Actress Cindy Williams has passed away at the age of 75. She was best known for playing Shirley in the Happy Days spin-off Laverne & Shirley, which ran for eight seasons on ABC. After that series wrapped in 1982, she starred in three TV movies for Disney (The Leftovers, Help Wanted: Kids, and Save the Dog) and also appeared in the Disney Channel series Just Like Family, a spin-off of Help Wanted: Kids that ran for one season. During this era, she did the ribbon cutting for Mickey’s Birthdayland at Walt Disney World, an area of the Magic Kingdom that is now home to Storybook Circus.
Born in Los Angeles in 1947, Cynthia Jane Williams started acting at a young age in church and school plays, majoring in theater at Los Angeles City College. Among her earliest film roles was playing Ron Howard’s love interest in American Graffiti, directed by George Lucas. She was also a skilled writer, first working with Penny Marshall in the writer's room at Francis Ford Coppola’s Zoetrope company, which is how she wound up accompanying Penny for what was intended as a short appearance on Happy Days as a favor to her brother Gary Marshall. That one appearance proved so popular that the spin-off Laverne & Shirley was born.
Off-screen, Cindy Williams was the mother of Emily and Zachary, both born during her marriage to Bill Hudson. She enjoyed a vibrant stage career, including making her Broadway debut in 2007 as Mrs. Tottendale in The Drowsy Chaperone. Her memoir, Shirley, I Jest!, was published in 2014.
Our hearts go out to Cindy Williams’ family, friends, and fans during this difficult time.