Andrea Fay Friedman, renowned for her portrayal of Amanda Swanson in “Life Goes On,” has passed away at the age of 53. The New York Times has confirmed her demise from complications related to Alzheimer’s, as disclosed by her father, Hal Friedman. In the last year of her life, Andrea faced the inability to communicate verbally.
As a trailblazer, Friedman was among the first actors with Down syndrome to introduce authentic representation to the screen. Her debut on “Life Goes On” in 1992 marked a milestone, making it the first major series to feature a character with this developmental disability, and notably, two such characters.
Beyond her acting career, Friedman, who also served as an assistant teacher at UCLA’s Pathway Program, actively challenged stigmas with a touch of humor. In a noteworthy appearance on “Family Guy,” she lent her voice to a character named Ellen with Down syndrome. This role 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.
In 2019, Friedman starred in “Carol of the Bells,” a film depicting a man’s quest to find his birth mother, who is revealed to have Down syndrome. This project became her final contribution to the world of entertainment.
Her diverse acting portfolio includes appearances on “Law & Order: SVU,” “Baywatch,” “Saving Grace,” “The Division,” “ER,” “7th Heaven,” and “Chicago Hope.”
Hal Friedman, Andrea’s father, fondly referred to Down syndrome as her “up syndrome” in a conversation with The New York Times. He occasionally addressed public assumptions associated with developmental disability. Andrea, in an interview with Ability Magazine in 2019, 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.
Andrea Fay Friedman is survived by her father, Hal, and her sister, Katherine Holland. Her legacy encompasses not only her groundbreaking contributions to the entertainment industry but also her advocacy for inclusion and understanding.