Diff'rent Strokes actor Conrad Bain has died aged 89, his daughter confirmed to Reuters on Wednesday (January 16, 2013). In the long-running series, Bain played a wealthy white New Yorker who adopted two young black boys from Harlem.
The actor, who starred opposite Gary Coleman in the NBC sitcom, died of natural causes at a comfort-care facility in Livermore, California on Monday - he was just three weeks shy of his 90th birthday. Known for playing erudite and professional characters such as doctors, politicians, lawyers and executives, Bain had a long career which began with a recurring role in the daytime drama Dark Shadows (recently adapted for the screen by Tim Burton). He broke into primetime comedy with 'Maude', a spin-off of Norman Lear's 'All In The Family.' In 1978, he landed the role of Phillip Drummond on Diff'rent Strokes, in which he played a rich, widowed industrialist who creates a racially mixed family in an era when depictions of such households were rare on television. The show was a huge hit and ran for eight seasons in total - Coleman's catchphrase "What you talkin' 'bout Willis?" became ingrained in popular culture. The young actor, who grappled with financial and domestic woes in later life, died in 2010 aged just 42.
Bain reprised his character during an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in 1996, which boasted a similar premise to that of Diff'rent Strokes. Will Smith played a young rapper from the tough streets of Philadelphia who ends up living with wealthy relatives in California.