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John Travolta’s sister on the moment she knew he’d be a star

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Ellen Travolta, the sitcom star and older sister of John Travolta, always suspected that her brother was going places.

“I think I knew he was a good actor,” the “Happy Days” actress told Fox News Digital. “He was 12 … I came home and my mom said, ‘We’re going down to this little tiny theater.’ We went down, and I thought, ‘Boy, this kid is good.’ And then I was gone. I was on the road. Then I got married. He was always working. We went back and saw him on Broadway playing Doody in ‘Grease.’ And then when ‘Kotter’ came out, he was adorable and funny. But when ‘Saturday Night Fever’ came out, and you saw him on the big screen, I said, ‘Oh my, when did that happen?’ We never knew. We never saw that coming. It was a surprise.”

JOHN TRAVOLTA TURNS 70: ‘GREASE’ STAR’S LOVES, LOSSES AND THE MOMENT HE ‘THOUGHT IT WAS OVER’

John Travolta wearing a suit and tux next to his sister Ellen Travolta in a white sweater dress

John Travolta and his sister, Ellen Travolta, have maintained a close bond over the years. (Gisela Schober)

“There was no [talk of] John’s going to be famous,” she said. “I mean, that may have been said by his managers. … [But] when ‘Saturday Night Fever’ hit with the Bee Gees songs and all that, oh my God. He’d been around a few years, but with ‘Saturday Night Fever,’ that’s when he got nominated for his first Academy Award. And he was breathtaking. It was this little brother of mine. And he was a major, major star.”

John Travolta in costume for a scene of Saturday Night Fever

John Travolta in “Saturday Night Fever” circa 1977. (Michael Ochs Archives)

Travolta, who is one of six siblings, has led a decades-long career in Hollywood.

She recently made a guest appearance on Season 2 of Pure Flix’s “Going Home.” The show chronicles the lives of nurses who help guide patients in hospice.

“One of the real gifts of a show like ‘Going Home’ is to work with exceptional and experienced guest stars each week,” the show’s creator and director, Dan Merchant, told Fox News Digital in a statement. “Ellen is such a pro and such a delight to be with. It was wonderful to see her connect and flow with the young co-stars in her scenes, Cozi Zuehlsdorf and Cayden Boyd.”

Ellen Travolta wearing a beige sweater and a white collared blouse

Ellen Travolta, who has made her mark in beloved sitcoms over the years, made a guest appearance on Pure Flix’s “Going Home.” (Jim Britt/American Broadcasting Companies)

Travolta said that providing family-friendly programming has been crucial to her as an actress.

“My career was always about family shows,” she said. “We always had kids in them, so we were always careful. The scripts, everything I did was appropriate. I love being able to discuss good, healthy, funny and important topics that need to be discussed, issues that need to be handled, anything that has a family component with a solution that’s handled well. I love that.”

“My character, Ida [in ‘Going Home’], has a sense of humor,” she said. “When people think of hospice, they think of dreadful death, unfinished business. Well, Ida has a grandson that she raised … she meets this lovely nurse who takes care of her. And she decides right away that she’s going to fix her up with the [grandson] before she passes, so he’ll have somebody. Lo and behold, they do like each other. And the three of them spent time together. … And then she was ready to leave. She goes peacefully. Now, this isn’t true for all people, but it can be.”

Ellen Travolta standing next to Henry Winkler and Scott Baio on the set of Happy Days

From left: Scott Baio, Henry Winkler and Ellen Travolta are shown in a scene from the TV series “Joanie Loves Chachi.” (American Broadcasting Companies)

Travolta said the storyline hit close to home.

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“I remember when my dad was dying, we were all in the room with him laughing and talking,” she said. “Finally, the nurse said, ‘He doesn’t want to miss out on this. You really should book it so that it can be a little quiet.’ I stayed. … He was gone in five minutes. He really did want to stick around. He knew it was time. But we told stories and we laughed. We kept him a little longer than he should have, but death doesn’t always have to be sad all the time. It can be peaceful and loving.”

Over the years, Travolta has maintained a close-knit bond with her family, including John, 70. She described how it was her “baby brother” who helped her land a surprising role in the 1978 film “Grease.”

Ellen Travolta and John Travolta walking near a photographer

John Travolta and Ellen Travolta arrive at the 28th annual Emmy Awards in Los Angeles on May 17, 1976. (Fotos International/Getty Images)

“I was on the Paramount lot filming something, and I came by to say hi to him on set,” she recalled. “He said, ‘Hey Ellen, do you want to be in the movie?’ Then he turned to [the filmmakers] and said, ‘Can my sister be in this?’ They said, ‘Well, OK.’ And I said, ‘If I can wear one of those cute waitress outfits, I’ll do it.’ I think I worked just a day and had a few lines. But I collected residuals for almost 50 years.”

Travolta left with a check and a new pal – her brother’s co-star, Olivia Newton-John.

“She was a very dear friend of John’s,” said Travolta about the late singer. “She was such a lovely woman. I can’t emphasize that enough. She was as lovely as her voice.”

Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta wearing matching black outfits and embracing

Olivia Newton-John died in 2022 at age 73. (Paramount Pictures/Fotos International)

Travolta has made guest appearances in numerous hit TV shows, including “One Day at a Time,” “CHiPs,” and “All in the Family,” just to name a few. Travolta noted that she never gave her brother pointers on becoming an actor.

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“He said he watched me and learned,” she chuckled. “He said, ‘Oh Ellen, I figured that’s how you do it.’ I never said anything to him. He was with me on the road. He was my nanny. He took care of my little boy when he was between 11 [and] 14. He would travel with me, and he came to see all the shows that I did. And he stayed with me. We may have been 15 years apart, but we were always great friends. We talked about that the other day. We were saying, ‘It’s just this bond that we have, it’s there.’ We’re appreciative of one another and respectful.”

Travolta said one of her favorite memories was appearing in “Happy Days.” She went on to make her mark in the spin-off “Joanie Loves Chachi.”

Ellen Travolta grabbing Scott Baios face

Ellen Travolta said she was easily impressed by co-star Scott Baio. (ABC Photo Archives/Disney General Entertainment Content)

“I’ve known Scotty since he was about 12,” she said about co-star Scott Baio. “His mother was one of my best friends. I watched him grow up. But the thing that really impressed me the most about Scotty is that he was such a great team player, especially at such a young age. That impressed and surprised me. He was absolutely wonderful. If you wanted to try something, he was all for it. If it meant him not getting a laugh and you got a laugh instead, he would always go for that. Whatever would make the show even better, he would do. I really respected him for that.”

Travolta said she’s grateful to now be a part of “Going Home,” which discusses death in “a respectful and loving manner.” She’s hopeful more networks and streaming giants will consider offering more family-friendly programming that focuses on heartfelt storylines.

Jon Travolta and Ellen Travolta acting together on stage

From left: John Travolta, Ellen Travolta and Ann Travolta perform during the “Bus Stop” New York play opening at Westchester Playhouse in Tuckahoe, New York. (Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection)

“The work that’s being done on television today and Netflix is quite extraordinary for the production value,” she said. “It’s outstanding. However, the subject matter sometimes misses me. … We could really use more stories that are heartwarming, encouraging and uplifting. … They just don’t do them anymore, or at least, not as much. There’s a certain lightness that is missing from movies these days. All the blowing up and explosions, it just gets so old. As for the cartoons, I’m old. I don’t care for them. I think we could all use some positive, uplifting entertainment.”

Ellen Travolta holding a phone and looking upset while wearing a red blazer and a white blouse

In 2023, Ellen Travolta returned to “General Hospital” after 27 years. (Christine Bartolucci/Disney)

Today, Travolta has zero plans to slow down. And she’s always looking for the next great story to tell.

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“I’ll be 85 in October,” she said. “I love being included and feeling like ‘I can do this.’ This is all fun and wonderful. And what a lovely way to live your life doing something that you love and getting paid for it.”

“Going Home” is available for streaming on Pure Flix.

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