared in a short called Incest). His MySpace occupation is “washed up child star,” which is a really depressing way to end this article and I regret saving him for the end.
Josh Kurp still believes in you, Courtland Mead.