As news surfaced that Cindy Williams, star of American Graffiti and Laverne and Shirley, passed away, celebrities everywhere are speaking up about how kind and passionate of a person she was. Her former co-stars, including Ron Howard, spoke on a much more personal level, having worked with her numerous times.
Howard co-starred as the lead in American Graffiti while Williams played his love interest in which Ron had never done a kissing scene before shooting this film. Fortunately, he had Cindy there to calm his nerves.
“In American Graffiti, she was 24 and I was 18, and I had my first kissing scenes with her,” Ron told People, “but they weren’t very romantic because she knew that she had this nervous kid on her hands and she had to take charge of the situation.
“And so she was like, ‘Here’s how we got to kiss for the camera. Here’s what we have to do,’” he explained. “She’s always had almost a big sister energy around me.”
Ron and Cindy continued a professional relationship together following the 1973 film.
“We wound up over a period of about five years working together a lot, being cast in other comedies, in dramas,” Ron continued. “The Laverne & Shirley spinoff from Happy Days, it was so interesting. We had terrific acting chemistry, but she always treated me like the kid.
Nothing but endearing words have been spoken about Cindy since her passing last Wednesday. Her children released a statement confirming their mother’s death.
“The passing of our kind, hilarious mother, Cindy Williams, has brought us insurmountable sadness that could never truly be expressed,” the statement read. “Knowing and loving her has been our joy and privilege. She was one of a kind, beautiful, generous and possessed a brilliant sense of humor and a glittering spirit that everyone loved. We have always been, and will remain, SO proud of her for many things…her lifelong mission to rescue animals, her prolific artistry, her faith, and most of all, her ability to make the world laugh!
“May that laughter continue in everyone,” they concluded, “because she would want that. Thank you for loving our Mom, she loved you too.”
Cindy died following a short illness. And while Howard worked with her many times early in his career, it had been a while since he’d seen the late Hollywood star.
“It was a shocker to hear of Cindy’s passing,” Ron told ET. “I remember her life spark and her energy. I saw her last year in Palm Springs at an event and still saw that sparkle in her eyes. It’s so hard to imagine that she’s gone.”
Ron talked with People about the same event in Palm Springs, saying he hadn’t seen Cindy for “years and years”.
“I was just so taken by how her intelligence, energy, and sense of humor…was still in high gear.”
Although many will remember her most from American Graffiti or Laverne and Shirley, Ron encourages people to think of her as a “character actress” who, in his eyes, “loved her work and her art and gave it everything that she had, and she also always found her way to put her stamp on what she was doing. She really was dedicated creatively, and I took notice of that and tried to draw inspiration from it.
“I think she’d like to be remembered for the variety of roles that she played,” he continued. “Even though she was the most famous for Shirley…she also thought of herself as a character actress. I think she’d want people to think of her in that way.”
Ron wasn’t alone in speaking about Cindy. Many of her former co-stars have released their own statements regarding the passing of their once close colleague.
Michael McKean, who played Lenny on Laverne and Shirley, shared his grief with ET.
“Cindy was so talented and so game. When she and Penny [Marshall] were cooking there’s no one who could touch them. She was a truly kind woman with a big heart and I’m very sad she’s gone.”
Since the TV show had been a spin-off of Happy Days, Henry Winkler had the pleasure of meeting Cindy while on set, and he reflected on the first time they crossed paths.
“Cindy has been my friend and professional colleague since I met her on the set of Happy Days in 1975,” the Fonz recalled. “Not once have I ever been in her presence when she wasn’t gracious, thoughtful and kind. Cindy’s talent was limitless. There was not a genre she could not conquer. I am so glad I knew her.”
Cindy will be dearly missed as she is survived by her two children, Emily and Zachary.