Contestant Lisa Whelchel attends CBS’ “Survivor: Philippines” Finale & Reunion Red Carpet at CBS Televison City on December 16, 2012 in Los Angeles

*Competing on “Survivor” turned out to be a good move for Lisa Whelchel.

The 49-year-old actress, suddenly back in the spotlight nearly 25 years after portraying spoiled prep school student Blair on “The Facts of Life,” has just landed a role in the upcoming, “Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas.”

“I play the role of Nancy Porter, the country school principal,” Whelchel tells “I’m having fun!”

Cast of “Facts of Life”

After “Facts of Life” ended its run in 1988, Whelchel put her career on hold to raise her three children, acting in just two TV movies. (Her last role was a “Facts of Life” reunion in 2001.)

She returned to the spotlight last fall as a contestant on “Survivor: Philippines.” At the time, she told People that she was exploring new opportunities after her stint on reality TV. “I’d host,” she said. “I’d do a sitcom. Really, I’ve got a lot of opportunities.”

After placing second on “Survivor” – and winning an extra $100,000 as fan favorite – Whelchel signed with Hollywood agency David Shapira and Associates. Her audition for “Madea” was her first in 33 years; three hours after reading for the part, she was offered the role.

Whelchel tells People that she loves working on the film, which started production in Atlanta this week. “Tyler Perry is such a brilliant man,” she says. “He’s a nice guy, and so funny when he gets in his Madea garb.”