BH Interview: 'Laverne & Shirley' Star Cindy Williams on the Morality Tales Told by Two Girls from Milwaukee

Cindy Williams says “Laverne & Shirley” was more than just the story of two best pals making their "dreams come true.”

Show creator Garry Marshall had something to say about that.

“Garry always had a little moral to the story … our characters were too greedy, or not patient enough, or not kind enough, or we didn’t have enough faith,” Williams tells Big Hollywood. “He would always touch on that.”

And if that meant the show’s characters didn’t thrive at the end of each episode, then so be it.

“The majority of the people don’t win the game show. We were two of those people,” she says.

It’s part of the reason “Laverne & Shirley” connected with the masses, and why the just-released “Laverne & Shirley: The Fifth Season” will likely move some product. Williams gave Shirley Feeney an innocence that contrasted beautifully with Penny Marshall's occasionally crude Laverne character. But Shirley was no dummy, and the duo's ability to suffer through disappointments, bad dates and those ill-timed appearances by Lenny and Squiggy (Michael McKean and David L. Lander) endeared them to the public then, and now.

The popular series’ fifth year saw the blue-collar cuties spend their last days in Milwaukee. Williams recalls both she and co-star Penny Marshall were against the change in locale. But the show's creator (and Penny Marshall's brother) held firm, saying it would bring new storyline possibilities to the show.

The chemistry between Williams and her co-star needed no such boost.

The pair began working together as writers before they were teamed on-screen for a memorable story arc on “Happy Days.” They made such an impact, ABC ordered up a spin-off series starring the twosome.

“We certainly had a lot of laughs when we were writing together,” she says. “I don’t have that chemistry with anybody else.”

Time hasn’t dulled their connection.

“We can walk into a room together, not having seen each other for 10 years, and we see the same thing at the same time and make the exact same comment on it,” says Williams, who recently reunited with Marshall and some of her “Laverne & Shirley colleagues for a TV Land special to air April 29.

That off-screen bond was tested by their different personalities. The duo suffered through the proverbial creative differences, Williams admits diplomatically, adding their disparate personal lives sometimes brought friction to their pairing. She insists once she and Marshall hit the sound stage “you couldn’t slip a playing card between us.”

Williams, 64, isn't willing to rest on her sitcom laurels. Later this year, she'll be seen in the film “Stealing Roses,” and she recently shot a Hallmark film and plans to do live theater with her former "Laverne & Shirley" co-star, Eddie Mekka.

The actress says she used to be recognized constantly for playing the adorable Shirley Feeney. Today's younger audiences care more about “iCarly” than workers at Shotz Brewery, she says without regret. But she isn’t bemoaning the passing of the pop culture baton, since older fans still reminisce about the series with her.

“They come up to me with the best sense of happiness and mirth,” she says. “It’s part of the fabric of my life.”

And why not? “Laverne & Shirley” wasn’t cynical, mean-spirited or edgy like much of today’s entertainment fare. It doesn’t have to be that way, Williams says. Today’s writers weave cynicism into their work, and the audience responds to what they’re given, she argues.

“Everybody is pining for something that is sympathetic and fun,” she says, adding NBC’s “The Office” comes closer to the old “Laverne & Shirley” vibe than most modern sitcoms.

If a studio remade “Laverne & Shirley,” it might be closer to “Sex and the City” than what Williams and Marshall made special years ago.

“We never used those words,” she says of what the show’s sexual innuendo suggested. "Everybody got it in their own image in their head … let them figure out what ‘eh eh eh eh’ is.”


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