One of the key ingredients to CBS’s My Three Sons resided with the three titular kids. While casting for Steven Douglas was important, the child actors had to bring a lot to their respective characters. Actor Barry Livingston was tasked with bringing Ernie Thompson-Douglas to life, which he succeeded at across nine years. But what did this adoptive son get up to after the show ended in ‘72?
Barry Gordon Livingston was born on December 17, 1953 in Los Angeles, California. Living on the doorstep of Hollywood saw Livingston begin his acting career when he was still just a child; one of his first gigs was an uncredited appearance on The Dick Powell Theatre in ‘61. The following year saw The Dick Van Dyke Show give Livingston his first credited role before he was even a teen. His filmography only grew astronomically from there.
Barry Livingston found a place as Ernie and grew from there
Another early role of his after The Dick Van Dyke Show was on eight episodes of The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, which also featured his real-life brother, not a Douglas, but rather Stanley Livingston. He then landed spots in 1962’s My Six Loves, and the show Sam Benedict. His resume before My Three Sons is relatively short; the program had been running for three years before Livingston joined the family as Ernie Thompson-Douglas.
But even though he was a relative newcomer, he had a big task to shoulder. Season six, episode one was the show’s first in color and really launched the idea of Ernie as the “new” brother and son, along with Chip’s new best friend in place of Sudsy Pfeiffer. This too, was a family reunion, since Stanley had also played Chip.
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Livingston continued to act and act and act. His film career continued to include Masters of the Universe, Invisible Mom, Tremors 3: Back to Perfection, Zodiac, based on the hunt for the Zodiac Killer, a 2009 Porky’s remake, The Social Network, Jersey Boys, and most recently, 2016’s War Dogs, to name just a few. But television really dominated Livingston’s career, adding many more roles besides Ernie. Perhaps most famously, that included a 2007 episode of Man Men, where he played Duane Davis. But there are many more TV gigs besides, including Marcus Welby, M.D., Thicker Than Water, Simon & Simon, Hart to Hart, Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, Everybody Hates Chris, a 2009 episode of NCIS, The Middle, and three episodes of Bosch followed by Bosch: Legacy in 2022.
For all the roles he’s gotten, though, Livingston, today 68, says My Three Sons didn’t help his romance life. “It was not like an aphrodisiac for women to know that they had a shot at Ernie,” explained Livingston. “Like any guy, I was floundering around. … Never worked well for me.” After a few times of trying to use his history as Ernie to his advantage, Livingston just got some laughter, so “I abandoned that strategy pretty quickly.” Fortunately, since ‘83, he’s been happily married to Karen Huntsman, and together they have two children. Sadly, though, Livingston is the last surviving main cast member who is active in the Screen Actors Guild.
Glad to see Ernie ended up doing well, Steven would be proud.