There is plenty of drama going on behind the scenes, and the cast of Three’s Company’s tons of on-screen chemistry. The classic sitcom aired on ABC beginning in 1977 and wrapped up after an 8-season run in 1983.
The late John Ritter plays Jack Tripper, Joyce DeWitt as Janet Wood, and Suzanne Somers as Chrissy Snow. This trio of single roommates cohabitates together in an apartment in Santa Monica, California. Considering the taboo for men and women to be roommates.
Their pesky Landlord, Mr. Roper – by Norman Fell – with very strict rules against co-ed living at his properties. To get around his restrictions, the tenants lie and claim that Jack is gay. Mr. Roper falls for this ploy hook line and sinker. Mrs. Roper thinks that their little trick is by the second episode but decides to keep it from her husband.
The show’s plot mainly revolved around innuendo, misunderstandings, and keeping up the charade of Jack’s alleged homosexuality. In reality, Jack was a bit of a chauvinistic philanderer, but that just made the shtick that much more humorous.
As we already said, the casting choices for this series were spot-in. Looking back on Three’s Company, it’s hard to imagine anyone else in those roles. Sadly, many of the actors and actresses that helped make the show the success story that it became have unfortunately passed away in the 4 decades since the series wrapped up.
Join Facts Verse as we take a closer look at the lives and careers of the stars of Three’s Company while revealing which of them have since died. As we begin, let’s start by talking about the show’s male lead.
On September 17, 1948, Tex Ritter and Dorothy Fay welcomed a bouncing baby boy into the world whom they named Jonathan Southworth Ritter. Both of John’s parents had been active in the entertainment industry, so it wasn’t that big of a surprise when he ended up pursuing acting as a career path after graduating from Hollywood High School.
After briefly majoring in psychology at the University of Southern California, Ritter changed his major to study theater arts at the USC School of Dramatic Arts. While enrolled in college, he would travel to the UK, West Germany, and the Netherlands to perform in plays.
After graduating in 1970, Ritter landed his first television role playing a student revolutionary in the series Dan August which starred his future Three’s Company co-star Norman Fell as well as Burt Reynolds. The following year, he made his film debut in Disney’s The Barefoot Executive.
From there, Ritter made several guest appearances in shows like Hawaii Five-O and MAS*H. He scored his first recurring role on a TV series playing the Reverend Matthew Fordwick on The Waltons in 1972. He would stick with that role until 1976 when he left to join the cast of Three’s Company.
Around this time, Ritter also played Ringo Starr’s Manager in the NBC television special Ringo.
In his starring role in Three’s Company as Jack Tripper, Ritter became a household name. The show spent several seasons at the top of the Nielsen ratings and received glowing praise from critics. Ritter received a Primetime Emmy and a Golden Globe for that role.
After ending in 1984, Ritter reprised his role in the Three’s Company spin-off series Three’s a Crowd. That series isn’t able to capture the same kind of magic as its predecessor and cancel in 1985 after airing just one 22-episode season.
Ritter continued to enjoy a thriving acting career following Three’s a Crowd’s cancellation. In total, he would appear in over 100 films, tv shows, and Broadway productions.
Some of his most significant film credits included roles in films like the 1990s It and Problem Child, 1991s Problem Child 2, 1996s Sling Blade, and 2003s Bad Santa – the latter being his final live-action film role.
From 2000 to 2003, Ritter provided the voice for the titular plus-sized canine on the children’s animated program Clifford The Big Red Dog. That performance earned him a total of four Daytime Emmy Award nominations.
From 2002 to 2003, Ritter played Paul Hennessey on the sitcom 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter.
On September 11, 2003, while Ritter was rehearsing his lines for 8 Simple Rules on the Walt Disney Studio Lot in Burbank, he suddenly fell ill and began complaining about chest pains. He is sweating bullets and vomiting when he rushes to Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center across the street.
He was first treated under the assumption that he was having a heart attack, but his doctors soon realized that he had an aortic dissection. Surgeons try their best to repair the dissection, but Ritter dies at 10:48 pm. He is only 54 years old when he passes.
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And don’t go anywhere just yet. Keep watching to learn about four more Three’s Company stars that have passed away in the years since the show came to a close. At the end of this video, we’ll also give you a brief update on how the rest of the show’s cast is holding up these days.
Fell played the landlord, Mr. Stanley Roper. His character is an extremely cheap and stubborn man who refuses to shell out the cash to make the quality-of-life repairs that need around the Hacienda Palms apartment complex he owned. Whenever his tenants would complain, he would simply threaten to hike their rent or evict them to shut them up.
Before landing the role that he would arguably be best known for, Fell worked as a television actor appearing in dozens of different roles. He was born In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and served as a tail gunner in the Air Force during World War II. After being discharged, Fell took an interest in acting.
Some of his film and television credits besides Three’s Company included roles in The Roper’s, Ocean’s 11, The Graduate, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, and The Killer’s.
He died at the age of 74 of bone cancer on December 14, 1998. He was laid to rest at Mount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery in Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles.
On Three’s Company, Lindley played Mrs. Roper. She would later reprise that role in the spin-off series The Ropers.
Lindley was born and raised in Los Angeles. She came from a show biz family. Her father worked as a film and stage actor which helped her get a foot in the door when she wanted to take a stab at acting herself.
She first worked in Hollywood as a stand-in but eventually she became a contract player with Warner Brothers. Lindley also shared a life-long love for theater. Throughout her career, she would appear in Broadway plays like Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Horse Heavens, and Golden Pond.
After playing Helen Roper on Three’s Company and The Ropers, Lindley continued to appear on television and in films. In the 80s, she had roles in offerings such as Revenge of The Stepford Wives, Cannery Row, and Best Friends.
Her last recurring role on a TV series was playing Cybil Shepherd’s mother on the CBS sitcom Cybill.
Lindley died at the age of 79 of complications of Leukemia on the 16th of October, 1997.
While this actor is probably best known for playing Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show, on Three’s Company, he played the zany yet lovable landlord Ralph Furley. Knott’s was added to the cast after the actors who played the Ropers left the show to star in their short-lived spin-off series, The Ropers.
Knotts was only originally meant to play a minor role in the series, but his flamboyant, comical, and all-around fun to watch character ended up becoming very popular with audiences. He stuck with the series until it came to an end in 1984.
After Three’s Company wrapped, Knott’s reunited with Andy Griffith for the TV film Return to Mayberry. In 1988, Knott’s joined forces with Griffith once again playing the nosey neighbor Les Calhoun on Matlock.
After Matlock ended, Knott’s acting career began to die down. For the next few years, he would only make sporadic roles in films and television shows like Pleasantville and Big Bully.
Knotts died on February 24, 2006 at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in LA where he had been receiving treatment for lung cancer. He was 81.
Wedgeworth joined the cast of Three’s Company in Season 4, playing the flirtatious divorcee Lana Shields. Lana was older than the other roommates, had been married three times, and had a huge, obvious crush on Jack Tripper, who would constantly shut down her advances in favor of chasing after younger women.
Wedgeworth was born in 1934, in Abilene, Texas. In high school, she was actually a classmate of Jayne Mansfield.
In 1957, after graduating from college, she moved to New York City where she was admitted to The Actors Studio. She went on to have a prolific stage, TV, and movie career. Some of her biggest roles included parts in films like Scarecrow, Steel Magnolias, and Bang The Drum Slowly.
Wedgeworth died after battling long-term illness in a nursing home in North Bergen, New Jersey, on November 16, 2017. She was 87.
In case you were wondering, quite a few Three’s Company cast members are still around. Suzanne Somers, Richard Kline, Joyce Dewitt, Jenilee Harrison, and Priscilla Barnes are all doing quite well. Everyone but Harrison still appear to be active in the entertainment industry as of 2022.
Who was your favorite cast member of Three’s Company? And were you surprised to learn that any of the stars discussed in this video have died? Let us know in the comments.
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