Most people know John Ritter for playing Jack Tripper on the classic sitcom “Three’s Company.” But many may be surprised to learn that Ritter only landed the role on the recommendation of legendary TV executive Ethel Winant.
That’s right. When the show was deliberating on who to cast, producer Ted Bergmann crossed paths with Ethel Winant, who suggested Ritter for the role. Why? Because he was the next Jack Lemmon, of course.
In an interview with the Archive of American Television in 2004, late “Three’s Company” producer, Ted Bergmann, talked about how the casting decision was made.
“I was at this trustees meeting of the Academy and I was sitting next to Ethel Winant,” Bergmann said. “And she said ‘What are you doing out here?’ and I said ‘I’m putting together a pilot for ABC’ of a show and I explained the show to her. She said ‘Well who are you considering for the lead role?’ I said ‘Well, we’ve got three people that we’re considering’ and I told her who they were. And she said ‘If you don’t take John Ritter, you’re crazy.'”
‘Three’s Company’ Star Was Chosen for Role Because of One Opinion
So the “Three’s Company” producers had narrowed the role of Jack Tripper down to three options. And all it took to make the decision was Ethel Winant’s suggestion.
After the conversation Bergmann had with Ethel, the producer went to his colleagues and said “We got our man. We’re gonna do John Ritter.” Naturally, they wanted to know how he came to this conclusion. When they asked Bergmann why, his response was simple.
“Ethel Winant says he’s the next Jack Lemmon,” he said.
They weren’t disappointed with their decision. In the interview, Bergmann raved about how talented John Ritter was and how perfect he was for the role. And for those who don’t know, Jack Lemmon was a two-time Oscar-winning actor, known for films like “12 Angry Men” and “Glengarry Glen Ross.”
“Fantastic. Not only his talent but his personality. I mean he was just wonderful. Never a problem,” Bergmann said of Ritter in 2004. “Played the role beautifully.”
The “Three’s Company” producer’s praise went beyond comparisons to Jack Lemmon, however. Lemmon was an incredibly talented actor in his own right, of course. But Bergmann likened John Ritter’s talent for comedy to the likes of Buster Keaton. And Keaton is considered one of the greatest comedic minds of all time.