‘Three’s Company’: John Ritter Explained Why He Was ‘Terrified’ All the Time of People, Life

by Suzanne Halliburton

Three’s Company star John Ritter always was honest about the little dash of anxiety that bubbled through this life.

He first mentioned it publicly in an interview with TV Guide in 1978. America was in love with him as Jack Tripper, the guy pretending to be gay so he could live with two beautiful women on Three’s Company. The headline on the article was a direct quote from Ritter: “I am terrified … all the time.”

In 1980, Ritter was doing publicity for Three’s Company and a new movie, Hero at Large. He sat down with Bobbie Wygant, an entertainment reporter for a TV station in Dallas. And she brought up his quote from two years before with TV Guide.

Yes, John Ritter, the charming TV star with the famous parents, still was terrified. He’d been married for three years and his wife was a month away from giving birth to his son, Jason. His description of fear almost seems part of a comedy routine, but there was more to it.

Three’s Company Star Said He Learned Karate Out of Fear

“See, I really have experienced that I am absolutely terrified of everything and everyone at all times,” Ritter said. “You, for example, (could) hurt me, hurt my feelings, attack me. So for that fact, I learned karate in the early 70s to ward you off if you start to scratch me or something. I know how to do that (and) I learned that out of fear.

“I learned how to be funny out of fear,” the Three’s Company star said. “All of that, fear, out of something trying to hurt me. What the joke is, what the cosmic joke is, I know that everyone is terrified of me, too. And everyone is, come on, let’s all admit it, we’re all scared. They all admit it. We’re all a little scared.

“We’re all going through life (looking) over our left shoulder . The specter of death … we’re all afraid to die, in the bigger sense. We’re all a little afraid when we get up in the morning if we’re going to make it. But we mask that with our armor and out stuff like that.

“Well, I just come right out and say hey, ‘I’ve got nothing to hide.’ I’m scared to die, I’m scared to live. But all of that aside, it can be a ball. You can have love and have friends and have meaning to your life. But underneath it there’s a little guy going “I don’t think I can make it.”

Ritter Might’ve Known He’d Die Young

Three’s Company entertained audiences from 1977-84. Ritter also starred in the comedy 8 Simple Rules to Date My Teenage Daughter.

Who knows, maybe Ritter knew he had only a limited time in this world so he was up front about something like living with fear. He died Sept. 11, 2003 of an aortic dissection. But he’d been on set that morning, living his life and making people laugh.