Warriors, come out and play! Almost forty-five years since the debut of the film and the line remains iconic, instantly bringing to mind street gangs ready for a showdown. While the movie had a stacked cast already, Deborah Van Valkenburgh was one of the fresh faces that would go on to massive success.
A New York native, Deborah was born in August of 1952. Deborah would lead a relatively quiet life exploring art in her childhood, eventually graduating from the Pratt institute with her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree specializing in drawing and painting. Most of the seventies were spent dabbling in various forms of art and media, performing in both off and on-Broadway productions while also attending school to be a social worker.
A Little of Everything
Her stage career would thrive, with roles in everything from classic Hair to studying puppetry alongside the master himself, Jim Henson. Deborah’s stage work would be praised, with both lead and supporting parts leading to the actress standing out even in ensemble productions. She would keep going in New York’s drama scene, eventually leading to a part in a local film as a love interest to a delinquent gang member.
At the age of 27 Deborah Van Valkenburgh would make her film debut in The Warriors, Walter Hill’s classic film about gang warfare in an impoverished city. Van Valkenburgh would play Mercy, just one of the desperate gang of Warriors trying to get back home despite everyone being against them. The film would go on to become a cult classic, launching many of the young actors at the time to fame. Van Valkenburgh and James Remar of Dexter fame being just a couple.
She would go on to star in Hill’s next film, Streets of Fire, alongside even more up-and-coming stars in 1984, but would find more steady work before that in 1980 on the sitcom Too Close for Comfort, where she would play a regular role as daughter Jackie. She would go on to star in five of the show’s six seasons, leaving during the season five finale to pursue other roles in film and television.
The remainder of the 80s were bumpy, but she kept her head high and kept working, making it through a slew of sub-b grade television movies before taking a role in Exorcist director William Friedkin’s Rampage, establishing some star power with an already big name director. She just wouldn’t quite catch on as a lead actress though, instead relegating herself to smaller parts and character acting throughout television in the 90s.
That doesn’t mean she wouldn’t keep working steadily though, breaking up those acting parts with stage work in between. Van Valkenburgh has made herself a veteran of the red curtain, starring in everything from on and off-Broadway productions of classics like Hair to smaller traveling productions across the United States.
The early 2000s would be about the same, with guest spots and bit parts across film and television before she would catch another break in a critically acclaimed film as she landed a small role in Rob Zombie’s grindhouse classic, The Devil’s Rejects. In the same year, she would also be asked to reprise her role as Mercy for a videogame based on The Warriors.
Hitting Her Stride
Those two projects would give her small boosts in the scene, with guest spots popping up for her across more television shows, including some of the classic crime dramas like Cold Case and Criminal Minds before taking another short, sporadic break to take part in traveling stage shows.
By this time Van Valkenburgh had truly settled into her niche of character actor for both television and film, spending the next decade working her way through guest spots in everything from Days of Our Lives to the short-lived The Event. During the late 2000s, she would dabble a bit more in films as well, though many like the nature terror flick Backwoods ended up crashing after going straight to DVD (hot take: it’s decently fun).
What is Deborah Van Valkenburgh Doing Now?
The 2010s would see Deborah Van Valkenburgh step a few feet away from Hollywood, instead choosing to focus on stage acting for a time as well as her other pursuits and interests. Her roles through the decade were relatively sparse, with small guest spots in The Messengers and Marvel’s short-lived Helstrom, which was canceled after one season in 2020.
To date, Helstrom is the actress’s last credit in Hollywood. While she hasn’t officially announced any kind of retirement, it seems she’s content to just take her later life as it comes.
A relatively private person, Deborah will occasionally post to her Facebook with updates on convention appearances or just a selfie.
With no known relationships she’s made public and no children, she’s making the most of her later years and aging very gracefully as time goes on.