Ritter, who starred as the goofy Jack Tripper in the hit ‘70s sitcom, passed away in 2003 at age 54 from an aortic dissection.
“[He was a] friend, comedy genius, all-around good guy, great father… there are just too many things that come to mind,” Kline, 75, recently told Closer Weekly. “Baseball fan, Beatles fan — huge Beatles fan. As a matter of fact, at his funeral, the cabaret singer Amanda McBroom sang The Beatles song ‘In My Life.’ Not a dry seat in the house.”
“Three’s Company,” which aired from 1976 until 1984, told the comical misadventures of two women and one man sharing an apartment. It also famously starred Joyce DeWitt, Suzanne Somers and Don Knotts, among others.
“The show was called ‘Three’s Company,’ but it might as well have been called ‘The John Ritter Show’ because, I mean, he drove the physical comedy,” Kline told the outlet. “He was the star of the show no matter how many blondes came and went. Through the years, people who have worked on that show – that I may have run into or read in print – said what a friendly set it was. And the reason it was a friendly set is that there was no egomaniac at the top. John was very gracious to everyone on the show, and that really burnished his reputation.”
Kline acknowledged Somers, who starred as Chrissy Snow, endured difficulty with contract negotiations, which ultimately led to her removal from the show. However, he insisted that the off-camera setback wasn’t caused by the relationships formed on set.
“That’s a separate issue as far as I’m concerned,” said Kline. “That’s an employment issue that had nothing to do with the relationships on or off the set, really. I mean, during the height of the crisis, yeah, of course, it affected the relationships. But John was known for his charity work as well with the Cerebral Palsy Foundation… He just had this great persona of being a generally outgoing, down to earth guy. You never got any sense of massive ego with John. At least not when I was with him.”
Kline said after “Three’s Company” came to an end, the cast went their separate ways. But with time, something completely changed.
“Later, much later actually, about a year or two before he passed, we sort of reconnected,” he explained. “I mean, when you’re on a show for eight years, five days a week, you see a lot of that person and they have their own lives…. My last encounter with John was he and I, and his brother Tom, [we] went to a Dodgers game in August before the September that he passed. And we had a great time. He also came to see me in a showdown in the Pacific Palisades, which I was quite thrilled about. It was a schlepp from Los Angeles down to the Palisades, but he did it. And we had a great visit. But, overall, we were pretty much ‘set pals.’”
And despite the years that had passed, Kline said Ritter always remained the same.
“He just put on some weight and grew a beard, but other than that, he was the same John,” Kline told the outlet. “I mean, I visited him on the set of ‘Eight Simple Rules.’ While I was there, he introduced me to the audience and then he took me back to his dressing room, where oddly enough, he was being visited by Cybill Shepherd and Peter Bogdanovich [with whom he had worked on the feature film ‘They All Laughed.’] But he was the same John.”
"He was just the all-American boy,” continued Kline. “The guy you would want, if you were a mother, to marry your daughter. The guy you would want on your softball team. The guy you’d want to go with if you were into hunting and fishing. Because, physically, if you look at him, he looked like the all-American guy... He was a handsome, funny dude. And he emanated goodwill. If you were to look at his resume, I think you’d see that he never played a villain-villain. In 'Sling Blade' it was a totally out of the box character that he played, and he was in a lot of romantic movies of the week, but nothing where he was a killer. Because you couldn’t buy John Ritter as a killer. Or a criminal.”
Back in 2017, Somers told Fox News she was shocked when Ritter unexpectedly reached out to her a month before his sudden death. Since she was fired by ABC in 1982, after she asked for a pay hike, Somers never heard from any of her co-stars, including Ritter. But that all change when she received a surprise phone call from Ritter while she was getting her hair done at a beauty parlor.
“I go to the phone. I said, ‘John?’” Somers told Fox News. “He said, ‘Hey babe,’ and I knew his voice right away. And then he said, ‘I forgive you.’ I had a moment of, ‘Uh, you forgive me?’ And then I thought, ‘Be the grown-up.’ And so I said, ‘Thanks.’
"And he said, ‘I’m doing a show called ‘Eight Simple Rules’ and there’s a dream sequence and I want to have a nightmare, and in my nightmare, you... are in the dream.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I’d love to work with you again, but… This isn’t the way I want to come back, a nightmare. Really?’”
Their brief conversation would spark a possible collaboration that never came to be.
“I said, ‘Why don’t we find an actual project?’” said Somers. “‘Why don’t we do something together?’ He said, ‘All right. That’s a good idea. I’ll look.’ I said, ‘I’ll look.’ And a month later, he died. So there was a resolution, which feels good. We probably would’ve found a project, which would’ve worked. I always thought Jack Tripper should’ve married Chrissy Snow anyway and that should be the spin-off. I’m glad I had that resolution with him. Really glad.”