Amanda Bearse played Marcy D’Arcy, the show’s clumsy every-American shmuck protagonist Al Bundy’s neighbor, for all 11 seasons of Married… with Children (and arch-nemesis).
Marcy thought she was the superior being but regularly found herself sliding to his level because she was a feminist elitist who was the focus of Al’s jokes.
Off-screen, Bearse was considerably different from who she seemed to be. In a period when Hollywood was dominated by men, she was focused on building a career as a lesbian woman and was determined to be successful both in front of and behind the camera.
Continue reading to see what happened to her after the comedy aired and what she thinks of the program now.
Married… with Children was not Bearse’s debut performance. Before moving to Los Angeles in 1981, she arrived in New York City in the late 1970s to enroll in the Neighborhood Playhouse, a Manhattan acting school.
She was raised in Atlanta after being born in Florida. By 1982, she had a role in the popular daytime drama All My Children.
She began working on films like the enduring horror classic Fright Night and the low-budget teen comedy Fraternity Vacation after completing that degree in 1983, which included Tim Robbins in a cameo role.
While appearing in Married… with Children, which ran from 1987 to 1997, she also appeared in the TV movies Goddess of Love and Here Come the Munsters, as well as the action film The Doom Generation, directed by Gregg Araki.
She moved behind the camera after the humor was over.
After Married… with Children finished, Bearse seemed to disappear from TV screens, but it was on purpose.
During the sixth season of the show, she started a plan to transition from acting to working behind the camera, becoming the first cast member to direct an episode. She had directed 31 episodes of her own show by the season’s final episode.
In 2020, Bearse said, “I intentionally stopped performing after getting married and having kids. [The show] gave birth to my second career as a television director.
A few of the well-known sitcoms that Bearse has directed episodes of include Veronica’s Closet, The Jamie Foxx Show, Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place, Jesse (which features her former co-star Christina Applegate), Dharma & Greg, and Reba. Along with 21 episodes of the comedy sketch show MADtv, she also directed every episode of The Big Gay Sketch Show, which Rosie O’Donnell produced and broadcast on the Logo network from 2007 to 2010.
“At the time I was one of very few women who were behind the camera on television, and it was a very different time,” she said in 2021. “Despite the challenge, I was grateful for the chance. Although white men still make up the bulk of the industry, more women, LGBTQ persons, and people of color are now represented.”
She came out of the closet years before Ellen.
Four years before Ellen DeGeneres famously came out to the world on her self-titled sitcom and the cover of Time, Bearse became the first actor on a primetime network television series to come out as gay in 1993. This was done by Bearse on the cover article of The Advocate’s issue from September 21, 1993.
She went public right when she adopted a daughter.
She added, “I felt like this was such a beautiful and meaningful event in my life that I wanted to share my story my way,” as she received the 2021 Trailblazer Award from Out on Film at the Atlanta Film Festival.
“It was the best thing I could have done since I was so pleased to become a mother. In the way I lived, I was moral. I just wanted to express my experience how I wanted to since I never felt ashamed of being homosexual.”
After coming out, Bearse continued to promote the LGBTQ+ community. Beginning in the late 1990s, she served as a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign. Additionally, she has supported the Human Rights Campaign’s National Coming Out Day and queer visibility in Hollywood campaigns. It’s harder to discriminate against a face than a concept, she said to the South Florida Sun Sentinel in 1994. She has also served as a Gay Games ambassador.
The difficulties that gay parents face were brought to light by Bearse’s own life when her then-partner, TV producer Dell Pearce, engaged in a custody dispute with an ex-partner with whom Pierce had adopted a child in 1997.
In 2000, Bearse moved from Los Angeles to Atlanta to raise her child. She and Pearce shared ownership of a coffee shop prior to their split. She recently told GLAAD that rejecting Hollywood’s expectations was the “best move ever” for her family.
In 2010, Bearse married Carrie Schenkman, a businesswoman from Seattle. The pair split their time between the Pacific Northwest, where Schenkman was raising her own daughter, and Atlanta, where Bearse lived with Zo.
The parody horror film Sky Sharks, the second season of the Prime Video series Smothered, and episodes of the TV shows Anger Management and Drop Dead Diva all featured Bearse at around the same time.
The romantic comedy Bros, directed by Nicholas Stoller and starring Billy Eichner as two commitment-phobic men trying to stay in a relationship, will be her next project (Forgetting Sarah Marshall). The studio has praised the film as “the first LGBT romantic comedy from a major studio,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.
“I thought, I’ll just give this a shot and see what happens, and as long as it is pleasurable and interesting, I’ll keep with it,” Bearse said to The Advocate in 2021. “To put it simply, I’m enjoying acting again. Since it’s been so long, I didn’t realize how much I missed it.”
She gets along well with the majority of Bearse’s Married… with Children castmates. She claimed to be still good friends with both Applegate and David Garrison, who played Marcy’s first husband, in an interview with the Fayetteville Observer. Ed O’Neill, the series’ star, isn’t friendly with her, and it seems like he never really was.
When asked about their relationship at a fan gathering in Raleigh, North Carolina in 2018, Bearse replied that while she tended to avoid talking about dirty laundry, there was “no love lost” between them.
In a 2013 interview with the Archive of American Television, O’Neill was more forthright and named Bearse as the cast member he found most difficult to get along with.
David Faustino was the only remaining cast member who was left out of her wedding invitations, he continued. O’Neill asserts that after she offended him and confronted her, she confessed that she thought it would have been funny for him and Faustino to see Bearse and her wife dressed in tuxedos. This demonstrates that Bearse’s instincts were generally sound.
The 63-year-old Bearse isn’t a big fan of the show itself after all these years. According to News Corp Australia, she reportedly informed them in 2018 that the show was “mean-spirited and misogynistic.” Simply said, it was completely inappropriate.
“In my opinion, the show wouldn’t be produced right today because it is so universally disapproved of.” She did admit that Marcy is a figure that she holds “near and dear.”
“I really love her, and I really appreciate a lot of the writing that went her way,” she concluded. Her voice stood out on the show from everyone else’s.