'Growing Pains' mom Joanna Kerns on Leonardo DiCaprio: 'Did I know he would be the great, great talent he is? Yes.'


Image Credit: ABC/Getty Images

The biggest star to come out of ’80s/’90s family sitcom Growing Pains wasn’t Kirk Cameron or Alan Thicke: No, no — true fans will remember that film superstar Leonardo DiCaprio had humble beginnings on the show, appearing as Luke Brower, a homeless teen that the Seaver clan took in during Growing Pains‘ final season from 1991 to 1992.

As you might imagine, the Seaver clan — Thicke, Joanna Kerns, Cameron, Tracey Gold, and Jeremy Miller — say they don’t keep in touch with DiCaprio much anymore, considering his slightly busy schedule. But Kerns — who played mom Maggie Malone Seaver on the show — did offer a few kernels of her experience with the A-list star when EW interviewed her recently for our annual Reunions Issue (on stands now), which features the Seavers brought back together alongside the casts of Home Improvement, Aliens, and other iconic TV shows and movies.

“Did I know that he would not only be the superstar but the great, great talent he is?” Kerns says. “Yes. First of all, Leo on the set could imitate anybody. He was so much fun, and he was so loosey.” (Whatever that means!) Kerns remembers DiCaprio being on set frequently with Tobey Maguire, who had yet to breakout into the star he is today. “They were always on set, they always looked like they were in trouble or had been in trouble and were talking about it,” she says. “He was just great fun. He could imitate you in a way that was so disarming that it really felt comfortable.”

Kerns was taken with DiCaprio’s talent from day one. “I never knew a kid that had that wit and that intelligence and that ability to kind of capture a room,” Kerns remembers. “He had a lot of talent. I think everyone around him saw it — I know Alan and I certainly saw it. Then we saw [DiCaprio’s first project after Growing Pains, the movie] This Boy’s Life, and it was like, There we go. But who would have known he’d become this fabulous human being, too? He’s a really good guy. I love him and will always love him, and I’m really proud of him.”

Read more:
‘Growing Pains': The Seavers explain why their sitcom makes you go ‘Awww’
‘Growing Pains’ star Andrew Koenig committed suicide, father says
‘Growing Pains’ debuted 25 years ago today: Show me that smile again.
Encore: ‘Growing Pains’

Comments (61 total) Add your comment
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  • wsugar

    She is just kissing up to him, hope he puts her in his next movie. Great kid, he hasn’t talked to her since he left the show.

    • Lizzie

      Yeah, that’s Joanna Kern for you, ass kisser and latter climber! lol! So random!! Maybe she just liked him as a kid and respects him as an adult??? lol! There are a lot people I never kept in contact with that I like and respect. lol!

      • jack

        I am a mature and air force man. i just think here is a good place to meet friends. i just wonder if i can meet a sweet girl there, because i wanna have a long relationship..i uploaded my hot photos on —-[millionaireluv`c^o`m ]—-under the name manuel2011 , maybe you want to check out my photos firstly!

      • Are you for Real?

        It’s actually ladder climber not latter climber

    • lisa g

      I would’ve put my money on that lil Seaver kid from Growing Pains…he was so cuuute but oh my look at how he turned out!

      • lisa g

        *Family Ties

    • Dawn

      Oh wsugar! How did you get out of your padded cell & straightjacket???

  • Donna

    The 3rd link down, the “GP debuted 25 years ago: Show me that smile again” links to an article about Andrew Koenig, not to an article about the 25th anniversary of Growing Pains. Can we get that fixed, please? Thanks!

    • bobba

      It’s true.

  • CJ

    I wonder if she knew what a loon Kirk Cameron would turn out to be.

    • Kevin

      He’s no loon… he just knows the truth about the devil putting dinosaur bones on earth to confuse us!!! Oh wait… you’re right, he IS a loon.

      • Bill Shakes

        Enjoy Eternity…

      • whatevs


    • jayemeff


    • emmett

      He is not a loon. He’s just someone who speaks the truth!

    • Lizzie

      Hell yeah she did! lol! He turned freaky religious while on set. Had one actress fired because she didn’t meet his moral requirements! lol! I hate when people get drunk and stupid on religion. What a waste.

    • superjoe

      Intolerant hater.

    • TL

      A loon just because he was humble enough and thankful enough to accept the free gift of salvation from Jesus Christ that He offers to all who will believe in His Name? I would call Kirk Cameron pretty smart. Hope you all will change your minds too before it is too late. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” Revelation 3:20

  • Gene

    She also thought Alan Thicke would be the next Sinatra.

    • point–counterpoint

      Well she was only one generation off there….Robin Thicke did.

  • DThor

    The first line at the end of the third paragraph I think should read “Kerns says” instead of “Seaver says.” Wasn’t SEAVER the character’s name? Good God, I have only myself to blame for continuing to come back to this website.

    • Rach

      Haha! Good catch. I feel the same way every time there’s an error.

    • collins

      my best friend’s mom makes $77 an hour on the computer. She has been out of job for 9 months but last month her check was $7487 just working on the computer for a few hours. Read about it here MakeCash3.com

  • LOL

    America loves crap.

  • Jeremy

    Maybe Joanna Kerns wishes she had a career like DiCaprio and maybe not. I’ve probably seen as many of her tv movies as I’ve seen of his big-screen movies and I like all of them. I think she cares about him in the way she cares about the rest of the cast. She’s not completely kissing ass. She has actually been in a couple of theatrical films, such as Girl, Interrupted and Knocked Up, even though her career is mainly based around TV.

    • Lizzie

      And can we talk residuals? lol! Woman is probably set!

      • juicy joe

        Set her on a spinning d I l d o

  • Roger C.

    Are you kidding me? No way, he was just an annoying child actor that happened to get extremely lucky. If it weren’t for Titanic, this guy’s career would be on the same level as the guys who starred in American Pie. He is just about miscast in every movie he stars in. I’m sorry, I’m going to have to say no to Joanna Kerns.

    • jodipo

      aw, sounds like someone is jealous of Leo.

    • Jes

      What are you talking about? DiCaprio had an Oscar nod at 19. Ha acted with DeNiro, Depp, Stone, Streep, Crowe, Hackman years before Titanic and always refused to be in crappy movies. American Pie’s actors have been in roles as he did in What’s eating Gilbert Grape, Basketball Diaries, Romeo&Juliet? Leo was regarding as a talented actor. Titanic made him a megasupestar but after it people knew him just as a lucky hearthrob without talent. He could have continuing on romantic lead track for the happiness of then teenager girls, but he tried to do good movies with esteemed directors and everybody wanna work with him. We don’t know what would have happen without Titanic, maybe he would be less famous, but I’m pretty sure he would have continued doing compelling roles.
      Sorry for my English

    • chase

      Gotta disagree Rog.. As much as I hate A listers, Leo has proven that he’s one of the best in the field. I’ve never seen him cast in a role in which he couldn’t perform. If you need any proof see Gilbert Grape..

    • kahuna

      Roger C, Leo was a star before Titantic. Leo has “it,” and would have made it big even if Titanic had never happened.

    • Are you for Real?

      Seriously Roger C. Leo was huge way before Titanic. He was nominated for an Oscar long before Titanic. And, I have always thought it shameful that Titanic scored so many Oscar nods and Leo was not one of them. He is a brilliant actor. Have you ever seen The Basketball Diaries, Catch Me if You Can, or Inception. Brilliant! Saying Leo is not talented is like saying River Phoenix was not talented.

    • Roger C.

      Lots of losers get Oscars and awards and disappear. I really think that if he didn’t star in the Titanic, he would have disappeared. He just isn’t good at all in anything he stars in.

      • Kelsa

        I don’t think so Roger. He might have been less famous if Titanic hadn’t happened, but he’d still be making movies. Titanic didn’t ‘make’ Leo it just raised him a little higher in the field. You need to see Catch Me if You Can, Inception, Gangs of New York. He’s talented.

      • kahuna

        2 words. Basketball Diaries. Leo plays a heroin addict very realistically.

    • Me

      I have to speak up for Leo. He can act. Haven’t you ever seen Gilbert Grape? ‘t

  • hmmm

    So many haters. This is a sweet story. And anyone who has seen Gilbert Grape knows what a brilliant actor he can be. Yes, Kirk Cameron is a loon but it’s not her fault. “Show me that smile again……”

    • Dominic

      Indeed, sweet piece that giant call for the hate. Also Kerns is underrated as an actor. Adore her.

    • reree

      I was just about to add a comment on Gilbert Grape. Thanks for saving me the trouble, hmmm!

  • Captain Obvious

    LMAO ! No one actually knows a child actor will become a big star . But they all seem to say that years later instead of at that time of working with them don’t they ?

  • fmci

    Most child actors crash and burn. Just look at the kids from Different Strokes, where are they???

  • Evelyn

    Looks like he hasn’t changed his hair since.

  • rey

    i call bs on kerns. watching growing pains back then. no one knew leo would be as big as he is today.

    johnny depp on the other hand. i remember watching 21 jump street knowing depp was going to be a big star.

    • Are you for Real?

      I believed he would be from the first time I saw him on Growing Pains. Plus Depp was about 10 years older on 21 Jump Street than Leo on GP.

      I felt Leo would be a star!

  • kate

    What a cute picture! I love Leo and his ability to play diverse roles. Everything from a handicapped kid to a narc, he was great in all of them! He has charisma, that’s why he made it. He just has to worry about an idle future, coz he’s burning bright!
    Love ya, Leo!

  • Schmuckalupugus

    Look at the grease in that kids scalp! There’s enough sch-lack in that mullet to make Homer Formby proud.

    • amj

      Just a sign of the times.

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