The world lost a bright light with the passing of Andrea Fay Friedman, best known for her role as Amanda Swanson on the groundbreaking TV series “Life Goes On,” at the age of 53. According to her father, Hal Friedman, she passed away due to complications related to Alzheimer’s, which robbed her of her ability to communicate in her final days.
Friedman’s portrayal of Amanda made her a pioneer in the entertainment industry as one of the first actors with Down syndrome to bring authentic representation to the screen. Her debut on “Life Goes On” in 1992 was a milestone, as it was the first major series to feature a character with this developmental disability, and notably, not just one, but two such characters. This not only showcased her talent but also brought much needed visibility to the Down syndrome community.
In addition to her acting career, Friedman was also an assistant teacher at UCLA’s Pathway Program, where she continued to challenge stigmas around disability. Her sense of humor shone through in her work, particularly in her voice role on “Family Guy,” where she lent her voice to a character named Ellen with Down syndrome, that humorously referenced Former Governor Sarah Palin and her son Trig, who also has Down syndrome. Responding to Palin’s criticism of the episode, Friedman remarked that Palin lacked a sense of humor, emphasizing that representation for the Down syndrome community should inspire, not offend.
One of her last contributions to the world of entertainment was her role in the film “Carol of the Bells,” which depicted a man’s quest to find his birth mother, who is revealed to have Down syndrome. Her diverse acting portfolio also included appearances on shows like “Law & Order: SVU,” “Baywatch,” “Saving Grace,” “The Division,” “ER,” “7th Heaven,” and “Chicago Hope.”
In an interview with Ability Magazine in 2019, Andrea expressed her disapproval of the use of the derogatory “R” word, highlighting its impact on her life and her journey to find the courage to stand up against teasing. Her father, Hal Friedman, affectionately referred to Down syndrome as her “up syndrome,” challenging public assumptions associated with the developmental disability. Andrea’s legacy not only encompasses her groundbreaking contributions to the entertainment industry but also her advocacy for inclusion and understanding.
Andrea Fay Friedman is survived by her father, Hal, and her sister, Katherine Holland. While the world mourns the loss of a talented and trailblazing actor, her legacy and impact will continue to inspire future generations, both in the entertainment industry and the disability rights movement. She leaves behind a legacy of breaking barriers, representing her community with authenticity and humor, and challenging stereotypes. Rest in peace, Andrea Fay Friedman.