Molly Ringwald recently explained why Jo replaced her character on The Facts of Life
They wanted someone older and wiser.
The Facts of Life ran for nine seasons, and the four girls at the heart of the show - Blair, Jo, Tootie and Natalie - over the full series of run, they became all of us, learning life's hardest lessons under the guiding watch of Mrs. Garrett and later Beverly Ann. But when the show first began, there was no Jo. Instead, on the cast we met a girl named Molly Parker, a 12-year-old who played a mean guitar and truly cared about social justice issues. Portrayed by Molly Ringwald, the character would've fit into John Hughes' movies just as easy as any of the young girls Ringwald eventually made famous in movies like Pretty in Pink and Sixteen Candles.
But fans of the show might struggle to remember Molly Parker, since she faded after the first season. Recently, Ringwald revealed exactly what happened when she was replaced on the show. She told Entertainment Weekly that once the studio decided to narrow the focus of the show to four girls about the same age, Molly was deemed too young to be a series regular. Ringwald said, "What they said is, they wanted something closer to Lisa Whelchel, who played Blair, they wanted something closer to her age and I was too young at the time. I was a little bit of a different generation.”
Imagine that, the show pushed aside the "It" girl of the 1980s because she came from the wrong generation! We tease, because, of course, once Nancy McKeon joined the cast to play 14-year-old Jo, the coming-of-age stories we got made the character once of the show's most important. And the dynamic between Jo and Blair pinned the show down for viewers season to season.
So we're glad everything worked out in the end for both Ringwald and the cast of The Facts of Life as we know it. But at the time, it was a very hard lesson for Ringwald to swallow at that particular age. She told EW, "Once you’ve been a regular and then you’re booted to be a semi-regular, it was really hard and humiliating." We hope she had someone as sweet as Mrs. Garrett to help her through the tough time!