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Cindy Williams remembers 'Laverne & Shirley' co-star Penny Marshall: 'One in a million'

Cindy Williams, who starred as Shirley to Penny Marshall's Laverne on "Laverne & Shirley," had an up-and-down relationship with her co-star, but the two reconciled in the end.
/ Source: TODAY

Cindy Williams, who starred as Shirley opposite Penny Marshall's Laverne on "Laverne & Shirley," has issued a heartfelt statement over the death of her co-star, who died at age 75 on Monday.

Cindy Williams about the death of Penny Marshall
"Laverne & Shirley" co-stars Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams in Burbank, California in 2012Getty Images

"What an extraordinary loss. My good friend, Penny Marshall is gone — one in a million," she told TODAY in the statement, which is one of many from Marshall's peers and friends. "Utterly unique, a truly great talent. And, oh what fun we had! Can't describe how I'll miss her."

"I Love You, Partner," she later tweeted Wednesday afternoon.

Williams, 71, and Marshall made up a terrific team on the "Happy Days" spinoff sitcom, which ran from 1976-83. She played a more earnest, wide-eyed character, paired with the more cynical Laverne, and the two were comedy gold. For years, we watched them dance down a Milwaukee street singing "Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated," hanging out with their pals Lenny and Squiggy, and getting into all kinds of single gal scrapes.

But it wasn't all laughter; in "Happier Days: Paramount Television's Classic Sitcoms, 1974-1984," author Marley Brant wrote that early on Williams felt her character was getting slighted, and walked off the set. She told TV Guide in 1977 that Laverne's character was getting all the attention.Clearly that got resolved, but ultimately Williams left the show before its run ended, in 1982. She'd become pregnant, and was in the process of signing her latest contract when she learned she'd have to turn up for work on her due date.

Cindy Williams about the death of Penny Marshall
Williams and Marshall in "Laverne and Shirley."Getty Images

"I thought I was going to come back and they'd hide (my baby bump) behind benches, couches, pillows, and that wasn't it," she told TODAY's Savannah Guthrie in 2015, while promoting her new book, "Shirley, I Jest."

"And I said, 'You know, I can't sign this,'" she continued. "And it went back and forth and back and forth and it just never got worked out."

Cindy Williams about the death of Penny Marshall
Marshall and Williams at the first annual TV Land Awards in Hollywood, 2003.Reuters

The show went on without her, but ended the following year. And in the ensuing decades, the women became closer. In 2015, she told Entertainment Tonight, "We see each other all the time. We watch TV together. She likes to watch television in the Arctic, so she actually has jackets in her room."

We're glad to know they both got to do it their way, in the end.