In the golden era of 1980s television, few shows captured the imagination quite like “Small Wonder.” At the heart of this innovative sitcom was actress Marla Pennington, who portrayed Joan Lawson, the loving mother of a robot child.
Her performance resonated with audiences, making her a household name. But as the show concluded, Pennington’s presence on the screen began disappeared, leading many fans to wonder, what ever happened to Marla Pennington from ‘Small Wonder?
Background Information and Early Roles
Born on March 5, 1954, in Burbank, California, Marla Pennington began her acting career in the mid-1970s.
Marla Pennington started out in the mid-1970s landing small parts in TV shows. Starting with her appearance in “Lucas Tanner” in 1974, Pennington quickly established herself as a versatile actress.
She played a variety of roles in popular TV series such as “Charlie’s Angels” (1976), “General Hospital” (1976–1978), “The Incredible Hulk” (1980), “Magnum, P.I.” (1981), and “Soap” (1979–1981).
In addition to her television work, Pennington also appeared in films, including “Jim, the World’s Greatest” in 1975 and “Class Reunion” in 1982.
In 1985 she would land her most memorable and endearing role.
“Small Wonder” first aired on September 7, 1985, and ran for four seasons, concluding on May 20, 1989. With a total of 96 episodes.
The show’s premise revolved around a family that had a robot daughter named Vicki (Voice Input Child Identicant). Created by Ted Lawson, an engineer who worked for a robotics company, Vicki was designed to look and act like a real 10-year-old girl.
The show explored the challenges and comedic situations that arose as the Lawson family tried to keep Vicki’s true identity a secret from friends, neighbors, and the outside world. Vicki’s lack of human emotions and her literal interpretation of commands led to many humorous misunderstandings.
Marla Pennington played the role of Joan Lawson, the loving and supportive mother of the Lawson family. As Ted Lawson’s wife, Joan’s character was often caught in the middle of the comedic chaos that ensued from having a robot child.
What Is Marla Pennington Doing Now?
After “Small Wonder,” Pennington retired from acting to focus on her family. She married entertainment lawyer Tom Rowan and had two children, Dan and Kat.
In a 2015 interview, she talked about the show’s 30th anniversary and expressed a desire to get back into acting.
However, life had other plans. In 2021, her husband passed away, leaving her a widow. Pennington’s recent activities seem to be more focused on her family, as evidenced by her social media posts.
Marla’s love for cooking has been a significant part of her life. With over 200 handwritten cookbooks, she has been experimenting more in the kitchen during quarantine and plans to write a new cookbook. Her cooking tips emphasize adaptability and creativity, reflecting her zest for culinary exploration.
Marla Pennington married Thomas Patrick Rowan on August 8, 1988, and the couple enjoyed 33 years of love and joy together.
Rowan was an entertainment attorney, who co-founded the firm Irwin and Rowan and later became the founding partner of Rowan, Maron, and Feil. His impressive client list included celebrities such as Jimmy Fallon, Dave Chapelle, Richard Burton, Kenny Rogers, and Burt Reynolds.
Thomas was actively involved in legal associations, including the Los Angeles County Bar Association and the Beverly Hills Bar Association, and served on the board of directors for St. Michaels Catholic School.
He passed away on December 21, 2021, at the age of 74 from kidney failure due to cancer,