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Joyce DeWitt, Jack Tripper's Other 'Three's Company' Roommate, Then And Now

Entertainment | October 12, 2020

THREE'S COMPANY - "Chrissy's Cousin" - Airdate: December 16, 1980. (Photo by Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images)JOHN RITTER;JOYCE DEWITT

Joyce DeWitt is best-known for her role as the responsible, smart, and easy-going Janet Wood of the popular series Three’s Company. Although her character was overshadowed by the blonde, wackier Chrissy Snow (played by Suzanne Somers), DeWitt deserves more recognition for her unique beauty and her character’s intelligence, making her seem like the roommate regular people would probably enjoy hanging out with more.  

DeWitt Began Acting As A Teenager

DeWitt began her acting career at the young age of thirteen in Speedway, Indiana when she found a passion for theater. Before television, she worked in numerous plays both as an actress and a director, including Moliere’s "Tartuffe," Shakespeare’s "Macbeth," and Euripides’ "Medea."  She majored in theater, although it was tough to convince her father to allow it, at Ball State University and then moved to California to earn her master’s degree at UCLA in 1974. Breaking into TV acting was difficult, so she worked her a day job as a legal secretary while going to auditions, and eventually found success with ABC. ABC gave her a choice for two different comedy pilots, and after hastily reading both scripts she chose to star in Three’s Company. DeWitt chose wisely as the other show was never even sold.

Joyce DeWitt Comes To Life As Janet Wood On Three’s Company

Don Knotts and Joyce DeWitt on 'Three's Company.' Source: IMDB

On March 15, 1977, American viewers got to meet Joyce DeWitt when Three's Company premiered on ABC. The hit show would last from 1977 to 1984. The series revolves around the mischief that ensues around three roommates (two females and a male) living together in Santa Monica. Janet Wood and Chrissy Snow (played by Suzanne Somers) are on the hunt for a new roommate when their former moves out to get married. They eventually find Jack Tripper (played by John Ritter) passed out in their bathtub and, persuaded by his impressive cooking skills, they ask him to live with them. However, Jack has to pretend to be gay so their hardheaded landlord Stanley Roper (played by Norman Fell) will allow the three to live together, despite the separate genders. This living setup was the only way Jack would be able to afford the high rent of their Los Angeles apartment. 

Janet Wood Was The Ordinary Roommate, Compared To The Sexy Chrissy Snow

Source: IMDB

While the characters are best friends on the show, Janet Wood and Chrissy Snow were complete opposites. Janet is a down-to-Earth, intelligent woman aspiring to become a dancer who entertained audiences with witty humor throughout the series. Chrissy, on the other-hand, is a ditzy secretary who makes viewers laugh through some rather dumb antics of hers. Because of her typical California blonde appearance, Chrissy tended to steal the attention of the show. (Three's Company was lumped in with a group of ABC shows that traded on the sex appeal of young actresses, which an NBC executive dismissed as "Jiggle TV.")

However, Joyce DeWitt was still considered a hot commodity and her character’s personality made her the favorite character of many fans who were annoyed by Somers' dim-witted portrayal of Chrissy. In a '70s version of the Ginger-vs.-Mary Ann debate, some viewers found the "ordinary" Janet more appealing due to her intelligence and relatability and were less interested in the intentionally sexy Chrissy. Nonetheless, the one character's desirability and the other's plainness were written into the show, as Chrissy received all the dates and Janet suffered from low self-esteem and jealousy.

The Feud Between DeWitt And Somers

Source: IMDB

As the show’s popularity grew, Somers demanded a raise and ABC refused her request. Out of spite, Somers continuously called in sick and would not show up for tapings, appearing only sporadically during the fifth season and quitting Three’s Company completely after it ended. The show continued with replacement blondes for another three years after Somers' departure, first with Chrissy's "cousin" Cindy Snow (Jennilee Harrison, seasons 5-6) and then with Terri Alden (Priscilla Barnes, seasons 6-8). Her exit from the series was assumed to be from her desire for more attention and caused high tension between cast and crew, especially DeWitt. After working side-by-side for years as on-screen roommates, the two did not speak to each other for thirty years after the show ended. In 2012, the silence was broken when Somers began hosting a show called “Suzanne Somers Breaking Through” on the website Cafemom and eventually interviewed DeWitt as a special guest. The pair made up for lost time as they remembered their late TV roommate Ritter, who died in 2003, and discussed fun moments behind the scenes.

DeWitt Keeps Her Life Out Of The Public Eye

Following the end of Three’s Company, DeWitt continued to act, but remained low-key as she was never obsessed with publicity (similar to her character Janet). DeWitt kept her personal life very private and out of the tabloids to the point where it is unknown if she was ever even married. DeWitt appeared in an episode of Finder Of Lost Lives in 1984, but then took an acting break until 1991 when she played a part in "Noises Off" at Cherry County Playhouse in Michigan. Throughout the 2000s she worked on the television shows Hope Island, The Nick At Nite Holiday Special, and Call Of The Wild. Her most recent gig was playing Mother Superior in a stage production of "Nunsense" at New Jersey’s Huntington Hills Playhouse.

Tags: Jiggle TV | Joyce DeWitt | Ladies | Then And Now | Threes Company | TV In The 1970s

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Brian Gilmore

Writer

Brian Gilmore has been writing about and studying everything the Internet loves since 2006 and you've probably accidentally read something he's written before, and if you haven't, you're already reading this bio, so that's a good start. He's a culture junkie ranging from Internet culture, to world history, to listening to way more podcasts than the average human being ever should. He's obsessed with the social catalysts that have caused some of the biggest movements of the last few hundred years, including everything from their effect on the pop culture of the time, to where they end up ideologically. The idea that generations have a beginning and an end is fascinating to him, and the fact that their lasting effects at any given point of their evolution can steer the direction of the entire world lead to some interesting questions, and answers, about our current culture at any given time. He also loves retrofuturism, phobias, and the fact that every pop culture icon has at least a few photos of them that make you feel like you might know them. History isn't a collection of stories as much as it is humanity trying its hardest to maintain a grasp on lessons we've learned before as a species, and that is just way too interesting to not look into a few hours a week. Oh and he used to collect Pez dispensers.