You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Welcome Back, Kotter Cast: Where They Are Now

ScreenRant logo ScreenRant 3/24/2023 Dalton Norman
© Provided by ScreenRant

Welcome Back, Kotter was best remembered as one of the defining sitcoms of the 1970s, but what has its cast been doing since the show went off the air? Airing for four seasons from 1975 to 1979, the comedy series captured the zeitgeist of that complicated era and transcended its genre by actually having something to say about the state of inner-city schools at the time. Hilarious and poignant in equal measure, the series was relatively short-lived by sitcom standards, but it had a massive impact on popular culture. Its success was due in large part to its memorable cast, some of which went on to become bona fide stars.

The personality of the Welcome Back, Kotter cast was put on full display in every episode, and it stood out from most other sitcoms because of its genuine tone and over-the-top humor. Usually considered one of John Travolta's best roles, it was a launching pad for the young actor's career, and he wasn't the only cast member to find success because of Welcome Back, Kotter. Though it wasn't without its controversial elements, the series was a time capsule to the decade it was made, and catchphrases like "up your nose with a rubber hose" became permanent fixtures in pop culture.

RELATED: 10 Forgotten Shows From The '70s That Deserve A Rewatch

Gabe Kaplan (Gabe Kotter)

Stand-up comedian Gabe Kaplan was cast in the titular role as the affable and understanding Gabe Kotter, and he often used his stage presence when teaching the Sweathogs at James Buchanan High. Welcome Back, Kotter was launched as a vehicle for the funnyman, and he appeared in nearly every episode over its four-season run. Caplan's filmography was rather brief, but he did land starring roles in films like the TV movie Groucho from 1982 which allowed him to play his idol from the Marx Brothers movies. Kaplan was most recently heard lending his voice to an episode of the irreverent dark comedy series BoJack Horseman in 2018.

Marcia Strassman (Julie Kotter)

The long-suffering wife of Gabe Kotter, Julie Cotter was brought to life by Marcia Strassman, and she perfectly embodied her loving nature that was balanced by her wish that Gabe would take things more seriously. Strassman was no stranger to TV before WBK, and she had previously had stints on The Patty Duke Show and M*A*S*H*. Afterward, she would continue to work mostly in TV but landed a starring role in the Disney film series Honey, I Shrunk the Kids in the '80s and '90s. Strassman continued to work up until 2014 when she passed away suddenly at the age of 66.

John Sylvester White (Michael Woodman)

Though elements of the iconic '70s show wouldn't fly today, Welcome Back, Kotter characters like John Sylvester White's Vice Principal Michael Woodman were what made the show classic. While not downright villainous, Vice Principal Woodman was ostensibly the antagonist of the series, and White excelled at showing the character's contempt for the Sweathogs and Kotter. John Sylvester White had a brief career in show business with bit parts in shows like Kojack before Welcome Back, Kotter, and he would only make sporadic TV appearances up until his passing in 1988 at the age of 68.

John Travolta (Vincent "Vinnie" Barbarino)

The brash and arrogant Vinnie Barbarino was the role that made Travolta famous, and he was the most successful member of the cast of Welcome Back, Kotter by far. Barbarino's swaggering attitude and catchphrases made him a popular character, and Travolta went from sitcoms to movies and found immediate success with an Oscar nod for his role in 1977's Saturday Night Fever. Travolta was a blockbuster star throughout the '80s and '90s, and though his star began to slip in the '00s, he delivered stunning performances in TV shows like The People Vs O.J. Simpson in 2016 and returned to form in comedies like 2020's Die Hart.

RELATED: John Travolta's Savages & 9 Other Great Performances That Should Have Been Comebacks

Ron Palillo (Arnold Dingfelder Horshack)

Tapped to play the class clown of the Sweathogs, Ron Palillo made a splash as the lovable goofball Arnold Dingfelder Horshack. Welcome Back, Kotter was Palillo's first role, and he followed it up with a slew of guest spots on shows like The Love Boat and CHiPs where he would mostly play other oddball characters throughout the '80s. Palillo worked frequently in movies and TV but returned to the theater later in his life and made only small cameo appearances in sitcoms and underrated animated shows like Duckman. Palillo passed away at the age of 63 in 2012.

Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs (Freddie "Boom Boom" Washington)

One of the smartest Sweathogs, Freddie "Boom Boom" Washington went along with his classmates' antics but tried to be the voice of reason when he could. Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs was brilliantly cast in the role as Washington, and many of the actor's distinct and hilarious mannerism made the character pop. Welcome Back, Kotter was his first major role, and Hilton-Jacobs found equal success in movies and TV with parts in series like Roots in 1977 and L.A. Heat in 1989. Hilton-Jacobs was a constant presence in TV all throughout the '00s and '10s, and even provided a voice for the 2022 cartoon series The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder.

Robert Hegyes (Juan Luis Epstein)

The best sitcoms are those with diverse characters who bring something different to the table, and Juan Epstein was perhaps the unique member of the cast of Welcome Back, Kotter. Played by the incomparable Robert Hegyes, Epstein was the tough guy of the Sweathogs, and he was fiercely proud of his Puerto Rican and Jewish heritage. After Welcome Back, Kotter, Hegyes made sporadic appearances on TV, mostly as himself on game shows, and largely stuck to stage work. Hegyes' last onscreen appearance came in a 2007 episode of The Singing Bee, and he would later pass away in 2012 at the age of 60.

Debralee Scott (Rosalie "Hotsie" Totsie)

A popular character during the show's first season, Debralee Scott played Rosalie "Hotsie" Totsie, a girl at James Buchanan High who was popular with the boys in th Sweathogs. Scott had previously appeared in the George Lucas-directed film American Graffiti in 1973, and continued to play small roles in movies and TV throughout the '70s and '80s. Scott appeared in two of the Police Academy films in the mid-'80s before slowly transitioning to work behind the scenes. Scott passed away at the age of 52 in 2005.

Stephen Shortridge (Beauregard "Beau" De LaBarre)

Introduced as a replacement for Vinnie Barbarino during the show's final season, Beauregard "Beau" De LaBerre introduced a bit of Southern charm to the cast of Welcome Back, Kotter. Actor Stephen Shortridge played the part appropriately grandiose to match his fellow Sweathogs, and he did what he could to save a show on its last legs. Shortridge worked almost exclusively in TV over his brief career on shows like The Love Boat and Fantasy Island, and he made his final onscreen appearance in the 1989 movie Say Anything. Stephen Shortridge departed show business after 1989 to pursue other artistic endeavors.


More from ScreenRant

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon