Actress Suzanne Somers had a good reason for leaving “Three’s Company,” as far as she was concerned. The Chrissy actress wanted to be paid what male TV stars of her era were making. And she wasn’t backing down.
In a Television Academy Foundation interview conducted in July of 2009 in Malibu, California, Somers shared the sequence of events that led to her leaving the show back in 1980.
“And then it was year six [of the show] and [I said], ‘My contract is now up,’” Somers recalled. “‘I want you to pay me what you’re paying the men. I have the highest demographics of all women in television, 18-49’ – you can see I’d smartened up by this point, now six years into success. And made good money. You just learn stuff about the business.”
‘Three’s Company’ Star Somers Pushed for More Money
“Why are all the men getting ten times more than me? Or any of the women on television?” Somers said she wondered. She didn’t know then how much co-star John Ritter was making. But she knew the male stars on television were averaging $150,000 a week.
At the end of the last season before her contract was up, Somers had said to co-stars Ritter and Joyce DeWitt, who had already renegotiated their contracts, “Mine’s up right before the start of the season. I’m gonna ask for big money and a piece of the back end. And if you two back me up… we’ll all get it. So I’ll be the patsy.”
Then Somers’ husband, Alan Hamel, and her lawyer went in to negotiate with the ABC lawyer and “Three’s Company” producer Mickey Ross. According to Somers, when they got there, the ABC lawyer turned to her lawyer and said, “You got me last time, but you’re not gonna get me this time.” Her lawyer had also represented Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall in their contract negotiations. And ABC was paying more than it wanted to for them.
So Somers’ husband made her case: She’d been on the show for six years, had the highest demographics and had done hundreds of magazine covers, bringing lots of publicity to the show.
Somers said Ross then tossed his cigarette to the floor, stamped it out and growled, “You want me to share my blood with her?”
A Fateful Moment in TV History
“Yes,” Hamel replied.
“And at that moment, my career was over,” Somers said, laughing. “Done.”
“Never think that you are not replaceable,” she added. “Rule number one.”
Somers’ pay had already skyrocketed from $3,500 a week when she signed on to $30,000 a week as the show took off, according to Biography.com. But $150,000 a week and a piece of the back end was just a bridge too far for ABC.
Immediately after she left the show, Somers’ phone stopped ringing. She went from a publicity hound to a pariah in Hollywood. But the actress went on to reinvent herself as a fitness guru and beauty product entrepreneur, proving that there is a second act for some Hollywood celebrities.
Watch the Television Academy Foundation interview here: