‘Three’s Company’: Supporting Star Blamed Suzanne Somers’ Husband for Contract Failure, Departure

by Jennifer Shea

“Three’s Company” stars John Ritter, Joyce DeWitt and Suzanne Somers had great chemistry onscreen. Behind the scenes, however, there was more drama. 

How Suzanne Somers Upended ‘Three’s Company’

In 1980, Somers pushed ABC executives to raise her salary. She wanted what Ritter got, according to Biography.com.

“The show’s response was, ‘Who do you think you are?’” Somers told People. “They said, ‘John Ritter is the star.’”

That decision led to her firing by ABC.

Somers didn’t know when she entered into contract negotiations that ABC executives had just agreed to a deal with “Laverne & Shirley” stars Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams. It had them paying the pair more than they wanted to. And they had to compensate for that.

“They decided that they needed to make an example of female actresses so that no other woman would ask to be paid what men were making,” Somers’ husband Alan Hamel told People.

Somers’ Co-Star Blames Hamel

Later on, co-star Richard Kline, who played the trio’s flirty neighbor Larry, spoke to Closer Weekly about Somers’ salary dispute. 

“Her management, better known as her husband, Alan Hamel, played the wrong hand in negotiations,” he said. “That was unfortunate.”

Hamel is a former television producer, so he was no neophyte when it came to contract negotiations. Still, he and Somers had no idea at the time of the “Laverne & Shirley” deal that preceded their negotiations.

After Somers got fired from “Three’s Company,” she still had to finish filming Season 5 of the show. But she was subject to tight security restrictions for the remainder of the season.

“So what they did do was force me to finish out the year, but diminish me to a minute,” Somers said in a 2009 Academy of Television Arts and Sciences interview. “They built this little side set — it was crazy what they did. They would have a police guard come meet me at the back door, walk me in. I was not allowed to see anybody from the original show, only the wardrobe guy, who would bring me a pair of shorts and something.”

Somers remembers it as “a terrible time” – and after the season ended, she went from being the most in-demand actress in Hollywood to getting no press coverage whatsoever. 

But Somers bounced back over the years, and she and Hamel are still happily married.