When original “Tool Time girl” Pamela Anderson left the popular ABC sitcom Home Improvement due to scheduling conflicts with Baywatch, producers were quick to consider a previous guest star to take her place. Debbe Dunning, who had joined the cast for a week in the second season as the winsome and memorably named Kiki Van Fursterwallenscheinlaw, was brought in to audition and soon cast in the role of Heidi Keppert, Tim (Tim Allen) and Al’s (Richard Karn) new assistant on Tool Time. She went on to play that role from Seasons 3 to 8, becoming a main cast member in the show’s final two seasons.
While Dunning has stayed largely out of the spotlight in the decades since, the last few years have found her in a surprising new starring role. Read on to find out what happened to Dunning after Home Improvement ended in 1999 and where she is now at age 56.
READ THIS NEXT: Baywatch Star Slams Critics Who Say She’s “Too Old” for Bikini Pics.
Dunning did some additional acting while Home Improvement aired and after its finale, including guest appearances on shows including Baywatch, The Jamie Foxx Show, and Sabrina the Teenage Witch. While her character on Tales From the Crypt survived a rare episode in which no one dies (1994’s “The Pit”), few her post-Home Improvement characters were that lucky.
In the 2000 television remake of The Spiral Staircase, her character was the victim of a serial killer played by Judd Nelson, while in Leprechaun 4: In Space, it was the title character who made her fall from a railing, finger by finger. In her most recent acting role in 2007, she had an arc on the vengeance-themed telenovela Wicked Wicked Games alongside Tatum O’Neal, whose character ultimately took out Dunning’s in a violent parking garage fight.
Dunning appears to have found some off-screen work not far from the world of Tool Time. According to her LinkedIn profile, she spent an indeterminate amount of time as a sales and marketing specialist for J.R. Lennen Construction, Inc., a California-based general contracting company.
When Heidi gave birth in a gas station with the help of Tim and Jill (Patricia Richardson)—with Wilson (Earl Hindman) giving directions by phone—in the 1996 Home Improvement episode “The Tool Man Delivers,” it was Dunning’s real-life pregnancy with daughter Spencer being written into the show. The actor married Spencer’s father, former Olympic volleyball player Steve Timmons in 1997. Two sons, Stoney and Sysco, followed in 2000 and 2008, respectively. And while the California-based couple divorced in 2018, Dunning documents special moments with her kids on her Instagram page.
READ THIS NEXT: See Jake From Two and a Half Men Now at 28.
Dunning is an avid golfer who has played the game for more than two decades. Over the years, she has joined many celebrity golf events benefiting a variety of causes and organizations, including the John Starks Foundation, the Boys and Girls Club, and the Michael Phelps Foundation.
“There’s not a lot of women out there that are actresses and professional athletes that do golf,” she said of her presence on the green in an interview with the Michael Artsis Show in 2015.
Tournaments have also given Dunning the opportunity to reunite with her former Home Improvement co-stars. She played alongside Tim Allen at the 7th annual George Lopez Foundation Celebrity Golf Classic, Zachery Ty Bryan (Brad Taylor) at the SAG Foundation’s 6th Annual Los Angeles Golf Classic, and Karn at the George Lopez 14th Annual Celebrity Golf Classic Tournament.
For more celebrity updates sent right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Dunning has said in interviews that she would use the hours she wasn’t needed on the set of Home Improvement to ride horses that she kept at the equestrian center across the street. Life would come full circle decades later when she met Patrick Gottsch, owner of RFD-TV and The Cowboy Channel, during a golf tournament. He invited her to pitch a concept for the networks, and she suggested a travel show focused on America’s dude ranches.
In 2017, Debbe Dunning’s Dude Ranch Roundup was born, with Dunning acting as host and executive producer. Now in its fourth season, the series features Dunning (sometimes accompanied by her children) as she delves into the background of ranches across the American West and the experience of being their guest.
CORRECTION: Patricia Richardson played Jill on Home Improvement. An earlier version of this article misidentified the actor. We regret the error.