Ann Wedgeworth, a star of ‘Three’s Company,’ is dead at 83

Tony Award-winning actress and former soap opera star Ann Wedgeworth died Thursday at the age of 83, according to multiple reports.

Wedgeworth, who also starred in “Three’s Company” and “Evening Shade,” died in New York in a nursing home after a long illness, the Hollywood Reporter and Variety reported. She was surrounded by her family.

Wedgeworth became known to TV viewers for her work on soap operas including “The Edge of Night” and “Another World.”  But it was on “Three’s Company” where she encountered a mass audience, appearing as Lana Shields for a portion of the 1979-80 season. Shields played an older woman  who was obsessed with Jack Tripper, played by John Ritter. But Tripper repeatedly spurned her advances, even as she rejected those of landlord Ralph Furley, played by Don Knotts.

Her character was included in the show’s opening credits. Wedgeworth’s role withered away, as producers concluded it wasn’t working out.

“It was horrifying,” she said, according to EW, quoting a 1980 interview she gave People magazine. “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.”

Wedgeworth went on to play Merleen Elldridge on “Evening Shade.” She played the wife of the doctor in the small town of Evening Shade. The show, which ran from 1990 to 1994,  also featured Burt Reynolds and Marilu Henner.

She also won a Tony Award in 1978 for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play for her role in “Chapter Two.”

Wedgeworth married actor Rip Torn from 1955 to 1961 and later married acting coach, Ernest Martin in 1970.

Wedgeworth is survived by her husband, her two daughters and stepsons Michael Martin and Greg Martin.