Actress Cindy Williams, best known for her role as Shirley in the hit ABC television show, Laverne & Shirley, has died in Los Angeles. She was 75.
The beloved actress was known for her bright smile and funny antics on the Happy Days spin-off series Laverne & Shirley, which ran from January 27, 1976, to May 10, 1983, on the Disney-owned ABC network. The popular sitcom starred Williams alongside Penny Marshall, who played Shirley Feeney and Laverne DeFazio, roommates and best friends who worked as bottle-cappers at the fictitious Shotz Brewery in the late 1950s in Milwaukee.
The show ran for eight seasons and received six Golden Globe nominations and one Emmy nomination.
But before her claim to fame as Shirley Feeney, Williams appeared in the George Lucas smash American Graffiti and The Conversation by Francis Ford Coppola.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Williams didn’t want the role for which she was cast in American Graffiti. She had her heart set on a different role. But after a phone call from Coppola himself, Williams said she changed her mind.
“I said, ‘This is not going to be fun. I’m going to cry during this whole 28-night shoot,’ and I did,” Williams explained during an interview. “But after two weeks, George Lucas took [the whole cast] into the editing bay, and he showed us a 20-minute assemblage of the film with music. I remember [castmate] Harrison Ford standing next to me and saying, ‘This is great.’”
Williams would go on to audition for the role of Princess Leia in George Lucas’s first Star Wars film, which debuted in 1977, but the role ultimately went to actress Carrie Fisher.
According to a statement from her family, Williams died on January 25 after a brief illness:
“The passing of our kind, hilarious mother, Cindy Williams, has brought us insurmountable sadness that could never truly be expressed,” reads the statement from her children, Emily and Zak Hudson, as relayed by a spokesperson for the family. “Knowing and loving her has been our joy and privilege. She was one of a kind, beautiful, generous, and possessed a brilliant sense of humor and a glittering spirit that everyone loved.”
Born Cynthia Jane Williams in Van Nuys, California, on August 22, 1947, the actress was the oldest of two daughters born to Frances and Beachard Williams. She and her family moved to the Dallas, Texas, area for a short time before moving back to California in 1958, at which time she lived in the San Fernando Valley.