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The 8 Best '90s Sitcom-Character Reunions on TV

Justin Lubin/NBC
Justin Lubin/NBC

By Lauren Hansen

Man, do we love our '90s sitcoms. Boy Meets World gets the green light for a spin-off/sequel hybrid show on the Disney Channel and fans go into an internet frenzy. While such reunion spin-offs are the exception, TV producers have taken notice of our torch-carrying for the old Must See TV and TGIF lineups and characters. Putting that nostalgia to good financial use, networks have made it a more regular practice to inject their struggling sitcoms with cameos that reunite beloved '90s characters.

Take Matthew Perry's new show Go On, for example. Despite high hopes and a fall premiere, the show's ratings are at an all-time low. Enter special guest star Courtney Cox. After months of hype, Cox will finally make her appearance Tuesday, portraying a manic widow set up on a blind date with Perry's character, widower Ryan King. See the teaser clip:

The likely ill-fated match is a play on their Friends' characters, Chandler Bing and Monica Geller, who went from best friends to secret lovers to a happily married couple on the long-running show. The pairing is a nostalgic cameo set-up done right. The rekindled on-screen romance between Cox and Perry is a "wink, wink" to devoted Friends fans who followed Monica and Chandler's love story and who might find themselves feeling an instant affection for these new characters. Meanwhile the network gets an episode-boost and may come away with a few more viewers who now care enough to check in on Perry's show.

What other former TV favorites are popping up in current sitcoms? Scroll down for more.

1. The Cosby Show sisters on Guys with Kids

The former characters: On the beloved sitcom The Cosby Show, Tempestt Bledsoe and Keshia Knight Pulliam played sisters Vanessa and Rudy Huxtable. Vanessa was Cliff and Clair Huxtable's studious fourth child who often fought with Rudy, the baby of the family, over childhood problems like their shared bedroom and telephone time.

The reunion set up: Nearly two decades later, the actresses are reunited as on-screen sisters in the NBC comedy Guys with Kids. Bledsoe is a starring character on the sitcom, playing Marnie, a hard-working mother of four and wife to her stay-at-home husband Gary (Anthony Anderson). In the season 1 finale Knight Pulliam appeared as Marnie's endearingly delusional kid sister Bridget, who ends up helping Gary with his start-up business.

Why it works: The pairing plays right into the hearts of viewers who might have liked to see where younger sister Rudy and older sister Vanessa ended up. Yes, they play different characters, but is it so much of a stretch to think that Rudy would be wildly optimistic about her minimal success? Her star within the Cosby family did always seem to shine the brightest, warranted or not.

2. Friends friends on Cougar Town

The former characters: On Friends, Jennifer Aniston played Rachel Green — a converted spoiled Daddy's girl and fashion enthusiast — the best friend and roommate to Courtney Cox's Monica Geller, the group's type-A mother hen who worked as a professional chef.

The reunion set up: On Cougar Town, Courtney Cox plays Jules, a divorced 40-something who dives back into the dating pool, and gets into wine-fueled hijinks with friends and an adult-age son. In the second season, Aniston guest starred as Glenn, Jules' new age-y therapist who confuses her clients' stories, basks in incense, and believes a purple crystal will prevent her from getting cancer.

Why it works: They may not play friends, but a therapist-client set up is second best. When Glenn relates a story about being an overprotective mom, Jules responds: "Soul mates!" Indeed, if you forget the names and (ahem, Courtney) the Botox, it's like Rachel and Monica are just catching up at a Florida Central Perk. The fact that the two actors are buddies in real life only adds to their easy going rapport. And the short guest stint allows Aniston to remind us that she's actually quite funny.

3. Home Improvement's father and son on Last Man Standing

The former characters: Tim Allen starred as Tim "The Tool-man" Taylor, an accident-prone know-it-all husband, father to three sons, and host of a home improvement show called Tool Time. Jonathan Taylor Thomas played Tim's wise-cracking middle son, Randy.

The reunion set up: In Last Man Standing, Tim Allen returns as a typical male, but this time instead of obsessing over power tools, his character, Mike Baxter, has a penchant for outdoor sports. And unlike Tim the Tool Man's fake family, which was dominated by boys, Mike's is overrun with women, four to be exact: His wife (Nancy Travis) and his three daughters. In the season 2 finale, Thomas plays Jon, a "hip" restaurant owner who hires Mike's daughter Kristin and then offers to drive her to work on her first day, which is how he comes to meet Mike.

Why it works: This time, the reunion's success isn't thanks to the characters' on-screen relationship, which is nothing like the one they shared on Home Improvement. Where Last Man Standing shines is in Mike and Jon's short interaction. Jon extends his hand to Mike who says, "Man, you look familiar." Jon says, "Well, you know, I used to work with Kristin." Mike, looking skeptical, says, "That's not it." A silly but appreciated inside joke. 

4. Dawson's Creek friends on Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23

The former characters: When Dawson's Creek went on for two seasons too long, Dawson Leery (James Van Der Beek) and Co. found themselves magically attending the same fictional, Boston-based college called Worthington. Busy Philipps played Audrey, a Los Angeles transplant who rooms with Joey, Dawson's best friend and one-time love. Audrey and Dawson have little shared camera time, save for one summer spent in Hollywood and the time Dawson visited her in rehab.

The reunion set-up: On Don't Trust the B in Apartment 23, James Van Der Beek plays an exaggerated version of himself who is best friends with Chloe (Krysten Ritter), said "B---- in Apartment 23." In the second season, James tries to orchestrate a Dawson's Creek reunion and so invites Busy Philipps playing Busy Philipps to a diner to talk about the possibility. But Busy, who arrives incognito, reveals she'd be shunned if any of the Creek actors knew they were meeting.(Click here to watch the clip.)

Why it works: Van Der Beek already impresses by freely mocking his stagnant career, so having the real-life Busy pile on only increases the laugh factor while acknowledging Creek fans' secret hope that one day cast members from the fast-talking teen show will in fact reunite. 

5. Roseanne's teenage loves on The Big Bang Theory

The former characters: Sara Gilbert played tomboy teen and middle daughter Darlene Conner in the hit comedy Roseanne. Half way through the series, Darlene meets David Healy (Johnny Galecki) a fellow high-schooler. The two embark on a long relationship through high school and college, including a few break ups, until they eventually get married and have a baby.

The reunion set-up: On the popular CBS show The Big Bang Theory, Johnny Galecki stars as Leonard, a physicist with an I.Q. of 173. Sara Gilbert has a recurring role as Leslie Winkle, a physicist who works in Leonard's lab. Leslie initially rebukes Leonard's romantic advances, but then comes on to him after they play in a string quartet together. Their relationship ends after Leslie has sex with Leonard's friend Howard. (Click here to watch a clip.)

Why it works: At first, I didn't actually think the guest star arc worked because I got Johnny Galecki confused with the kid who played D.J., the little brother to Gilbert's Roseanne character. In which case, watching Galecki and Gilbert's Big Bang Theory reunion was just plain disgusting. (This also, conveniently, serves as a cautionary tale to producers: Don't ever, ever reunite former siblings as contemporary love interests.) Upon learning that Gilbert and Galecki were not in fact fake-related to each other on Roseanne, this televised rekindling lived up to nostalgia's strengths. As an added bonus, Galecki and Gilbert have just as little sexual chemistry now as they did when they played awkward teens

6. Seinfeld friends on Curb Your Enthusiasm

The former characters: On the sitcom Seinfeld, Jerry, George, Kramer, and Elaine, are the most idiosyncratic group of New York weirdos/friends you will ever love.

The reunion set up: In his HBO comedy Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry David plays a curmudgeonly version of himself, which means he is also the creator of the insanely popular sitcom Seinfeld. Throughout the seventh season of Curb, Larry brings the Seinfeld cast together for a reunion season that plays out in bits — scenes of writing with Seinfeld, read-throughs and rehearsals with the cast, and actual "aired" shows. 

Why it works: If you can wrap your head around it, David's meta experiment far exceeds your average reunion spin-off show. Seinfeld fans get to see their favorite neurotic characters in the same familiar, cereal-laden apartment, acting out their lives after an 11-year hiatus. And the events that took place for the characters over that decade are well thought out. George, for example, made millions off of an app that directed the user to the nearest public toilet only to be duped by Bernie Madoff. It's like the Modern Seinfeld Twitter feed played out on TV: Genius. 

7. Blossom friends on 'Til Death

The former characters: Mayim Bialik starred as Blossom on the eponymous show. She's a teenage girl living with her father and two brothers who adjust to life without their mother, who left the family behind. Her best friend, Six (Jenna von Oy), was a fast-talking boy-crazy girl who thinks of Blossom's family as her own.

The reunion set-up: In the final season of the Fox comedy 'Til Death, which ended in 2010, Bialik played a therapist who tries to help one of the main characters Doug (Timm Sharp) overcome the belief that his life is a sitcom. To do so, Bialik invites her former fake-family, including von Oy and Blossom's oldest brother, actor Michael Stoyanov, to join the session. Bialik tries to show Doug the distinction between people who were actually on a sitcom "versus the fantasy of believing you're currently in one."

Why it works: It's not perfect — all of the Blossom actors, including Bialik, are guest stars, making the reunion a little forced. However, it succeeds in its mocking of the "where are they now" question that plagues stars of long-gone shows. Von Oy and Stoyanov take turns poking fun at the other's lowly career since Blossom ended. 'Til Death also creates its own meta moment: The other purpose of the therapy session is for Bialik's character to film and star in a reality show about actors who used to be on sitcoms, which is often how former stars attempt to regain their lost fame.

8. Married with Children father and son on Modern Family

The former characters: On the long-running Fox sitcom Married… with Children, Ed O'Neill played Al Bundy, the once heralded high school football star turned women's shoe salesman. David Faustino played his girl-crazy son, Bud, who is lauded as the only Bundy to attend college.

The reunion set up: Ed O'Neil plays Jay Prichett, the patriarch of the so-called Modern Family that includes his daughter Claire, son Mitchell, and their respective families. Claire goes to her college reunion where she runs into her old buddy Drew/"Tater" (David Faustino). Claire's husband Phil mistakenly assumes Tater was Claire's last ex-boyfriend and tries to intimidate him. Jay, meanwhile, saves the rest of the family from the wrath of his wife Gloria after a wig is accidentally glued onto their newborn son, Joe. (Click here to watch the full episode.)

Why it works — a little: So perhaps this particular example is more of an honorable mention than a "best." Of all the reunions it's the least successful. While it's funny to imagine Faustino's character as a threat to Claire and Phil's marriage, the former Bundys don't even share any screen time. As The Huffington Post puts it, "Jay was too busy being a better parent to Manny than [Al Bundy] had ever been to Kelly and Bud on Married." Burn.

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11 Things You Didn't Know About Dolly Parton
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Brendon Thorne, Getty Images

Over the past 50-some years, Dolly Parton has gone from a chipper country starlet to a worldwide icon of music and movies whose fans consistently pack a theme park designed (and named) in her honor. Dolly Parton is loved, lauded, and larger than life. But even her most devoted admirers might not know all there is to this Backwoods Barbie.

1. YOU WON'T FIND HER ON A DOLLYWOOD ROLLER COASTER.

Her theme park Dollywood offers a wide variety of attractions for all ages. Though she's owned it for more than 30 years, Parton has declined to partake in any of its rides. "My daddy used to say, 'I could never be a sailor. I could never be a miner. I could never be a pilot,' I am the same way," she once explained. "I have motion sickness. I could never ride some of these rides. I used to get sick on the school bus."

2. SHE ENTERED A DOLLY PARTON LOOK-A-LIKE CONTEST—AND LOST.


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Apparently Parton doesn't do drag well. “At a Halloween contest years ago on Santa Monica Boulevard, where all the guys were dressed up like me, I just over-exaggerated my look and went in and just walked up on stage," she told ABC. "I didn’t win. I didn’t even come in close, I don’t think.”

3. SHE SPENT A FORTUNE TO RECREATE HER CHILDHOOD HOME.

Parton and her 11 siblings were raised in a small house in the mountains of Tennessee that lacked electricity and indoor plumbing. When Parton bought the place, she hired her brother Bobby to restore it to the way it looked when they were kids. "But we wanted it to be functional," she recounted on The Nate Berkus Show, "So I spent a couple million dollars making it look like I spent $50 on it! Even like in the bathroom, I made the bathroom so it looked like an outdoor toilet.” You do you, Dolly.

4. SHE WON'T APOLOGIZE FOR RHINESTONE.


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Parton is well-known for her hit movies Steel Magnolias and 9 to 5, less so for the 1984 flop Rhinestone. The comedy musical about a country singer and a New York cabbie was critically reviled and fled from theaters in just four weeks. But while her co-star Sylvester Stallone has publicly regretted the vehicle, Parton declared in her autobiography My Life and Other Unfinished Business that she counts Rhinestone's soundtrack as some of her best work, especially "What a Heartache."

5. SHE IS MILEY CYRUS'S GODMOTHER, SORT OF.

"I'm her honorary godmother. I've known her since she was a baby," Parton told ABC of her close relationship with Miley Cyrus. "Her father (Billy Ray Cyrus) is a friend of mine. And when she was born, he said, 'You just have to be her godmother,' and I said, 'I accept.' We never did do a big ceremony, but I'm so proud of her, love her, and she's just like one of my own." Parton also played Aunt Dolly on Cyrus's series Hannah Montana.

6. SHE RECEIVED DEATH THREATS FROM THE KU KLUX KLAN.

A photo of Dolly Parton on stage
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In the mid-2000s, Dollywood joined the ranks of family amusement parks participating in "Gay Days," a time when families with LGBT members are encouraged to celebrate together in a welcoming community environment. This riled the KKK, but their threats didn't scare Dolly. "I still get threats," she has admitted, "But like I said, I'm in business. I just don't feel like I have to explain myself. I love everybody."

7. TO PROMOTE LITERACY, SHE STARTED HER OWN "LIBRARY."

In 1995, the pop culture icon founded Dolly Parton's Imagination Library with the goal of encouraging literacy in her home state of Tennessee. Over the years, the program—built to mail children age-appropriate books—spread nationwide, as well as to Canada, the UK, and Australia. When word of the Imagination Library hit Reddit, the swarms of parents eager to sign their kids up crashed the Imagination Library site. It is now back on track, accepting new registrations and donations.

8. PARTON'S HOMETOWN HAS A STATUE IN HER HONOR.

A stone's throw from Dollywood, Sevierville, Tennessee is where Parton grew up. Between stimulating tourism and her philanthropy, this proud native has given a lot back to her hometown. And Sevierville residents returned that appreciation with a life-sized bronze Dolly that sits barefoot, beaming, and cradling a guitar, just outside the county courthouse. The sculpture, made by local artist Jim Gray, was dedicated on May 3, 1987. Today it is the most popular stop on Sevierville's walking tour.

9. THE CLONED SHEEP DOLLY WAS NAMED AFTER PARTON.

In 1995 scientists successfully created a clone from an adult mammal's somatic cell. This game-changing breakthrough in biology was named Dolly. But what about Parton inspired this honor? Her own groundbreaking career? Some signature witticism or beloved lyric? Nope. It was her legendary bustline. English embryologist Ian Wilmut revealed, "Dolly is derived from a mammary gland cell and we couldn't think of a more impressive pair of glands than Dolly Parton's."

10. SHE TURNED DOWN ELVIS.

After Parton made her own hit out of "I Will Always Love You," Elvis Presley's manager, Colonel Tom Parker, reached out in hopes of having Presley cover it. But part of the deal demanded Parton surrender half of the publishing rights to the song. "Other people were saying, 'You're nuts. It's Elvis Presley. I'd give him all of it!'" Parton admitted, "But I said, 'I can't do that. Something in my heart says don't do that.' And I didn't do it and they didn't do it." It may have been for the best. Whitney Houston's cover for The Bodyguard soundtrack in 1992 was a massive hit that has paid off again and again for Parton.

11. SHE JUST EARNED TWO GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS.

Parton is no stranger to breaking records. And on January 17, 2018 it was announced that she holds not one but two spot in the Guinness World Records 2018 edition: One for Most Decades With a Top 20 Hit on the US Hot Country Songs Chart (she beat out George Jones, Reba McEntire, and Elvis Presley for the honor) and the other for Most Hits on US Hot Country Songs Chart By a Female Artist (with a total of 107). Parton said she was "humbled and blessed."

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15 Things You Didn't Know About Betty White
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Frederick M. Brown, Getty Images

Happy birthday, Betty White! In honor of the ever-sassy star of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Golden Girls's 96th birthday, let's celebrate with a collection of fun facts about her life and legacy. 

1. HER NAME IS BETTY, NOT ELIZABETH

On January 17th, 1922, in Oak Park, Illinois, the future television icon was born Betty Marion White, the only child of homemaker Christine Tess (née Cachikis) and lighting company executive Horace Logan White. In her autobiography If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won't), White explained her parents named her "Betty" specifically because they didn't like many of the nicknames derived from "Elizabeth." Forget your Beths, your Lizas, your Ellies. She's Betty.

2. SHE'S A GUINNESS WORLD RECORD HOLDER.

In the 2014 edition of the record-keeping tome, White was awarded the title of Longest TV Career for an Entertainer (Female) for her more than 70 years (and counting) in show business. The year before, Guinness gave out Longest TV Career for an Entertainer (Male) to long-time British TV host Bruce Forsyth. As both began their careers in 1939, they'd be neck-and-neck for the title, were they not separated by gender.

3. HER FIRST TELEVISION APPEARANCE IS LOST TO HISTORY.

A photo of Betty White
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Even White can't remember the name of the show she made her screen debut on in 1939. But in an interview with Guinness Book of World Records, she recounted the life-changing event, saying, "I danced on an experimental TV show, the first on the west coast, in downtown Los Angeles. I wore my high school graduation dress and our Beverly Hills High student body president, Harry Bennett, and I danced the 'Merry Widow Waltz.'" 

4. WHITE'S RISE TO STARDOM WAS DERAILED BY WORLD WAR II.

Before she took off on television, White was working in theater, on radio, and as a model. But with WWII, she shelved her ambitions and joined the American Women's Voluntary Services. Her days were devoted to delivering supplies via PX truck throughout the Hollywood Hills, but her nights were spent at rousing dances thrown to give grand send-offs to soldiers set to ship out. Of that era, she told Cleveland Magazine, "It was a strange time and out of balance with everything." 

5. HER FIRST SITCOM HIT WAS IN THE EARLY 1950S.

A photo of actress Betty White
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Co-hosting the Al Jarvis show Hollywood on Television led to White producing her own vehicle, Life With Elizabeth. As a rare female producer, she developed the show alongside emerging writer-producer George Tibbles, who'd go on to work on such beloved shows as Dennis The Menace, Leave It To Beaver, and The Munsters. Though the show is not remembered much today, in 1951 it did earn White her first Emmy nomination of 21 (so far). Of these, she's won five times.

6. WHITE LOVES A PARADE.

From 1962 to 1971, White hosted NBC's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade alongside Bonanza's Lorne Greene. But that's not all. For 20 years (1956-1976), she was also a color commentator for NBC’s annual Tournament of Roses Parade. However, as her fame grew on CBS's The Mary Tyler Moore Show, NBC decided they should pull White (and all the rival promotion that came with her) from their parade. It was a decision that was heartbreaking for White, who told People, "On New Year's Day I just sat home feeling wretched, watching someone else do my parade."

7. SHE HAS BEEN MARRIED THREE TIMES.


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White and her first husband, Dick Barker, were married and divorced in the same year, 1945. After four months on Barker's rural Ohio chicken farm, White fled back to Los Angeles and her career as an entertainer. Soon after, she met agent Lane Allen, who became her husband in 1947, and her ex-husband in 1949 after he pushed her to quit show biz. She wouldn’t marry again until 1963, after she fell for widower/father of three/game show host Allen Ludden.

8. HER MEET-CUTE WITH HUSBAND #3 HAPPENED ON PASSWORD.

Bubbly Betty was a regular on the game show circuit, but she met her match in 1961 when she was a celebrity guest on Password, hosted by Allen Ludden. Though White initially rebuffed Ludden's engagement ring (he wore it around his neck until she changed her mind), the pair stayed together until his death in 1981. Today, their stars on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame sit side-by-side.

9. WHITE ORIGINALLY AUDITIONED FOR THE ROLE OF BLANCHE ON THE GOLDEN GIRLS.

A photo of actress Betty White
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Producers of the series thought of White for the role of the ensemble's promiscuous party girl because she'd long played the lusty Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Meanwhile, they eyed Rue McClanahan for the part of naive country bumpkin Rose Nylund because of her work as the sweet but dopey Vivian Harmon on Maude. Director Jay Sandrich was worried about typecasting, so he asked the two to switch roles in the audition. And just like that, The Golden Girls history was made.

10. IF SHE HADN'T BEEN AN ACTOR, SHE'D HAVE BEEN A ZOOKEEPER.

"Hands down," she confessed in a 2014 interview. This should come as little surprise to those aware of White's reputation as an avid animal lover and activist. Not only does she try to visit the local zoo of wherever she may travel, but also she's a supporter of the Farm Animal Reform Movement and Friends of Animals group, as well as a Los Angeles Zoo board member, who has donated "tens of thousands of dollars" over the past 40 years. In 2010, White founded a T-shirt line whose profits go to the Morris Animal Foundation.

11. SHE DIDN'T DO AS GOOD AS IT GETS BECAUSE OF AN ANIMAL CRUELTY SCENE.

A photo of actress Betty White
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White was offered the part of Beverly Connelly, onscreen mother to Helen Hunt, in the Oscar-winning movie As Good as It Gets. But the devoted animal lover was horrified by the scene where Jack Nicholson's curmudgeonly anti-hero pitches a small dog down the trash chute of his apartment building. On The Joy Behar Show White explained, "All I could think of was all the people out there watching that movie … and if there's a dog in the building that's barking or they don't like—boom! They do it." She complained to director James L. Brooks in hopes of having the scene cut. Instead, he kept it and cast Shirley Knight in the role.

12. A FACEBOOK CAMPAIGN MADE WHITE THE OLDEST SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE HOST EVER.

In 2010, a Facebook group called Betty White To Host SNL … Please? gathered so many fans (nearly a million) and so much media attention that SNL executive producer Lorne Michaels was happy to make it happen. At 88 years old, White set a new record. Her episode, for which many of the show's female alums returned, also won rave reviews, and gave the show's highest ratings in 18 months. White won her fifth Emmy for this performance.

13. SHE IS THE OLDEST PERSON TO EARN AN EMMY NOMINATION.


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In 2014, White earned her 21st Emmy nod—and her third in a row for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program—for the senior citizen-centric prank show Betty White's Off Their Rockers. She was 92. She also holds the record for the longest span between Emmy nominations, between her first (1951) and last (so far).  

14. SHE LOVES JUNK FOOD.

The key to aging gracefully has nothing to do with health food as far as White is concerned. In 2011, her Hot in Cleveland co-star Jane Leeves dished on White's snacking habits, "She eats Red Vines, hot dogs, French fries, and Diet Coke. If that's key, maybe she's preserved because of all the preservatives." Fellow co-star Wendie Malick concurred, "She eats red licorice, like, ridiculously a lot. She seems to exist on hot dogs and French fries." 

15. SHE WANTS ROBERT REDFORD.

A photo of actor Robert Redford
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White once gave this cheeky confession: “My answer to anything under the sun, like ‘What have you not done in the business that you’ve always wanted to do?’ is ‘Robert Redford.'” Though she has more than 110 film and television credits on her filmography, White has never worked with the Out of Africa star, who is 14 years her junior.

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