He Played Sam on "Diff'rent Strokes." See Danny Cooksey Now at 46.
The former child actor also famously played Budnick on Nickelodeon's Salute Your Shorts.
It's generally the hallmark of a family friendly TV series struggling in the ratings: Bring in adorable new blood to replace the once-young cast that has aged out of the "adorable moppet" stage. Cousin Oliver on The Brady Bunch is one infamous example, but you could also point to the late series addition of Danny Cooksey as Sam on Diff'rent Strokes, the enduring 1980s sitcom starring Gary Coleman.
Cooksey joined the show at age eight playing Sam McKinney, the new stepson of the series' wealthy patriarch, played by Conrad Bain. After the show, the former child star went on to a long career in entertainment. Keep reading to find out what he's done since, and where he is now, at age 46.
He went on to another beloved comedy.
Cooksey has remained quite active in Hollywood in the more than three decades since Diff'rent Strokes ended, appearing in a handful of films and a lengthy list of TV shows.
On the big screen, he had supporting roles in '80s cult classic/E.T. ripoff Mac and Me, 1991's Terminator 2: Judgment Day (in which he played Tim, the redheaded best friend to Edward Furlong's John Connor), and the 1992 sci-fi comedy Mom and Dad Save the World.
He was also on television, appearing throughout the '80s in episodes of popular TV series including The Twilight Zone, Mr. Belvedere, MacGuyver, and Growing Pains. He was also a series regular on the sitcom The Cavanaughs, which ran for two seasons on CBS, from 1986 to 1989.
To many '80s kids, he is perhaps best known as Bobby Budnick, one of the campers on the quirky Nickelodeon summer camp sitcom Salute Your Shorts. "As I've gotten older, I get recognized less and less," he told The Ringer last year. "But what I get more of these days are people asking, 'Where did you go to high school? Did we go to camp together? I know you…' I'm like, 'Well, I guess we were kind of at camp together.'"
He found a second career as a voice actor.
While still young, Cooksey landed his first voiceover part, playing several of the titular pups on the cartoon Pound Puppies—a job that would herald a long career behind the microphone that continues to this day. He went on to provided vocals for characters in everything from the animated adaptation of Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure and Tiny Toons (voicing spoiled rich kid Montana Max) to The Little Mermaid, Ren & Stimpy, Hey Arnold!, Pepper Ann, Invader Zim, and Kim Possible, among many others.
More recent voicework has included the TV spinoff of the Kung-Fu Panda films, The Regular Show, and a number of popular video games, from Quake 4 to an installment of the blockbuster Medal of Honor series.
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He was in a heavy metal band as a teen.
While the Oklahoma native first dreamed of singing country music—he moved to Los Angeles with his family at five years old hoping to break into the industry, he told YTA in 2020—by his teens, he had moved on to heavy metal as a member of the band Bad4Good, which, at the time of its founding, was entirely made up of teenagers. Cooksey was lead singer for the group, which formed in 1991 and signed to Interscope Records, releasing the 1992 album Refugee.
Bad4Good broke up in 1993, but Cooksey has continued to stay involved in music, playing with the country band Shelter Dogs, which aims to raise money to help abused animals. He participated in the recording of their 2015 album Take Me Home, and still plays with them occasionally, according to an interview in Rewind It Magazine.
He has two children from a rocky marriage.
If his Instagram is anything to go by, Cooksey is all about his children. He has an adult daughter, Zoë Leigh, and a young son, Jackson Paul. As of July 2022, he's awaiting the birth of his first grandchild.
Though he has largely avoided the struggles other former child performers have gone through, Cooksey hasn't been completely immune from tabloid scrutiny. In 2019 and again in 2022, his ex-wife Amber Cooksey filed restraining orders against the actor, alleging he physically abused her in front of his children, as reported by TMZ. (The outlet noted that he did not respond to a request for comment.) The pair were together for more than 20 years before their 2019 divorce.
He teaches acting.
In between voice acting and family life, Cooksey has also worked as an acting teacher, according to Rewind It Magazine.
"I believe that each person has their own sort of individual process as far as what they want to accomplish with their needs and goals with acting," he told the outlet. "One thing I try to focus a lot on is the audition process, because even if you're the best actor in the world, that's a whole different monster in itself."