Why Pugsley Actor Ken Weatherwax Avoided Lead Roles After The Addams Family

When Charles Addams debuted the cartoon panel in a 1938 issue of The New Yorker, it's doubtful that he imagined the vastness of the universe that he was creating with "The Addams Family." What began as a simple, yet eerie, cartoon about a vacuum cleaner salesman trying to sell his wares to the occupants of a haunted-looking mansion blossomed into a regular comic for the artist, comprising over 50 of them over the next 20-plus years, all in the pages of the magazine that gave his talent a chance.

The cartoon developed over time, garnering quite a following. The characters jumped from the page to the small screen in 1964 when a television series of the same name debuted on ABC. The show featured veteran actress Marie Blake, frequent TV guest star Caroline Jones, and TV sitcom star John Astin (per IMDb). Additionally, "The Addams Family" marked yet another significant notch in the come-back belt of former child star Jackie Coogan, who played the role of the portly and bald Uncle Fester. Rounding out the adults in the series was the addition of two child actors. Lisa Loring was tapped to play the role of daughter Wednesday Addams, while young Ken Weatherwax was chosen to fill the part of the Addams' son, Pugsley.

Most of the cast went on to roles that would eventually round out large bodies of work. The child stars of "The Addams Family" fared differently, however. While Loring was able to at least get some small parts and some modeling gigs after the conclusion of the series, Weatherwax went a different route altogether.

Weatherwax felt typecast

Ken Weatherwax seemingly had some personal difficulties after "The Addams Family." He was only 9 years old when the show debuted, and after the series ended, facing peers who only knew him as Pugsley Addams was hard for him to bear. In 2008, Weatherwax sat down with Bill O'Reilly on "The O'Reilly Factor" (posted on YouTube). After giving a brief summation of the show's history and impact on the television industry, O'Reilly got down to the nitty-gritty details of what it was like to be a school-aged child associated with a character like Pugsley Addams. When asked during the interview what effect it had on his life, Weatherwax answered that it "didn't really have much of an effect until after the show was over," and he was forced to go back into the public school system. "Frankly, I didn't deal with it very well," he continued.

Weatherwax revealed that he was the subject of a lot of teasing and bullying because of his part in the iconic series. He told O'Reilly that he was kicked out of "six or seven" public schools and found himself enlisting in the U.S. Army when he was only 17. He found that from the ages of 10 to 16, he "couldn't escape being Pugsley," a point that O'Reilly homed in on, before asking the former child actor if he attempted to secure other acting roles after the end of the series that he would forever become known for.

Weatherwax said he did audition for several parts, but that he was always turned away. From Weatherwax's perspective, he was forever typecast as Pugsley Addams.

Weatherwax was able to blend in with other recruits in the Army

His likeness is in so many households for the duration of the series also made him quite recognizable in public, which Weatherwax also admitted caused him some issues. Weatherwax said that despite the problems he had after the show had ended, his experiences on the show were quite positive and that he enjoyed working with all of the cast members. He recalled how, though the adults on the series were all veteran actors (including the Academy Award-nominated Carolyn Jones), not one of them felt that the show was a disservice to their talents or reputations (via "The O'Reilly Factor").

When asked by O'Reilly if his army experience matched the troubles, he had post-"Addams Family," Weatherwax laughed and said that after he had his head shaved and put on the army-issued clothing he looked just like everyone else in basic training.

Weatherwax played Pugsley in two other productions

A glance at Weatherwax's screen credits does not yield many results for acting beyond the television series. In 1964, Weatherwax had a small part in an episode of the hit TV western series "Wagon Train," playing the role of a minor character not referred to by name, but rather by his physical stature. "Stout boy," as he was listed in the script, might be an indicator of just how small the part was (per IMDb).

In 1973, Hanna-Barbera cartoon studios launched an animated series titled "The Addams Family." The show centered around the misadventures of the Addams crew and Lurch as they embark on a cross-country trip in an RV. The series was short-lived, only lasting for 16 episodes. Though Ted Cassidy and Jackie Coogan both lent their voice talents to the series, it was noticeably void of any of the remaining regular cast being regular performers. Weatherwax did voice the character Pugsley in a single episode. The only other episode in which the character had any lines was voiced by a young Jodie Foster.

But this would not be the last time that Weatherwax would play the role of Pugsley. In 1977, the majority of the cast from the original series reunited for a TV movie. "Halloween with the News Addams Family" featured John Astin, Carolyn Jones, and Ted Cassidy in their original roles, along with Lisa Loring and Weatherwax playing the adult versions of the characters that viewers had loved more than a decade before (per IMDb). 

Weatherwax found work as a set builder

Though Weatherwax was finished on the screen, that didn't mean that he was done with Hollywood altogether. After all, there are scores of jobs performed by countless people that go into every production, no matter the scope. As a young adult, Weatherwax found himself working behind the scenes, helping to make films and television shows happen.

The Hollywood Reporter tells us that Weatherwax was employed as both a set builder and as a grip in Tinseltown. He has one listed screen credit as a grip, which was in the 1992 thriller "Unlawful Entry," starring Kurt Russell, Ray Liotta, and Madeleine Stowe (via IMDb). 

Weatherwax's time on screen, no matter how brief, made him one of many out of a family of entertainers. According to The Hollywood Reporter, he was the nephew of Broadway actress and dancer Ruby Keeler, and Lassie's trainer, Rudd Weatherwax. He is also the brother of actor and composer Joey D. Vieira, whose supporting role on the TV series "Lassie" as Porky Brockway led to a much more lucrative career on screen than his younger brother. Vieira played many small roles in TV and film throughout the decades, including "Moonlighting," "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," and "Married ... with Children" (per IMDb).

Weatherwax had two different funerals

Weatherwax died on December 7, 2014. His niece, Shanyn Vieira, announced on social media, informing the world of the passing of yet another former child star. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the actor succumbed to a heart attack. He was 59 years old.

TMZ also relayed the news of Weatherwax's death, adding that the former actor had died inside his Hollywood home. The media outlet continued with a report that two separate funerals were planned for Weatherwax. One was a private service for family and close friends, while another, larger service was planned for anyone in the public that wished to make a tribute to him.

Nearly 60 years after the debut of "The Addams Family," there remain a scant few stars of the television show left alive. Carolyn Jones passed in 1983 at the age of 50 (via The New York Times); Ted Cassidy, who played Lurch, died in 1979, age 46 (per Find a Grave); and Marie Blake, the elderly but spunky Grandmama, died in 1978, age 82 (per Dead or Kicking). Jackie Coogan — Uncle Fester — died at age 70 in 1984 (per Britannica). Of the original cast, only John Astin and Lisa Loring remain among us.