Julia Duffy Played Stephanie on "Newhart." See Her Now at 70.
The seven-time Emmy nominee has an impressive career.
Newhart is remembered most for its shocking "it was all a dream" finale, but if it were up to star Julia Duffy, some of the other episodes would be talked about more. On Newhart, Duffy played Stephanie, a self-absorbed maid at the inn owned by Dick (Bob Newhart) and Joanna Loudon (Mary Frann). It's been over 30 years since the sitcom went off the air, and in the time since, Duffy has continued on with her acting career, written a book, and raised two children. She's also spoken a lot about Newhart and its legacy in interviews, including her hope that other "gems" of the series will soon get their due, too.
Newhart's Stephanie may be Duffy's most famous role, but she was busy as an actor before and after the series, as well. Read on to find out more about her life today.
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She's had a lengthy acting career.
Duffy joined Newhart in a regular role in Season 2. Prior to the comedy, she was on the soap opera The Doctors for four years. She also appeared in movies and in other shows, including Cheers and The Love Boat, and was a theater actor. For her role as Stephanie, Duffy was nominated for seven Emmy awards—one for each season she was on the show.
Following Newhart, Duffy had regular roles in Baby Talk and in Designing Women's final two seasons. In more recent years, she's taken on a number of guest roles in shows including Black Monday, American Housewife, Scream Queens, and Shameless, and she has continued acting on stage as well.
"I feel like I'm just beginning to know how to play roles that are my age. I was an ingenue for so long, so that part is fun for me to explore something that's new," she told the Star Tribune in 2008. "Some of the really wonderful roles in theater are for people my age."
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She wrote a book about acting.
In 2018, Duffy's book Bad Auditions was published. In it, she details some of the occasions in which she didn't get the role she was up for. "I've had a good career, but showing the terrible things that can happen and facing those fears can be empowering," she told the Associated Press. "I wanted to show young actors that you can make mistakes, learn from them and get more confident."
In the same interview, she talked about one iconic character she didn't book: Diane on Cheers. "My Diane was much more neurotic," she said of her take on the character. "They ended up making the right choice. That's a hard thing to swallow, but usually the right person gets the job. Not getting it left me free to do Newhart, and I wouldn't have missed that experience for the world." Diane was of course played by Shelley Long, who won an Emmy for the role.
She got married and had two children.
Duffy has been married to Jerry Lacy, who was also a soap opera star, since 1984. They met when they both appeared on the soap Love of Life, and the couple later went on to appear on episodes of Designing Women and Drake & Josh together. Lacy and Duffy welcomed two children, Kerry and Daniel. Sadly, Daniel passed away in 2019.
She has fond memories of Newhart.
Duffy looks back on Newhart as one of the best jobs she's ever had. "That kind of job is the reason you get into the business. And I had it—I had it all for the seven seasons I was on the show," she told the Star Tribune. She added, "I don't think I'll ever top it, because that combination of a fabulous character and people that were just magic to work with is not something you find every day. It was artistically very gratifying."
Duffy also reflected on Newhart in an interview about the memorable series finale with Entertainment Weekly. And while she know why people still talk about the finale, she also said that she hopes it doesn't outshine all the other episodes. "I do hope people will talk about the other 183 episodes," she said. "There were gems in there. If we didn't have this iconic last episode, these things would get brought up and talked about sometimes. But we always talk about the finale."