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Joyce DeWitt: The Star Who Played Janet on 'Three's Company'

Christell Fatima M. Tudtud
Jul 30, 2022
06:40 P.M.
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Joyce DeWitt is one of the most brilliant actresses in Hollywood. Were it not for her willingness to defy rules, she may never have been cast in a famous TV series. Learn how she got her start in the entertainment industry.

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Joyce DeWitt's profession as an actress and comedian helped her rise to fame. Having developed an early passion for the performing arts, she joined the stage when she was only 13.

DeWitt's parents, Paul and Norma, raised her and her six siblings in Indiana and were very strict with their children. After being raised in a conservative home, DeWitt followed her own rules.

Joyce DeWitt for the 1978 television show "Three's Company" | Source: Getty Images

Joyce DeWitt for the 1978 television show "Three's Company" | Source: Getty Images

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DeWitt realized her acting potential and decided to pursue a career in Hollywood. However, her father was not too enthusiastic about her acting ambitions and tried to discourage her from joining the profession.

DeWitt followed her heart's desire to become an actress and resisted her father's objections. She graduated from Ball State University with a bachelor's degree in theater. She then moved to California in 1974 to pursue her master's degree at UCLA.

Joyce DeWitt attends a screening of "Tab Hunter Confidential" at the 2015 Outfest's LGBT Los Angeles Film Festival at the Directors Guild of America on July 11, 2015, in West Hollywood, California | Source: Getty Images

Joyce DeWitt attends a screening of "Tab Hunter Confidential" at the 2015 Outfest's LGBT Los Angeles Film Festival at the Directors Guild of America on July 11, 2015, in West Hollywood, California | Source: Getty Images

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HOW JOYCE DEWITT BECAME A STAR OF "THREE'S COMPANY"

After completing her studies, DeWitt looked for work while pursuing her passion for acting. She held down a job as a legal secretary in addition to going for several auditions.

Fortunately, DeWitt's diligence paid off. The ABC Network offered her roles in two different comedy shows. Due to time constraints, she had to choose which one to appear on.

The network gave her 24 hours to decide, and DeWitt chose "Three's Company" after reading the two scripts. It was the story of a man who shares an apartment with two women.

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Joyce DeWitt, John Ritter, and Suzanne Somers in a "Three's Company" episode aired on September 19, 1978 | Source: Getty Images

Joyce DeWitt, John Ritter, and Suzanne Somers in a "Three's Company" episode aired on September 19, 1978 | Source: Getty Images

DeWitt's choice of "Three's Company" was fate, as it became a television success and kickstarted her remarkable career. The network never sold the second TV program she was offered.

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DeWitt largely kept to herself. She didn't care much about being in the spotlight and was not flattered by the massive attention she was receiving.

Joyce DeWitt on a movie set at Shortways Restaurant on September 16, 2010, in Hawthorne, New Jersey | Source: Getty Images

Joyce DeWitt on a movie set at Shortways Restaurant on September 16, 2010, in Hawthorne, New Jersey | Source: Getty Images

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She traveled worldwide after the series ended before settling in New Mexico. DeWitt's success caused her to feel estranged from her co-stars, particularly actress Suzanne Somers.

Somers did not speak to DeWitt for 30 years after leaving the show in 1981. However, they reconnected in February 2012, when Somers invited her on her online talk show "Suzanne Somers: Breaking Through."

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WHY SUZANNE SOMERS AND JOYCE DEWITT DIDN'T SPEAK FOR 30 YEARS

"Three's Company" ran from 1976 to 1984. DeWitt famously played the iconic character Janet Wood, alongside late actor John Ritter and Somers, who played Jack Tripper and Chrissy Snow.

The comedy followed the three actors as they got into various misadventures. To appease their landlord, Mr. Roper, played by actor Norman Fell, Somers and DeWitt's characters pretended Ritter's character was gay.

While on Somers's show, the actress asked DeWitt if she knew of any dalliances that went on as they shot the comedy. DeWitt confessed she didn't know of any romantic encounters until years later when the rumors made the rounds. Apparently, the involved parties were "discreet."

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Somers had salary issues, which DeWitt only found out about afterward. The "Step by Step" star revealed what transpired behind the scenes.

She confessed to DeWitt that she had approached the show's producers asking for the same compensation package as Ritter. While her request was fair, Somers said she was labeled a villain who was trying to ruin the show.

She revealed that the producers fired her, which ultimately made her decide not to speak to anyone from the show ever again. DeWitt understood Somers's sentiments. The confession allowed the actresses to reconnect once more.

Suzanne Somers and Joyce DeWitt during a press preview and luncheon For "Three's Company" and "The Ropers" on September 5, 1979, at Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California | Source: Getty Images

Suzanne Somers and Joyce DeWitt during a press preview and luncheon For "Three's Company" and "The Ropers" on September 5, 1979, at Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California | Source: Getty Images

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DeWitt also said that they had different strategies for their professional careers, which may have played a part in their distance over the three decades.

She admitted to Somers that she was financially independent and had no children at the time. Additionally, she did not grasp business and could not understand someone who did.

Aside from reconnecting, the actresses paid tribute to Ritter, who died in 2003 from an aortic dissection. The ladies also shared their recollections of their last moments with their late co-star.

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JOYCE DEWITT ON HER CONFIDENCE

DeWitt avoided attention despite her meteoric ascent to fame, which impacted her love life. She readily admitted that many of her relationship issues stemmed from her sheltered family upbringing in Speedway, Indiana. She said in a 1980 People interview:

"Before I knew Raymond, I worried about being whatever my father thought would make a good and wonderful human being."

DeWitt previously dated actor Ray Buktenica, with whom she had a tumultuous seven-year relationship. After two months of living together, Buktenica moved out of their Malibu beach home.

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Joyce DeWitt and Ray Buktenica in New York City | Source: Getty Images

Joyce DeWitt and Ray Buktenica in New York City | Source: Getty Images

She remembered how she and Buktenica used to fight all the time. DeWitt realized that she felt trapped in the relationship. She said that her then-boyfriend expected her to do everything for him, adding:

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"My self-esteem and self-confidence had disappeared. I gave them away."

DeWitt's confidence rose after being cast in "Three's Company." She eventually found herself but it was completely contradictory to what Buktenica expected of her — a domesticated companion.

Joyce DeWitt attends the special screening of "Shadowboxer" Hosted by Lenny Kravitz at MGM/Dolby 88 Screening Room on April 17, 2006, in New York City, New York | Source: Getty Images

Joyce DeWitt attends the special screening of "Shadowboxer" Hosted by Lenny Kravitz at MGM/Dolby 88 Screening Room on April 17, 2006, in New York City, New York | Source: Getty Images

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"Raymond loved the old Joyce, but the old Joyce was a slave," DeWitt noted. She cut off her trademark "Three's Company" curly hairstyle and went back to her naturally straight hair.

Apart from her hairstyle, DeWitt lost 15 pounds by following the Pritikin diet, and her slimmer physique paved the way for her to model L'Eggs hosiery. She also posed for a G-rated poster.

The actress and Buktenica have reconciled their differences. DeWitt said that she desired freedom, to be responsible for her own life, to learn from her mistakes, and to meet the goals she set for herself.

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