According to Suzanne Somers, her salary negotiations with ABC, which began with a request for equal pay to that of her Three’s Company co-star John Ritter, got very ugly very quickly.
The network, the blonde actor said, was unwilling to accede and instead shortened her on-screen time and kept her away from her cast mates Joyce DeWitt and John Ritter in a bizarre fashion.
Somers’ request for a pay bump was declined
Debuting on ABC in 1977, Three’s Company was an instant hit. Viewers adored the banter and physical comedy between John Ritter as Jack Tripper, Joyce DeWitt as Janet Wood and Somers as Chrissy Snow.
Soon, Somers’ contract was up and she asked for more money as the comedy’s success showed no sign of slowing down. The actor felt her pay should be equal to that of her male co-star Ritter who was being paid $150,000 per episode. Somers was receiving $30,000 per show. ABC’s suits wouldn’t acquiesce and refused to increase her pay by more than $5,000.
As Somers told Closer Weekly in 2019, she would have undoubtedly handled the experience differently had it happened today.
“They wanted to make me an example, the thinking being that if they could fire Chrissy Snow, every other woman on television beware,” Somers said. “In today’s world, I could have sued their ass and owned ABC, but at the time there were no movements or anything. But I decided not to be a victim.”
The ‘side set’ created to isolate Somers from her co-stars
At the worst of her pay dispute with ABC, after they had made it clear she would not be paid the same as Ritter, Somers soon found out ABC was not going to make her exit from the show easy.
“What [ABC] did do was force me to finish out the year,” she told the Archive of American Television in 2009. “They diminished me to a minute at the end. They built a little side set, it was crazy what they did.”
Not only did ABC keep Somers from her former cast mates by way of the side set but they had a security guard escort her there every day to ensure Somers spoke to no one.
“They would have a police guard come meet me at the back door,” she continued. “Walk me in, I was not allowed to see anybody from the original show, only the wardrobe guy who would bring me a pair of shorts and something. My set was a chair and a phone and a lamp and one camera.
“I would speak to myself on the phone and go, ‘I’m so sorry, I know, she’s still sick…wish I could be there.’ I did that to finish out the season,” she added. “I would usually leave in tears because it felt like I was being punished. Like I was a bad girl, brought up all of my old feelings of low self-worth. It was just a terrible time.”
Her ‘Three’s Company’ co-stars ostracized her – but they eventually reconciled
Along with enduring ABC’s rejection of her request, Somers had to suffer her co-stars’ resentment of her. She said in her 2009 interview, “I have a heartache, it’s terrible, I still have a heartache that it ended so badly, that Joyce DeWitt to this day doesn’t talk to me.”
Somers and DeWitt finally did talk again in 2012 on Somers’ web series Breaking Through. As for John Ritter, Somers told Fox News in 2017 that the actor, who died in 2003, called her a week before his death to invite her to appear on his ABC comedy 8 Simple Rules.
“[Ritter] said, ‘I’m doing a show called 8 Simple Rules and there’s a dream sequence and I want to have a nightmare, and in my nightmare, you… are in the dream.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I’d love to work with you again, but… This isn’t the way I want to come back, a nightmare. Really?’”