Dark Secrets Of '90s Sitcom Stars

Like lightning in a bottle, the '90s established itself as a phenomenal era for the sitcom genre where all the stars aligned. From "Friends" to "Frasier" and "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," a number of all-time classics debuted in this decade and continue to be cherished to this day. On screen, these shows' characters stoked up the laughs and wrapped up the audience in a sense of comfort through their hilarious escapades and the never-ending shenanigans on display. They also bred a warm familiarity among the viewers, as everyone believed they really knew who the people on screen were.

When the cameras turned off and the stage lights faded to black, what was left behind was a group of actors who were real people with real problems. They've had their ups and downs in life like everyone else on the planet. Due to their celebrity, though, every secret or unfavorable event they have tried to bury eventually bubbled to the surface and became a major discussion point among the fans. It's part and parcel of the entertainment industry, really — no matter how much everyone kicks against it. From arrests to serious crimes and strange behavior, the deepest, darkest secrets of these '90s sitcom stars have been put on display. 

That '70s Show's Lisa Robin Kelly was arrested multiple times

"That '70s Show" parodies life in the 1970s through its zany cast and their constant misadventures. One of the most memorable supporting characters from earlier seasons is Eric Forman's older sister, Laurie, who lies, cheats, and manipulates her way through each episode. The role was initially portrayed by actor Lisa Robin Kelly, who left the show in 2001, during Season 3, but was brought back for a few additional episodes in 2003 before being replaced altogether by Christina Moore. Kelly revealed to ABC that she started drinking after a miscarriage, which ultimately had a detrimental effect on her professional life as well. "With 'That '70s Show' I was guilty of a drinking problem," she said. "And I ran."

In early 2012, Kelly was arrested and charged with domestic violence after her ex-boyfriend, John Michas, filed a complaint against her. Kelly denied the charge, stating it was actually she who was attacked by Michas. Later that year, Kelly and her husband, Robert Joseph Gilliam, were both arrested for a reported domestic disturbance. In June 2013, Kelly's legal woes piled up after police suspected she was driving under the influence and arrested her.

In August 2013, Kelly voluntarily entered a rehabilitation facility for treatment, but she died in her sleep two days later she checked in. According to reports, the official cause of her death was "multiple drug intoxication."

Roc's Charles S. Dutton went to prison for manslaughter

As a sitcom, "Roc" hits right in the feels, largely thanks to Charles S. Dutton's powerful performance as Charles "Roc" Emerson. The hardworking and selfless Roc works as a garbage collector for the city, while finding a way to be there for his family in their time of need. Unquestionably, "Roc" was the show to put Dutton on the Hollywood map as an actor, but he had already built up a name for himself as an impressive stage performer before then.

Before his acting career began, though, Dutton served up to 10 years in prison, as he revealed to the Los Angeles Times. The actor explained he came from a rough neighborhood, and it was somewhat of an expectation that everyone would serve time at some point. "My manslaughter conviction came from a fight with a guy who stabbed me seven times," he said. "I wrestled the knife from him and killed him. Got 18 months [in 1967]. Then got three years for possession of a weapon and another eight years tacked on for a fight with a guard."

In prison, Dutton became interested in acting, and after a stabbing incident left him in hospital for two months, he decided it was time to change things around in his life. After being paroled, he applied for a drama scholarship at Yale University, and the rest is history.

Home Improvement's Tim Allen went to jail for drug trafficking

In "Home Improvement," television show host Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor demonstrates his DIY skills but often cannot apply the same precision to his everyday life at home, especially when it comes to his troublemaking sons. The sitcom proved to be a hit in the '90s and turned its lead Tim Allen into a household name. Prior to becoming one of the most notable TV dads, though, Allen served hard time for drug-trafficking charges.

Appearing on "WTF with Marc Maron," Allen revealed how his life spiraled out of control at the age of 11 after his father's death. Eventually, all his bad behavior caught up with him in 1978 after he was arrested for having cocaine stashed inside his luggage. Allen explained how he and his attorney didn't think the punishment would be too harsh, so he pled guilty to drug trafficking charges. In the end, he served two years and four months in prison.

When talking about his experience with Esquire, Allen said, "When I went to jail, reality hit so hard that it took my breath away, took my stance away, took my strength away. I was there buck naked, humiliated, sitting in my own crap and urine — this is a metaphor. My ego had run off. Your ego is the biggest coward."

Amanda Bynes was accused of multiple hit-and-run incidents

As a child actor in the '90s, Amanda Bynes captured the public's heart and attention due to her comedic skills on sitcoms such as "All That" and "The Amanda Show." Talented and with an affable personality to boot, the world appeared to be her oyster, and everyone anticipated her to go on to become a superstar in adulthood.

A series of high-profile roles in the mid-2000s indicated she was on the right path. In 2010, however, she announced a hiatus from acting. Not long afterward, she started to display eccentric behavior that attracted the wrong kind of publicity. While most people are aware of the infamous posts she made on X, formerly known as Twitter, Bynes was arrested multiple times in 2012. She was formerly charged with two hit-and-run incidents while being accused of others, including an incident involving a police vehicle and driving under the influence. Later, Bynes reached a settlement with two of the parties.

Her behavior continued to become more peculiar from here on out, and she was put on involuntary psychiatric hold in July 2013 after setting someone's driveway on fire.

Jeffrey Tambor was accused of sexual harassment

Jeffrey Tambor has had a storied career in Hollywood, appearing in a plethora of high-profile films and television shows. In the '90s, he had a particularly memorable run as the egomaniac Harry Kingsley on "The Larry Sanders Show." However, Tambor's reputation in the entertainment industry suffered a major blow after worrisome allegations about his behavior came to light in 2017.

Trace Lysette, who played Shea in "Transparent" alongside Tambor, accused the actor of sexual harassment and assault. Discussing an incident, Lysette told The Hollywood Reporter, "[Tambor] came in close, put his bare feet on top of mine so I could not move, leaned his body against me, and began quick, discreet thrust back and forth against my body." 

Lysette was the second person to come forward with allegations about Tambor's misconduct during production. Amazon Studios conducted an internal investigation and decided to fire Tambor from the show thereafter. However, the actor denied the accusations leveled against him.

Zachery Ty Bryan pled guilty to two charges of domestic violence

As the eldest of the Taylor boys in "Home Improvement," Brad joined his brothers in getting himself into all sorts of trouble on the sitcom. The role proved to be the big breakthrough for actor Zachery Ty Bryan, as he used his goodwill and popularity from the show to secure parts in other movies and shows, such as "The Guardians of Justice" and "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift."

Like his "Home Improvement" co-star and on-screen father, Tim Allen, Bryan found himself in trouble with the law in 2020 when he was arrested in Eugene, Oregon. According to the authorities, the police were called after an incident between Bryan and his girlfriend turned violent. Reports claimed that Bryan assaulted and strangled his partner, while also preventing her from phoning emergency services.

In 2021, Bryan pled guilty to two charges: "menacing — constituting domestic violence, and assault in the fourth degree — constituting domestic violence," as per Lane County Assistant District Attorney Alex Pierce's statement to TODAY. Resultantly, he received three years of probation, which also meant having to attend a program for domestic violence offenders and ceasing all contact with his partner.

Brad Garrett admitted to alcoholism

It's safe to say that most people can hear Brad Garrett before they see him. His distinctive booming voice and killer sense of humor made him a fan-favorite character on the sitcom "Everybody Loves Raymond," where he played the titular character's brother, Robert Barone. It's also the role that garnered him three Emmy Award wins and multiple nominations, leading to him becoming one of the most celebrated and accomplished '90s sitcom stars. In private, though, Garrett dealt with alcoholism as his fame started to take off.

Speaking to ET about his past, Garrett referred to himself as "a high-functioning alcoholic." He explained how he didn't necessarily see any issue with his behavior at first since he went about his business and avoided drinking during the day. However, it was as "Everybody Loves Raymond" took off that he understood he needed to make necessary changes to his lifestyle. "It was just a realization that I probably wasn't going to make it," he said. "I would hit a fifth a day sometimes, and that's a lot ... It was after year one."

Martin Lawrence was accused of sexual harassment by his co-star

In the '90s, Martin Lawrence dazzled as a comedic actor in films such as "Bad Boys" and "Blue Streak." Before he made his jump into the movie world, he established himself as a television star in his own sitcom titled "Martin." The show ran for five seasons between 1992 and 1997. Yet, the grand finale almost didn't happen after Lawrence's co-star, Tisha Campbell, who played his wife Gina, filed a lawsuit against the actor in early 1997, claiming sexual harassment and volatile working conditions. Campbell alleged that Lawrence pestered her for dates and would often display aggressive and temperamental behavior on set, which he would take out on her in various ways. It reached the point where she could no longer work with him and feared for her own safety. 

Through a statement, Lawrence denied the allegations, saying he was being used as a scapegoat in a contractual dispute between Campbell and the production company. Campbell denied this claim. The lawsuit was settled between the parties, and Campbell returned to film the remaining two episodes of Season 5 of "Martin."

Mark Curry wanted to take his own life after a freak accident

For five seasons, Mark Curry tickled the funny bone and produced special moments as ex-basketball player turned teacher Mark Cooper in "Hanging' with Mr. Cooper." The beloved comedian also crossed over into other popular sitcoms of the time, including "Martin" and "The Jamie Foxx Show." In 2006, though, Curry experienced a serious accident in his home that no one could have predicted. An aerosol can exploded and started a fire, causing second-degree burns on almost 20% of his body.

While the actor admitted he's comfortable to joke about the incident now, especially in his stand-up routines, it wasn't like that at first. The pain and the extreme nature of his injuries weighed on him — heavily. "I wanted to kill myself and, by the fourth day, I said, 'I can't do this,'" he said on "The Montel Williams Show" (via USA Today). "I felt less than a man. I couldn't even look at my own body. I saw my hand with the peeling skin and threw up, and I didn't look at myself again."

Curry said he planned to overdose on his painkillers; however, he changed his mind after a few conversations with his comedian friends.

Step by Step's Sasha Mitchell was convicted of domestic violence

In terms of a rise to fame, Sasha Mitchell had a fascinating journey in showbiz. His first high-profile role was as James Beaumont in "Dallas" before he was cast as the goofy Cody Lambert in the sitcom "Step by Step" in 1991. While maintaining the part of Cody, Mitchell also became an action star as he led the "Kickboxer" film sequels and showed off his martial arts ability.

In 1995, Mitchell found himself in hot water after his mother-in-law called the police and claimed he assaulted his then-wife, Jeanette, and endangered his 7-year-old stepdaughter. According to the prosecutor's statement, Mitchell hit Jeanette who was with her daughter on the bed. Reportedly, Jeanette ran to the bathroom and proceeded to lock the door; however, Mitchell kicked a hole in the door and went after her again. Mitchell was arrested but released on bail, while his lawyer accused the police of not representing the truth about the incident.

The actor was convicted for his actions but handed a three-year probation. In 1996, he was sentenced to 60 days in jail for continuously violating his probation by not attending his mandated counseling sessions and further issues of violence against Jeanette.

Kristen Johnston opened up about alcoholism and addiction

Kristen Johnston's most famous role will always be as Sally Solomon in the '90s sitcom "3rd Rock from the Sun." It's a seminal performance that earned her two Emmy Awards and a legion of fans who couldn't get enough of the prominent character. At her highest point in her professional career, all wasn't well in her personal life, though, as Johnston revealed in her memoir "Guts."

Johnston discussed her alcoholism and addiction, revealing how it spanned back to her school days. In an interview with HuffPost, she explained how the addiction was extremely serious for three years. "I had a lot of shame, and that's why it took me so long to get help because I did know for a good long while that I was in trouble, but I just kept thinking I would grow out of it," she said. "When I didn't, that's when I realized, 'Oh my God, I'm really, really an addict.'" In 2021, Johnston revealed she had been sober for 14 years.

Danny Masterson was convicted of rape

As one of the main characters in "That '70s Show," Danny Masterson's Steven Hyde plays the part of the snarky, laidback friend of the group. Thanks to his wittiness and propensity for one-liners, Hyde provides a number of unforgettable and hilarious moments on the show. Masterson, though, is likely to be remembered for what led to him being put behind bars more so than his time on the sitcom.

In June 2020, Masterson was charged with the rape of three women from incidents spanning the period of 2001 to 2003. The actor had been under investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department since 2017, while allegations surfaced that the Church of Scientology had attempted to cover up multiple rape claims against Masterson.

Ultimately, Masterson was found guilty on two charges of rape and sentenced to 30 years in prison. In January 2024, he was denied bail as the court deemed him a flight risk.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, dealing with domestic violence issues, needs help with mental health, may be the victim of sexual assault, or struggling or in crisis, contact the relevant resources below: