Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: Laredo Tribune. Posted by Lexi Schwartz
Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Lexi Schwartz
The Champ, Silver Spoons, Lonesome Dove
Currently Known For:
Actor and Film Director
1970s - Present
April 13, 1970
The Champ, Silver Spoons, Lonesome Dove
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“I spent my whole childhood wishing I were older and now I’m spending my adulthood wishing I were younger.” Ricky Schroder didn’t embrace his status as a child star in the 1970s, but he certainly earned it as the youngest to win a Golden Globe Award for his performance opposite Jon Voight in The Champ (1979). He rose to even greater acclaim on the hit television series Silver Spoons and earned a pair of Young Artist Awards over his four seasons on the show. From there, he slowly transitioned into more adult roles beginning with his performance as Newt Dobbs in Lonesome Dove (1989).
After appearing in a string of made-for-television films, Schroder returned to television in 1998 as Detective Danny Sorenson in NYPD Blue. He left the show in 2001 and later snagged a recurring role on Strong Medicine (2005-2006). Most recently, he turned heads when country music icon Dolly Parton selected him to play her father, Robert Lee Parton, in Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors (2015) and Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love (2016).
1970s to Stardom
Richard Bartlett Schroder came into this world on April 13, 1970, in Brooklyn, New York where his parents worked for AT&T. Shortly after Schroder’s birth, his mother retired from the company to focus all her attention on him and his sister. This is what led the youngster into acting when, at only three months old, his mother launched his career as an infant model. Because of this, Schroder was a veteran in the industry before he could walk and talk as he appeared in over 60 advertisements by the age of six.
The blonde-haired youngster caught a huge break in 1979 when he was cast as Jon Voight’s on-screen son in The Champ (1979). Schroder’s performance was critically praised and earned him a Golden Globe Award for Best New Male Star of the Year. This made him the youngest actor to ever take home the honor. “I never was trained as an actor or anything, and I think that what happened when I was younger—and it probably even happens to me still sometimes when I’m working on a really good project—is I sort of forget even though you know there’s cameras there and there’s a guy with a microphone standing there with a long pole,” Schroder said of his early technique. “You forget about them, and you actually get so into the moment of what you’re doing that you suspend reality. It sort of disappears, and you really believe in the make-believe of what you’re doing. In that case, it was that my dad had died. And I think as I look on that scene, and I look back on it and I watch it, that wasn’t acting. That was a little boy who is grieving his dad’s death.”
Schroder’s performance put him on the map in Hollywood as he embarked on a three-month tour to promote the film. Afterward, he returned to New York long enough to pack his belongings and move to Los Angeles with his mother and sister while his father remained in New York. Once in Los Angeles, Schroder’s acting career flourished again as he won a role in the Disney feature film, The Last Flight of Noah’s Ark (1980), starring Elliott Gould. He also joined Alec Guinness in Little Lord Fauntleroy (1980).
In 1982, Schroder caught another break when he was cast as Ricky Stratton, the young star of a new television series titled Silver Spoons. He earned two Young Artist Awards for his work but, behind the scenes, he struggled with his stardom. He fought against being typecast as he grew up in the spotlight and shied away from roles that would seal his fate as a blonde-haired heartthrob. Instead, he dreamed of establishing himself as an adult actor and dropped the “y” from his name as he enrolled in Calabasas High School and hoped to briefly put his fame behind him. That, however, wasn’t as easy as Schroeder expected.
Trying to balance high school with guest appearances in Wrestlemania 2 (1986) and Too Young the Hero (1988), Schroder graduated from high school and enrolled at Mesa State College in Grand Junction, Colorado. He continued acting in television films like Terror on Highway 91 (1989) and Out on the Edge (1989) before he was cast as Newt Dobbs opposite Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones in the Lonesome Dove (1989) television miniseries.
“Lonesome Dove was the first Western I’d ever done, and being around those guys—Robert Duvall, Tommy Lee Jones, and Diane Lane (who I fell head over heels for)—was really the highlight of my career up to that point,” Schroder said of the experience. “None of us knew that Lonesome Dove was going to blow up to become the piece of Western history it’s become.”
Later Projects and Life Today
Reprising his role as Dobbs in Return to Lonesome Dove in 1993, Schroder spent much of the early 1990s working in television film with credits in My Son Johnny (1991), Miles from Nowhere (1992), and Call of the Wild (1993). He also appeared on the silver screen in Across the Tracks (1991), There Goes My Baby (1994), and Crimson Tide (1995). By the end of the decade, he returned to television to replace Jimmy Smits on NYPD Blue (1998-2001). When he accepted the role, he was living on a ranch in Colorado with his wife and kids but knew the role of Detective Danny Sorenson was a perfect fit.
Schroder wrapped up NYPD Blue in 2001 and landed a recurring role on Scrubs (2003) and Strong Medicine (2005-2006). His work throughout the early and mid-2000s was even more sporadic than before until Dolly Parton handpicked him to play the part of her father, Robert Lee Parton, in her television film, Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors (2015). “They adored him in that family,” Schroder said of the role and its significance. “He never went to a day of school, he couldn’t read, so he had people read the Bible to him. She told me little things about him, some things in complete confidence that I couldn’t tell you.” Schroder’s performance as Parton didn’t disappoint and he was invited to reprise his role in Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love (2016), which is his last film credit to date.