What Happened to Lea Thompson – 2018 News & Updates

Lea Thompson with her banana phone

Last fall, Back to the Future celebrated its 30th anniversary. One of the most iconic sci-fi movies of its time, the Back to the Future trilogy followed Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd) through their time-travelling adventures. One of the most prominent characters through the series is Lorraine Baines-McFly, Marty’s mother, played by Lea Thompson.

Thompson was in a variety of well-known movies during the 80s, but during the 90s, transitioned to television and fell off the map. However, the actress is still on TV every week with ABC Family’s Switched at Birth. What else has she been up to since her role in Back to the Future?

Lea Thompson Before the McFlys

Born in 1961 in Minnesota, Lea Thompson developed a love of dance early in life, studying ballet. She was dancing professionally by age 14, and was offered multiple scholarships for her ballet. However, Lea Thompson’s height gave her doubts about her ability to be a ballerina, so she switched her focus to acting. After performing for a number of Burger King commercials and in a live-action video game, Thompson was cast in Jaws 3D, released in 1983.

Lea Thompson in Red Dawn
Lea Thompson in Red Dawn

When auditioning, Lea Thompson made claims about having acted in other movies and that she knew how to water-ski. In truth, she was new to film-making, and didn’t even know how to swim. This didn’t stop her from giving a solid performance, and in 1984, was in All the Right Moves, The Wild Life, and Red Dawn, where she played one of the teen insurgents.


Lea Thompson as Lorraine McFly

Lorraine McFly is by far Thompson’s most famous role, which she reprised for Back to the Future II (1989) and Back to the Future III (1990). Throughout the series, she goes from an unhappy lower-middle class housewife, to a happy upper-middle class housewife, to remarried widow, and finally back to being happy and rich.

Lea Thompson as Lorraine Baines in Back to the Future
Lea Thompson as Lorraine Baines in Back to the Future

On October 21, 2015, to commemorate the pivotal day in Back to the Future II, Lea Thompson and other cast members attended a special screening of the movie.

Lea Thompson during the 90s

In 1986, Thompson starred in two other science-oriented films, SpaceCamp and Howard the Duck. Based on the surrealist Marvel comic of the same name, the film is objectively a trainwreck, largely attributable to a variety of production issues. However, the film is considered a cult classic, and a wonderful way to inspire nightmares.

Howard the Duck is a very strange movie
Howard the Duck is a very strange movie

Lea Thompson also had starring roles in Some Kind of Wonderful, Casual Sex?, and The Wizard of Loneliness. In 1989 she had a featured role in the TV movie Nightbreaker, starring Martin Sheen, which marked the earliest point of her transition to television. That year she also married film director Howard Deutch, who had directed Some Kind of Wonderful.

In 1993, she was the mother in Dennis the Menace and the villain The Beverly Hillbillies, starring Jim Varney, based on the eponymous TV series. The next year, on November 10, 1994, Lea Thompson gave birth to her daughter Zoey Deutch. Zoey would grow up to appear in a number of TV shows, most notably Disney’s The Suite Life on Deck.

In 1995, Lea Thompson returned to TV to play the title character of NBC’s sitcom Caroline in the City. She won a People’s Choice Award for Favorite Female Performer in a New TV Series, with the show winning Favorite New TV Comedy Series. The show ran for four seasons, and focused on Thompson’s characters life as a cartoonist living in Manhattan. Thompson also appeared as Caroline in an episode of Friends, while that same night Matthew Perry portrayed his Friends character, Chandler Bing, on Caroline in the City.

Lea Thompson 2000 – Today

Thompson took a short break from acting in the early 2000s, returning in 2002 with For the People, where she starred with Debbie Morgan (Angie Hubbard from All My Children). The series, a rough remake of the 1965 cult hit, was cancelled after one season. During the early 2000s, Thompson was also in several episodes of the NBC’s Ed, and was the victim in an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit in 2004.

In 2005, Lea Thompson began to star in a series of Hallmark Channel movies, where she played Jane Doe, a secret agent-turned-housewife. There were a total of nine Jane Doe movies produced between 2005 and 2008, with two of them (Jane Doe: The Harder They Fall and Jane Doe: Eye of the Beholder) being directed by Lea Thompson.

After the series ended, Thompson was in several movies, though without a major role. She also made her second video game appearance (the first being MysteryDisc: Murder, Anyone? in 1982) with Mystery Case Files: Shadow Lake, where her youngest daughter Madeline Deutch also had a role.

Lea Thompson on Switched At Birth

Since 2011, Lea Thompson has been the main mom in ABC’s Switched at Birth. In the show, Thompson’s character learns her daughter was actually switched with another baby at birth, and invites her biological daughter and her mother to live with Thompson’s family. The show had the highest rated premiere ABC Family (now Freeform) has ever had with the show receiving consistent Teen Choice nominations, winning a Peabody Award in 2013. The show is most well known outside of its viewership for being the first (and still only) mainstream television series to have multiple deaf and hard-of-hearing characters, and scenes shot entirely in American Sign Language.

Lea Thompson showing off a plate of bacon in Switched at Birth
Lea Thompson showing off a plate of bacon in Switched at Birth

The show has run for four seasons, and while each season has done slightly worse than the previous, the show is still doing very well for its timeslot. Earlier this month, actors on the show were sharing pictures of the first days of filming, with an anticipated airing date sometime in April. Without giving anything away, the first few episodes are going to revolve around Lea Thompson’s character and her in-show husband dealing with the revelations their daughters learned at the end of Season 4.


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Morgan Sennhauser
Morgan Sennhauser is a thoroughbred millennial, who has focused on working against censorship and surveillance in Africa and the Middle East. Now living in North Carolina, Morgan spends his time advocating for minority groups in impoverished regions, and writing about related topics.

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