For the first four seasons of Married… with Children, David Garrison famously played Al Bundy’s friend and neighbor Steve Rhoades. But he left the show in 1990, not because there was any trouble on set or behind the scenes drama, but because he wanted to return to doing theater work. Before Garrison joined the Married…with Children cast, he starred in another show called It’s Your Move as with Jason Bateman and was already a distinguished, Tony-nominated stage actor. He would return to the Bundy family’s lives a few times before the comedy ended, and, after that, continue acting on stage and on screen. Read on to find out what Garrison is doing now.
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Garrison said in an interview with getTV that doing the hit sitcom only made him miss theater more, which is why he decided to end his run. “I was basically commuting from New York to shoot the show in Los Angeles, and I missed my life in Manhattan, as well as my theater career,” the actor explained. “The first rule of show business is ‘leave them wanting more,’ so after four seasons, I felt it was time to exercise some other muscles. I left on good terms, and returned as a guest on the show in subsequent seasons.”
Garrison also revealed that some of his character Steve’s quirks also came from his love of the stage. He said in the same interview that Steve’s proclivity for humming and singing Gilbert and Sullivan tunes was all his idea. “I came from the New York theater, and much of my work on and off-Broadway was in musicals,” he said. “[Married…with Children creators] Ron [Leavitt] and Michael [Moye] liked to tease me about that, and so the notion that Steve Rhoades was a Gilbert and Sullivan fan was just geeky enough to please them.”
After leaving the sitcom, Garrison indeed focused on his stage career. Some of the productions he’s appeared in include Titanic!, Bells Are Ringing, and I Do! I Do! Most notably, he played the role of The Wizard in the original touring company of the massive hit musical Wicked. Garrison went on to join the Broadway company and later the Chicago and Los Angeles companies. So, if you’ve seen Wicked in any of those cities or on tour, it’s likely it was Steve from Married… with Children playing that role.
He continues to work on stage, with recent roles in Candide, Ever After, The Cradle Will Rock, and The Great Society.
While the theater might be where Garrison feels most comfortable, he still takes on the occasional TV role. He’s made guest appearances on shows including Madam Secretary, The Good Wife, Law & Order, and 30 Rock. His most recent onscreen role was in a 2017 episode of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
Though he departed Married… with Children before the show ended, he stayed close with Amanda Bearse, who played Steve’s wife Marcy on the sitcom. In a 2020 interview with The Fayetteville Observer, Bearse said she was “still very good friends” with Garrison, and the two even had a red carpet reunion at an Off-Broadway play opening in 2018 (pictured above).
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Garrison has dabbled in directing, too. In 2021, he helmed a one-act opera for the Merola Opera Program, which is located in San Francisco. In 2020, Garrison said in a Merola Opera masterclass that though it made sense for him to start to direct, he still primarily sees himself as a performer. “I’ve never said those immortal words, ‘What I really want to be is a director,'” he explained. “But I think that having a love of both opera and theater and having done a lot of—I hesitate to use the word ‘masterclass,’ because I’m not a master—but having worked with opera singers in terms of building acting chops, this was the next logical progression for me.”
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