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Suzanne Somers | Source: Getty images
Suzanne Somers | Source: Getty images

Suzanne Somers Felt ‘Shunned’ from TV Family but Managed to Reconcile with Co-star Just a Month before His Passing

Esther NJeri
Oct 18, 2023
10:15 A.M.
  • Suzanne Somers was one the biggest stars of the TV show "Three's Company."
  • However, the actress had a fallout with her co-star, John Ritter, forcing her to leave the show and feel "shunned" from her TV family.
  • Somers and Ritter reconciled just a month before his death.
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The show "Three's Company" chronicled the life of three roommates—John Ritter as Jack Tripper, Suzanne Somers as Chrissy Snow, and Joyce DeWitt as Janet Wood—living together as friends and pretending that Jack was gay to keep their landlords, the Ropers, at bay.

Actor John Ritter attends the 4th Annual Family Television Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on July 31, 2002 in Beverly Hills, California | Source: Getty Images

Actor John Ritter attends the 4th Annual Family Television Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on July 31, 2002 in Beverly Hills, California | Source: Getty Images

The mid-70s show became an instant hit, and it turned out to be a combination of sexual innuendos and slapstick humor that often arose from the trio's misunderstandings.

The show stayed on the top ten charts for most of its eight seasons. It was a comical genius that liberated its viewers through the laughter it often brought.

Suzanne Somers in an interview at Fox Business Network Studios on January 9, 2020 in New York City | Source: Getty Images

Suzanne Somers in an interview at Fox Business Network Studios on January 9, 2020 in New York City | Source: Getty Images

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It also depicted a relatable front as it showed the quick ways people often jumped to conclusions, even without first learning the intricacies of a story. The relatability soon put the show on the radar, and it instantly became a pop culture sensation.

However, despite the show's success from the onset, the behind-the-scenes was not as pretty. The producers envisioned it to be about a guy and two girls, but the media seemed to think of Somers as the show's star.

Joyce DeWitt, John Ritter, and Suzanne Somers in California in 1980 | Source: Getty Images

Joyce DeWitt, John Ritter, and Suzanne Somers in California in 1980 | Source: Getty Images

Somers often came off as a savvy media celebrity and a very ambitious one at that, and so when the trio did a cover shoot for Newsweek, and Somers seemed to override her co-stars, lots of conflicts started to arise.

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The Birth of the Decades-Long Feud

Before the feud between Somers and Ritter got out of hand, the actress confessed that her castmate had made her feel accepted despite her limited training in comparison to her other co-stars. “He treated me like I belong there,” she reiterated.

Joyce DeWitt, John Ritter, and Suzanne Somers in California in 1978 | Source: Getty Images

Joyce DeWitt, John Ritter, and Suzanne Somers in California in 1978 | Source: Getty Images

From the moment Somers stepped into the show, she got the sense that Ritter was the one running the show. She said producers loved him, which was understandable because she witnessed his talent and even took a few notes from his methods.

When Somers started at "Three's Company," she had watched how some of her castmates used techniques to approach scripts, but for her, it was simply about making her lines believable. Somers wanted every part to feel natural, which was also how Ritter approached his role.

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Suzanne Somers and Joyce DeWitt in California in 1979 | Source: Getty Images

Suzanne Somers and Joyce DeWitt in California in 1979 | Source: Getty Images

Therefore, Somers admitted that she loved how the actor went into rehearsal unprepared because he wanted to allow for a natural reaction to the script to take place. It was from watching Ritter that the actress understood what physical comedy was.

Eventually, Somers also learned how to use her body to relay the comedic elements of the show. "I had a lot of fun playing with my face," she recalled.

However, that dynamic changed when the actress started demanding higher pay. On the persistence of her husband, Alan Hamel, she asked for a pay rise towards the beginning of season five.

Joyce DeWitt, John Ritter, and Suzanne Somers in California in 1977 | Source: Getty Images

Joyce DeWitt, John Ritter, and Suzanne Somers in California in 1977 | Source: Getty Images

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She was asking for a salary raise that would put her on par with what the star of the show, Ritter, was getting, but speaking out about it seemed to be the straw that broke the camel's back.

A row had been created, which would last decades and only be resolved a month before Ritter passed on in 2003. Following Somer's request for a pay rise, Ritter refused to work with her moving forward.

Somers and her husband revealed Ritter's salary to the press and reasoned that had she been a man, she wouldn't have had to deal with lower salaries, and this further deteriorated the situation.

Suzanne Somers, John Ritter, and Joyce DeWitt in California in 1979 | Source: Getty Images

Suzanne Somers, John Ritter, and Joyce DeWitt in California in 1979 | Source: Getty Images

Ritter had even asked Hamel at one point if he'd speak to Somers in private, away from the publicists and media, but Somers was having none of it. A chance at reconciliation had been trampled. Somers spoke to ET, saying:

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"They fired me for asking to be paid commensurate with the men. They need you as the example so no other woman in television will get uppity and think that they could ask for parity with men."

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The problems in the show were not, however, only based on Somers asking for a bigger salary. She allegedly missed a show, then returned as if nothing had happened, only to miss another one without as much as a warning.

All these factors combined put Ritter on edge, and he got angry, declaring that he no longer wanted to work with Somers again. He considered Somers' antics as a personal betrayal. But in retrospect, the actress believed she and her castmate fought a lot because Ritter realized that he lost someone he worked well with.

John Ritter at the 40th Emmy Awards in August 1988 | Source: Wikimedia Commons

John Ritter at the 40th Emmy Awards in August 1988 | Source: Wikimedia Commons

When the salary negotiations were taking place, Somers thought her character would never be replaced and admitted that thinking she was irreplaceable was one of the wrong cards she played. So when her husband broke the news that she would not be returning to the show, she was in absolute shock.

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Somers recalled how sad it was leaving the show, especially since the exit was not an amicable one. "It was so sad. It was like being shunned from your family," she said.

John Ritter at Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California | Source: Getty Images

John Ritter at Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California | Source: Getty Images

The producers had painted her as greedy and made it seem like she had been trying to ruin the show, so everyone on the show, crew and cast alike, did not want anything to do with her. After that, she never spoke to anyone on the show ever again.

DeWitt Felt Ritter Betrayed Her

Towards the end of the show in its eighth season, TV Guide did a cover story, "John Ritter: He's Looking For a Different Trip Now." It became clear as day to everyone that the show was coming to an end.

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Suzanne Somers, John Ritter, and Joyce DeWitt in California in 1978 | Source: Getty Images

Suzanne Somers, John Ritter, and Joyce DeWitt in California in 1978 | Source: Getty Images

But even then, Ritter, following advice from his producers, did not disclose to DeWitt that there would be a spin-off centered on Ritter's character. DeWitt took the deception personally, and for years after the show ended, just like Somers, she did not speak to him.

Joyce DeWitt in black and white | Source: Getty Images

Joyce DeWitt in black and white | Source: Getty Images

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For a show that depicted so much chemistry among the costars, the aftermath became something of a decades-long feud between the co-stars, and for years, they did not see eye to eye until just before Ritter's passing in 2003.

Somers and Ritter Make Peace

Despite the prolonged feud between the two co-stars, it was not enough to stay enemies. Before his death in 2003, Ritter reached out to Somers, wanting them to do a show together.

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Ritter called Somers and told her that he forgave her. Noting how much the fans craved for them to work together again, they decided to meet up and look for a project to work on together. The project, however, never came to materialize, as only a month after they made plans, Ritter passed on suddenly from an undetected tear in the aorta.

His passing coincided with his youngest child's birthday. The day that her father waved the world that loved him so much goodbye, his little girl, Stella, turned five.

Actor John Ritter at the after-party for the opening night of Woody Allen's play, "Writers Block" at Metronome | Source: Getty Images

Actor John Ritter at the after-party for the opening night of Woody Allen's play, "Writers Block" at Metronome | Source: Getty Images

Following his death, many came out to mourn the handsome and goofy actor. DeWitt expressed her shock upon learning of his demise, saying:

"I'm shocked and heartbroken and so sad for his family. I cannot find words to express my sorrow - such a great loss to the joy in the world."

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Somers and DeWitt Reconcile

A month before the curtains fell on Ritter's life, DeWitt had been staying in a hotel at Central Park South when she learned that Ritter was also staying close by. She called him, and the two put aside their differences and had a nice dinner party.

Joyce DeWitt in HBO's Outfest | Source: Getty Images

Joyce DeWitt in HBO's Outfest | Source: Getty Images

In 2012, Somers invited DeWitt to her online show "Breaking Through," and while there, the two put to rest their decades-long feud, with an understanding that at the time, Somers had been a single mother and had needed the salary raise.

DeWitt, who had been more focused on creating her career as an actress, could not understand Somers' business mind, so the feud was a simple misunderstanding.

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But on the 2012 show, the two put their differences aside and decided to bury the hatchet. Addressing why she came on the show after so many years of feuding, DeWitt said it was the right time.

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Suzanne Somers Loses Her Battle to Cancer

After a rollercoaster of fighting, making up with co-stars, and losing some along the way, the "Three's Company cast lost another of their beloved members. Somers' publicist released a statement that the actress had lost her battle with cancer on Monday, October 15, 2023.

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According to the representative, the "Step by Step" star had been fighting breast cancer for 23 years but died peacefully surrounded by her family.

Somers left her loved ones just a day before her 77th birthday, so, instead, her family got to celebrate her life and the resilience she had to achieve so many of her goals.

Somers' family has been breaking their silence and paying tribute to the renowned entertainer. They will forever remember the unconditional love she extended to everyone in her family and those close to her.

DeWitt also paid tribute to Somers, expressing, “My heart goes out to Suzanne’s family. They are a very close family — deeply connected and caring one to the other. I can only imagine how difficult this time is for all of them.”

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