Emmy-award winning actor and acclaimed star John Ritter died last Thursday due to an undiagnosed heart problem.
While filming the ABC series, 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter, Ritter collapsed on set. He was rushed to Providence St. Joseph Hospital in Burbank, CA to undergo immediate dissection of his aorta.
He died hours later at the age of 54.
“It’s like there is a big tear in the world’s heart,” friend and actor Henry Winkler told Entertainment Tonight in his September 12 interview. “He was extraordinary in every aspect of his life, especially as a father. His children were there at every moment of his life.”
Ritter’s youngest child, Stella, celebrated her fifth birthday on the day of this death. He would have turned 55 on September 17.
Actress Suzanne Somers remembers her former Three’s Company co-star as one of the finest physical comedy actors she has even known.
Somers told Larry King on a phone interview, “I loved John Ritter. He was like playing ping-pong with a great player, he’d just bang the ball and you better be fast to get it. And he also had a great joy.”
Ritter was a graduate of Hollywood High School. He later worked towards his psychology degree at the University of Southern California. Inspired by his first drama class, Ritter quickly changed majors and graduated with a degree in drama.
“I was the class clown, but I was also student body president in high school,” he told The Associated Press in a 1992 interview. “I had my serious side — I idolized Bobby Kennedy, he was my role model. But so was Jerry Lewis.”
In the 1970s, Ritter took on many small roles on television in such shows as The Walton’s and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. He got his big break with Three’s Company, which aired from 1977-1984.
Ritter played Jack Tripper, the goofy, yet handsome man who pretended to be gay to legitimize sharing an apartment with two beautiful women. The show earned Ritter an Emmy and a Golden Globe.
Although comically gifted, Ritter did not shy away from serious roles. In 1996, he starred opposite Billy Bob Thorton in Sling Blade. He continued guest starring on television shows like Felicity and Ally McBeal.
His role in Ally McBeal earned Ritter an Emmy nomination in 1999.
Last year marked Ritter’s return to primetime television in his first starring role in over 25 years. With the top-rated ABC comedy of the 2002-2003 season, 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter, Ritter was actively working till his unexpected demise.
Ritter is survived by his wife, Amy Yasbeck, son, actor Jason Ritter and three other children.
Kevin Nolty can be reached at email@example.com.