Can you imagine no Suzanne Somers, ever, in Three’s Company? John Ritter once raved about another actress in the part.
Here’s a hint. She once was married to Burt Reynolds.
The book Come and Knock on Our Door: A Hers and Hers and His Guide to “Three’s Company offered some key details about how the show came into existence. And a big detail was about the casting of Chrissy Snow, the naive, ditzy roommate of Jack and Janet’s.
Ritter said Loni Anderson rocked her tryout.
“She was so beautiful, too savvy,” Ritter told the book’s writers of the Three’s Company audition process. “Nobody would believe she couldn’t live in her own apartment, that she would have to struggle to get the rent paid.
“But I don’t know why she didn’t get it. She did a great audition.”
Ritter also mentioned Joanna Kerns as auditioning for Chrissy. She missed out, too. But getting told no for Three’s Company didn’t hinder their careers. Maybe it enhanced them.
Ritter said he recommended Kerns for another part — as his love interest. Kerns went on to being a TV supermom on the 1980s classic sitcom, Growing Pains. She did appear in two episodes of Three’s Company, once in 1980, the other in 1983. Kerns grew up a classic California girl. She wanted to be like big sis Donna de Varona, who was a swimming star at the 1964 Olympics. Instead, Kerns tried gymnastics, then went into acting. She was 24 when Three’s Company was released.
Ritter said he became fast friends with Anderson after hanging out with her for “hours and hours and hours” during the audition. Three’s Company added her as a guest star in season two to play a love interest for Jack.
A year after Three’s Company premiered, Anderson won the role of Jennifer Marlowe, the sexy, smart receptionist for WKRP in Cincinnati. She received Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for playing Jennifer. And in her personal life, she married Burt Reynolds in 1988.
ABC hired Suzanne Somers to play Chrissy Snow in the third pilot of the show. Producers decided to recast after the first two Chrissys — Suzanne Zenor and Susan Lanier — didn’t work out well. The ABC president saw Somers on the Tonight Show and thought the20-year-old was right for the part.
Somers saw her career explode with the sitcom. So she demanded more money going into season five. The network fired her and then reimagined the third roommate. Jenilee Harrison came aboard to play Chrissy’s cousin, Cindy. Harrison didn’t have much acting experience. Rather, she was a cheerleader for the Los Angeles Rams. She switched to acting when she graduated from USC.
Then Teri Alden joined the cast as nurse Priscilla Barnes.
Three’s Company stayed a top 10 show for six of its eight seasons, no matter who was that third roommate. John Ritter, who became a TV superstar thanks to the role, died in 2003.