×

Adam Rich, the former child actor best known for starring as the youngest child on the ABC dramedy “Eight Is Enough,” died Jan. 7, according to the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner. He was 54.

No details about Rich’s death were available. TMZ was first to report the news, saying the one-time TV star was found “lifeless” at his home in the Los Angeles area. TMZ reported that law enforcement sources indicated there were no signs of criminal or questionable activity.

Rich was a regular throughout the five-season run of “Eight Is Enough,” produced by Lorimar Television. The ABC series starred Dick Van Patten as the widowed father of eight who begins a new relationship with a teacher, played by Betty Buckley.

The series’ original cast included Mark Hamill, just as he was about to break out as part of the cast of 1977’s “Star Wars,” and Diana Hyland, who played Van Patten’s wife but died early on in the show’s run. Rich was a key anchor of the cast as the baby of the family. Nicholas was often called on to punctuate scenes with comic relief. Rich had the experience of growing up on camera through his gangly adolescent years. The carefully coiffed feathered-pageboy haircut he wore as Nicholas became iconic for pre-teen and teenage boys in the late 1970s.

Although he struggled mightily in later year, Rich said recently that he found “joy” in his work on the TV series.

“I’m grateful for the joy felt while working on ‘Eight’!…,” Rich said in a video interview he posted to Instagram in 2021. “I do hope it may have brought you some joy as well.”

Adam Rich on the first season of “Eight Is Enough” Courtesy Everett Collection

During the show’s run from 1977 to 1981, Rich was a two-time winner and three-time nominee at the Young Artists Awards. Rich received recognition in the category of best juvenile actor in a TV series or special in 1980. He was presented with an award for best young actor in a television series in 1981.

Still in his youth, Rich went on to secure a recurring role as aspiring firefighter Danny Blake in ABC’s “Code Red,” resulting in his nomination for best young actor in a drama series at the 1983 Young Artist Awards. Shortly after, Rich starred in “CBS Children’s Mystery Theatre,” a five-episode anthology series for which he also won a Young Artist Award in the category of best young actor in a television special.

From the Dec. 10, 1976, edition of Daily Variety

Rich was also a voice-actor on the 1983 “Dungeons & Dragons” series and made appearances in shows like “Fantasy Island,” “CHiPs,” “St. Elsewhere,” “Silver Spoons,” “Small Wonder,” “Baywatch” and “Reel Comedy,” his final project in 2003.

Born Oct. 12, 1968, Rich grew up in the L.A. neighborhood of Granada Hills, though he didn’t begin to pursue acting seriously until high school. Rich debuted on-screen with a guest role on the 1976 series “The Six Million Dollar Man.”

Throughout his career, Rich struggled with substance abuse, leading to a near-death experience from a Valium overdose in 1989. He was arrested two years later for breaking and entering into a pharmacy. He was ultimately bailed out by his “Eight Is Enough” patriarch Van Patten. Rich spent years in rehab before being arrested again in 2002 for driving under the influence.

Rich’s death spurred tributes from numerous fellow former child stars, including Corey Feldman, Todd Bridges and Chad Lowe. “There was no bigger child star in his day,” Lowe wrote on Twitter. “Later in life, he was very open about his mental health struggles. Through it all, Adam was always such a sweet kindhearted guy.”

Bridges, the former “Diff’rent Strokes” star who had a long period of public struggles after that long-running NBC comedy ended in the 1980s, saluted Rich with an all-caps message: “Adam Rich. RIP My friend you will be missed.” Actor Jill Whelan, who was barely a teenager when she began playing young Vicki Stubing on ABC’s “The Love Boat,” also paid tribute on Twitter.