When Cindy Williams and the late Penny Marshall began starring as Shirley Feeney and Laverne DeFazio, respectively, on the beloved ABC sitcom Laverne & Shirley back in the mid-1970s, the two actresses weren’t the best of friends but their life-long relationship blossomed over time.
“We went through everything — friendship, not friendship. We could be adversarial, and then we would be friends again,” Cindy, 71, once recalled of working with Penny in Closer Weekly‘s latest issue, on newsstands now. “But we always knew how to make the audience laugh. We knew if it made us laugh out loud, the audience would laugh, too.”
Despite their differences, the two always had great chemistry onscreen. “We both thought in cartoon terms when it came to comedy. We were both agile and expressed ourselves physically. We got each other from the get-go,” Cindy said.
“We had so much fun with so many creative people inventing all the time,” Cindy once gushed of working on Laverne & Shirley for eight seasons from 1976 until 1983. “It was a great, grueling time because it was such hard work, and we never sat down. We were constantly moving.”
Eddie Mekka, who played their platonic pal Carmine “The Big Ragoo” Ragusa, certainly noticed the duo’s impressive work ethics. “Cindy and Penny wore many hats. They had to make their scripts work. They had a lot of pressure on them — when we all went home, they would stay late to write and rehearse. We’d go home to our lives and come back the next day at 10 o’clock, and they would’ve been there since 1 or 2 in the morning,” the 66-year-old star once said.
Their costar Michael McKean, who portrayed Lenny Kosnowski on the series, remembered Cindy and Penny fondly as well. “It was nice to see these two girls who were so different yet had each other’s backs,” Michael, 71, said of the ladies.
Before she became a big-time Hollywood director later in her career, Penny started stepping behind the camera on Laverne & Shirley. “I’ve worked with many directors, and Penny was my favorite,” Leslie Easterbrook, who played Laverne and Shirley’s neighbor, Rhonda Lee, recalled. Actress Carole Ita White, who played the duo’s longtime enemy Big Rosie, added, “You couldn’t tell Penny what to do. Nothing was gonna stop her.”
Sadly, the Laverne & Shirley cast lost Penny in December 2018 when the actress passed away at age 75 due to complications from diabetes. “In the end, Penny was one of my dearest friends,” Cindy once said. “I would go over to her house and watch TV, and we would make the same comments at the same time about the shows.”
“There wouldn’t have been a show without Penny,” Cindy continued. “I can’t think of anyone else who had that kind of timing. We could read each other’s minds. She was fabulous — one in a million.”
For more on Cindy Williams and Penny Marshall, pick up the latest issue of Closer Weekly, on newsstands now — and be sure to sign up for our newsletter for more exclusive news!