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John Ritter's death stuns ABC, sitcom's co-stars

Saturday, September 13, 2003

By Dave Mason, Scripps Howard News Service

Kaley Cuoco wasn't ready to talk about John Ritter.

The 17-year-old actress plays Bridget, the older daughter of Paul Hennessy (Ritter), on the ABC sitcom "8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter."

Ritter's death Thursday from a heart problem left a network in mourning and a cast speechless. The 54-year-old star, who found fame and fortune in the late 1970s on "Three's Company," was working on the set of his new series when he fell ill. He later died at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Los Angeles.

 
 

Visit a special online guest book where you can read some of the public's tributes to John Ritter and add your own remembrances.

   
 

Gary Cuoco, Kaley Cuoco's father, said yesterday she was too upset to take any calls.

"He was a very close friend. He cared very much about her, and the feeling was mutual," he said. "He was almost like a second father."

In an interview last May, Kaley Cuoco said everything about the sitcom, including her friendship with Ritter, exceeded her expectations.

She said Ritter acted like a father to her even when the cameras weren't rolling.

Cuoco said that just like her real-life parents, Ritter would express concern about her clothes. He would tell her to wear a jacket if he didn't think her clothes were enough to cover her up.

"John's very protective of me; he's like a second father," she said in May, adding that Ritter would call her to see how she was doing. "And he's a comedic genius."

One episode of "8 Simple Rules" last season spoofed "Three's Company," the 1977-84 ABC sitcom that made Ritter famous. Paul dreamed about the show, and in the dream, Ritter played Mr. Roper, the landlord. Cuoco played Chrissy Snow, Suzanne Somer's character.

Cuoco said she felt like she was working every day with Jack Tripper, the "Three's Company" character whom Ritter played on "Three's Company."

In that role and others, Ritter showed his knack for characterizations and physical comedy, including his wacky pratfalls.

At an ABC press party last winter in Hollywood, Ritter entertained friends and other stars who stood around him in a large circle, laughing at his jokes and stories.

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