It’s been 18 years since John Ritter died, but Kaley Cuoco still tears up whenever she talks about him. The two starred in 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter, but she said they were much more than colleagues.
“He treated me like his own daughter,” she told USA Today in August. “He treated all of us kids like that. It was pretty incredible.”
She said that dynamic began in their very first meeting. Cuoco showed up to rehearsal for the show in a revealing top and “too short” shorts.
“In comes John, and I go, ‘Hi, I’m playing your daughter,'” she remembered. “He goes, ‘Hold on,’ and he takes his jacket and puts it over me. He goes, ‘Never dress like that again.’ And right then, he was my dad.”
Cuoco told Entertainment Tonight that hours before he died, John Ritter came into her dressing room to tell her how she meant to him. She loved him too. She’s glad they got the chance to have that conversation before he died.
Doctors said Ritter died suddenly from a tear in his aorta. He was only 54. Cuoco remembers hearing the wails of grief as news of his death spread among the cast and crew of 8 Simple Rules.
“I just heard screaming, and I looked over, and I see all these people, and everyone is just hysterical,” said Cuoco, fighting back tears. “‘He’s gone. He’s gone.’ And I was like, ‘Who’s gone?'”
She said it was helpful to think about how Ritter would have handled such a loss.
“What would John do, you guys? How would he react to this?” she asked. “Probably with kindness, probably with a goofy smile.”
Henry Winkler: Friend Johh Ritter Lived His Life With Purpose
Henry Winkler was one of the last people to see John Ritter alive. The Happy Days actor was a guest-star on 8 Simple Rules that week, and they were catching up during some downtime at rehearsal. Winkler said he seemed normal at first, the same bubbly, caring friend he always was. But toward the end of their conversation, Ritter said he wasn’t feeling well and needed a break. He died a few hours later.
On television, Ritter made physical comedy seem effortless. But he was much more thoughtful than his characters made him seem, Winkler said. He cared deeply for this family and devoted his life to them and perfecting his craft.
“He was always on a search, looking for an answer, not carefree like so many people think. His was not a soul that skipped through the world,” Winkler said. “He was duty-bound — a quality that made him an incredible dad and husband.”
But he was as charming and charismatic as he appeared on screen.
“When he walked into a room, his utter Johnness just filled it up, every corner, every crevice,” Winkler wrote. “It was a life force, a joy, an energy that made you think ‘My God, how does he maintain it?’ He was so gigantic, smart, and perceptive. And so funny. There was so much funny in him that it was almost like his body couldn’t contain it.”