Ron Howard Mourns 'American Graffiti' Co-Star Cindy Williams' Death (Exclusive)

Williams died at the age of 75 Wednesday in Los Angeles.

Ron Howard is remembering his longtime co-star and friend, Cindy Williams. Speaking to ET Monday, Howard said that the news of his American Graffiti co-star's death came as a shock.

"It was a shocker to hear of Cindy’s passing. I remember her life spark and her energy," the Thirteen Lives director shared. "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."

Howard also reflected on their working relationship, appearing alongside Williams in a number of roles, including American Graffiti, a role Williams taught a young Howard to kiss for as well as several guest appearances on the Happy Days spin-off, Laverne & Shirley, where he again played Williams' love interest.
"For a period of about four or five years, we were cast together in various projects, including The Migrants -- a dramatic TV movie -- in 1974, based on a play by Tennessee Williams. We had a certain chemistry together. When we did American Graffiti, she was 24 and I was 18, but we played boyfriend and girlfriend."
He continued, "Cindy wanted to be remembered for her range of characters that she created -- different tones and different styles. She admired Carol Burnett for these qualities. Cindy had so much talent and she settled for none of the 'Hollywood traffic' -- she just did her work."

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Williams died Wednesday, Jan. 25 following a short illness. Her family spokesperson, Liza Cranis, confirmed the news to ET Monday before sharing a statement from Williams' children, Emily and Zak Hudson.

"The passing of our kind, hilarious mother, Cindy Williams, has brought us insurmountable sadness that could never truly be expressed. 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," the statement read. "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, because she would want that. Thank you for loving our Mom, she loved you too," the statement continued.

Anson Williams, who played Potsie on Happy Days, also paid tribute to the late actress in a statement Monday, in which he reflected on the devastating loss.

"I am devastated. The only thing bigger than her talent was her heart. She walked the walk of kindness, a giver never a taker, a star who made everyone she touched a bigger star. Her television and film performances will entertain for years to come, but her love for people will be paid forward for generations to come," Williams shared. "Rest In Peace beautiful lady. I love you."

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Michael McKean, Williams' Laverne & Shirley co-star also shared a statement, telling ET, "Cindy was so talented and so game. When she and Penny 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."

Henry Winkler who also appeared on Laverne & Shirley, shared his thoughts on Williams' passing, looking back to their first meeting on the set of Happy Days.

"Cindy has been my friend and professional colleague since I met her on the set of Happy Days in 1975. Not once have I ever been in her presence when she wasn't gracious, thoughtful and kind," Winkler told ET in a statement. "Cindy's talent was limitless. There was not a genre she could not conquer. I am so glad I knew her."

Don Most, who played Ralph Malph on the sitcom also shared a statement.

"I am so devastated and incredibly saddened to hear of Cindy’s passing. I can’t stop crying. She was one of the sweetest people I knew. I loved working with her so very much," Most said. "I will miss her dearly."

As did producer, Bruce Kimmel, who worked with Williams on their upcoming Amazon Prime Video musical series, Sami.

"I've known her since we began at LACC in 1965, have loved her from the moment I laid eyes on her, and have had so many incredible adventures with her," Kimmel shared. "We were as close as close can be, from then until now. And I've been watching her constantly as we've been editing the web series we just did and wrapped only two months ago. I'm so grateful to have had her be such an important part of my life for close to sixty years. I will miss her like crazy, but I'm just so happy we got to work together one final time and I can't wait for the show to air - she was funny, charming, and brilliant right up to the end. I've never known anyone like her."

Williams' longtime friend, Suzanne Somers also released a statement to ET about her passing. "I'm shocked to hear of Cindy Williams passing. Hard to believe my vibrant friend won't be here anymore . so unexpected. I had no idea she was ill," the actress said. "Loved my time hanging in the trailer with her on the set of American Graffiti and then the fabulous Tuesday night lineup on ABC, Laverne and Shirley, Happy Days and Three's Company. We had good times together. RIP dear dear friend. Too soon. Love, Suzanne."



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