Andrea Fay Friedman was one of the first actors with Down syndrome to be featured on TV in the '90s
Andrea Fay Friedman has died at age 53.
The actress — known for her role as Amanda Swanson on Life Goes On — died from complications due to Alzheimer's, The New York Times confirmed with her father Hal Friedman. He also revealed Friedman had been unable to speak for the past year.
Friedman was one of the first actors with Down syndrome to bring such representation to the screen. Upon making her Life Goes On debut in 1992, it became the first major series to have a character with the developmental disability — let alone two.
Throughout her career, Friedman — who was also an assistant teacher at UCLA's Pathway Program — challenged stigmas, even with humor. A one-off appearance on Family Guy saw Friedman voice a character with Down syndrome named Ellen. The role poked fun at Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin through reference to her son, Trig (who also has Down syndrome.) “My dad’s an accountant and my mom is the former governor of Alaska,” Friedman’s character Ellen said.
Palin, 59, previously said the episode was the result of “cruel, cold-hearted people,” to which Friedman responded in an email to The New York Times, “I guess former Governor Palin does not have a sense of humor.” Friedman maintained that representation for the Down syndrome community should be an inspiration.
In 2019, Friedman also starred in Carol of the Bells, a film about one man’s search for his birth mother, who he later learns has Down syndrome. It was the last project Friedman appeared in before her death.
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In speaking to The New York Times, Friedman's father called Down syndrome her “up syndrome,” and occasionally spoke about the public assumptions related to the developmental disability. She spoke with Ability Magazine in 2019 about the use of the “R” word.
“I don’t really like it at all,” she said of the slur. “It really affected me in many ways, because I’ve been teased a lot. I’ve been teased with that from elementary school, high school, and I didn’t like it. I was going to stand up for myself, but I didn’t have the courage.”
In addition to her father, Hal, Friedman is survived by her sister Katherine Holland.
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