Bain died on Monday of natural causes in his hometown of Livermore. He was 89.
The show that made him famous debuted on NBC in 1978, an era when television comedies tackled relevant social issues.
Diff'rent Strokes touched on serious themes, but was known better as a family comedy that drew most of its laughs from its standout child actor, Gary Coleman.
Bain played wealthy Manhattan widower Philip Drummond, who promised his dying housekeeper he would raise her sons, played by Coleman and Todd Bridges. Race and class relations became topics on the show as much as the typical trials of growing up.
Coleman, with his sparkling eyes and perfect comic timing, became an immediate star, and Bain, with his long training as a theatre actor, proved an ideal straight man.
The series lasted six seasons on NBC and two on ABC.
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