Ann Wedgeworth, prominently known for her role of Lana Shields on the ABC sitcom Three’s Company, died Thursday in New York following a long illness. She was 83.
Dianna Martin, one of Wedgeworth’s daughters, confirmed the news to The Hollywood Reporter on Saturday. Wedgeworth passed away in a nursing home surrounded by her family. She is survived by Martin, husband Ernie Martin, and daughter Danae Torn.
Over the course of her extended career, the actress enjoyed roles across television, film, and theater. Wedgeworth made her Broadway debut in 1958’s Make a Million, which she followed up with off-Broadway and Broadway plays, including Period of Adjustment, Blues for Mister Charlie, and A Lie of the Mind. She won a Tony award for her performance in Neil Simon’s Chapter Two.
Martin once completed the sentence, “There’s no one like me because…” for her second-grade teacher by saying, “…because my mom’s on Three’s Company!” After debuting on the sitcom in 1979, Wedgeworth’s part was slowly whittled away because the producers didn’t think it was working — unbeknownst to her. Then they abruptly dropped her option.
“It was horrifying,” she told PEOPLE in a 1980 interview. “I had no warning or explanation. Suddenly everyone was very cold to me. I went to tell John [Ritter] goodbye, and he was shocked — no one had told him. Joyce DeWitt, at least, called to say something to me about it.”
Prior to her stint on Three’s Company, Wedgeworth notably appeared opposite Gene Hackman and Al Pacino in 1973’s Scarecrow. Other credits include Marleen Elldridge in CBS’ Evening Standard, Aunt Fern in Steel Magnolias, and Mrs. Howard in Dan Ireland’s The Whole Wide World.