Cindy Williams loved playing the role of Shirley on Laverne & Shirley
Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall were surprised when Laverne & Shirley became one of the most-watched TV series in the country.
Cindy Williams played the role of Shirley Feeney on the hit '70s sitcom, Laverne & Shirley. She was the second half to one of TV's most iconic comedy duos. Williams brought her own genuine energy and uniqueness to the character, which helped make the spin-off sitcom a hit.
Laverne & Shirley was the Happy Days spin-off series, which aired at the same time Happy Days was on TV. The success of Laverne & Shirley came as a surprise to many, including Penny Marshall (Laverne) and Williams. Nonetheless, it was the second most-watched TV show in the country at one point in time.
In a 1976 interview with The Fresno Bee, Williams talked about how she was able to make Shirley one of the most likeable characters on a TV series.
"I watch the show myself. It makes me laugh," she said. "Sometimes, I just forget it's me and Penny up there and just laugh out loud and that's what it's all about. I know it's a dumb show. It really is. It's just fun, it's just for fun, but you have to exhaust yourself to make it fun for the audience."
According to the interview, Williams went to college in Los Angeles before taking acting classes in New York. She was in only a few notable roles before taking Laverne & Shirley, but the series would turn into an overnight success story. And Williams would become popular too.
"They say I live in a mansion in Beverly Hills," she said. "I do, but it's two and a half rooms on one wing I rent from some friends. Listen, television is hard work. It's 10 times harder than movies. But, on the other hand, it really is fun and it really is great, as great as everyone thinks it is."
Television was hard work, but Williams worked harder.
In a 1976 interview with Corpus Christi Times, both Penny Marshall and Williams recalled what it was like during the Laverne & Shirley season premiere.
"The audience was half asleep and me and this other girl came on, with 14 pages to do, they didn't know who the heck we were, and it got laughs," Marshall said.
"We were terrified, I mean we were terrified, either direction it might take," Williams said. "We were certain we were going to go into the toilet."
Both Marshall and Williams gave the series 13 weeks before it would get cancelled. But something amazing happened.
"The phenomena of that kind of popularity where you're before 50 million people one night each week, it's something you dream about when you have inklings of becoming an actress," Williams said.