She Played Ellen Craig on "St. Elsewhere." See Bonnie Bartlett Now at 93.
She's been married to onscreen husband William Daniels for over 70 years.
Bonnie Bartlett had been working in the entertainment industry for three decades before she played Ellen Craig, wife to Dr. Mark Craig (William Daniels), on the medical drama St. Elsewhere, but it's likely the role she's best known for. Ellen went from a recurring character in her first few seasons to being upgraded to a series regular. And Bartlett, who got her start in the soap opera Love of Life back in the 1950s, won two consecutive Emmy awards for Best Supporting Actress for the role in 1986 and 1987. Now 93, Bartlett has not officially retired from acting, though her most recent roles are a few years back. Read on to learn more about the TV star's life now—and about her real-life love story with her TV husband.
She worked well into her 80s.
Prior to St. Elsewhere, Bartlett had appeared in dozens of TV shows, including Emergency!, The Waltons, The Rockford Files, Hart to Hart, and Knot's Landing, in addition to several TV movies and a few feature films. She was a part of St. Elsewhere for the show's entire run, and when it ended in 1988, she didn't slow down. She continued to make guest appearances on series including Golden Girls, in which she memorably played Dorothy's snobby friend Barbara. She also had recurring roles as Lucille Taylor on Home Improvement, as Dean Bollander on Boy Meets World, and as Barbara Brooks on Once and Again. She's also appeared on ER, Firefly, Touched by an Angel, Grey's Anatomy, and Parks and Recreation, as well as the movies Ghosts of Mississippi and Primary Colors, among others.
Bartlett's most recent onscreen role was playing Helen in two 2017 episodes of Better Call Saul.
Though she may not be working in TV quite as much anymore, Bartlett still makes professional public appearances, like attending Golden-Con, a Golden Girls convention, earlier this year.
She and Daniels have been married for over 70 years.
Bartlett won acclaim for playing Dr. Craig's beleaguered and somewhat emotionally abandoned wife on St. Elsewhere, but in real life, the two were always happily married. She and Daniels, who turned 95 this year, met in college at Northwestern, where they were both in the theater program. They tied the knot in 1951 and have remained together to this day. In addition to playing spouses on St. Elsewhere (and winning matching Emmys on the same night), they were also love interests when Bartlett guested on Boy Meets World, in which Daniels played the beloved Mr. Feeny.
The actors reflected on their relationship's incredible staying power in a 2021 Forbes interview. "He makes me laugh," Bartlett said of her husband. "His humor, his sense of humor and his ability during every day to find something funny is really good for me, because I'm very intense."
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She got flack on the St. Elsewhere set for her character's actions.
In a 2018 interview with the Television Academy, Bartlett and Daniels looked back on a divisive St. Elsewhere storyline in which Mark and Ellen separated, and Ellen dated another man. Bartlett remembered that she got heat not only from fans but from people who worked on the show. "Even on the set, they would say, 'Ugh,' and look at me like I was a bad woman," she recalled. "And of course, for me, as an actress, it was fun. It was just plain fun." She also noted that it was "hard" for Daniels to play out that storyline, even though "everybody on the set took his side."
"I didn't like it at all, because she can really cozy up to somebody," Daniels said, as Bartlett laughed beside him. "And everybody in the crew sympathized with me, which helped me a lot."
She's a grandmother.
In the '60s, Bartlett and Daniels adopted two sons, Michael and Robert, and they're now grandparents, as well. Speaking to Forbes earlier this year, Bartlett explained that their younger family members help to keep them connected to their fans. Daniels' younger Boy Meets World co-stars told him about the service Cameo, which enables fans to purchase and gift personal messages from their favorite celebrities, so now Michael helps him to record videos for his adoring public. "We use the money that we're making now because we don't want anything, we don't need anything—we use it to help educate our grandchildren," Bartlett said. "And then it goes to the Democratic Party, wherever I can, to Ukraine. Means I can write a lovely check. I love that."
In addition to their own family, Bartlett and Daniels continue to have a close relationship with the former teen stars they worked with on Boy Meets World. "Bill loved all those kids, he did," Bartlett told the outlet. "He likes them now, too. We see them! They're all great."