Inside Kaley Cuoco's Off-Screen Relationship With The Late John Ritter

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Alexandra Lozovschi

Now a household name with successes like The Big Bang Theory and The Flight Attendant under her belt, Kaley Cuoco was known as 8 Simple Rules' Bridget Hennessy back in the early 2000s. A teen then, the now 36-year-old Hollywood star played the daughter of John Ritter's Paul Hennessy, and it seems the late actor was just as much of a father figure behind the scenes as he was on camera.

While the ABC series ran for four years, between 2002 and 2005, the show was dealt a major blow when Ritter died of an aortic dissection on September 11, 2003, a few days before the second season began airing. His unexpected death occurred one week before his 55th birthday.

Since then, Cuoco has opened up about her relationship with Ritter on numerous occasions, commemorating the legendary actor on Instagram over the years.

Scroll for a look at the pair's close bond.

Father Figure

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Speaking about their relationship on ABC's Superstar docuseries, which featured an episode dedicated to Ritter's career and legacy, Cuoco recalled the first time she met the Three's Company and Problem Child legend, who had been a TV star for three decades prior to 8 Simple Rules.

Detailing how she wore a spaghetti strap top to a table read, Cuoco shared that Ritter took his dad role seriously from their very first encounter.

"I had on -- because I played a little hot 16-year-old, right? So I was dressed really sexy, thinking that’s what I should do, right? So John walks in, and he sees me, and I go, ‘Hi, I’m Kaley. I play your daughter.’ And he takes his jacket off and puts it over me and says, ‘Don’t ever dress like this again.' And right then, he was my dad."

Treated Her Like A Daughter

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Cuoco clarified that Ritter was just being playful and looking out for his TV daughter: "It was really joyful, like, he had a huge smile. It wasn’t negative. It was like, ‘My daughter doesn’t dress like this’ is what it was. So he covered me in the jacket and isn’t that the cutest?"

The Charmed and 7th Heaven alum, who confessed she still gets emotional when hearing Ritter's name come up in conversation, said on Superstar that "he treated me like his own daughter."

"He treated all of us kids like that. It was pretty incredible," Cuoco shared, per USA Today, adding: "I really love him so much... to this day."

Cuoco also said that Ritter was "like no one I've ever met," describing the late actor as "the most generous man, the most fun" on the docuseries.

The actress remembered her former co-star on the anniversary of his death in 2018, taking to Instagram to share a photo of her planting a kiss on Ritter's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

"15 years .. love you forever, John! #johnritter you still make me laugh every single day ☀️," she wrote in the caption.

See her post below!

Recalling Ritter's Passing

In the Superstar interview, Cuoco gave a tearful account of the moment she learned about Ritter's unexpected passing after he was rushed to hospital for falling ill on set.

"I just heard screaming, and I looked over and I see all these people and everyone is just hysterical," Cuoco recollected. "'He's gone. He's gone.' And I was like, 'Who's gone?'"

The actress revealed that Ritter asked to see her before being taken to the emergency room, sharing that he told her, "I want you to know I love you." Cuoco said he gave her a hug and that was the last time she saw him.

Cuoco shared an emotional tribute to her on-screen dad in September 2020, posting a goofy black-and-white snap of the two.

"Can’t believe you have been gone 17 years... thank you for continuing to me make me laugh every single day 💜💜 #johnritter," she captioned the upload.

See it below!

Life Lessons

Over the years, Cuoco has opened up about the impact that Ritter had on her career. Sharing the important life lessons and sage advice she got from the experienced actor during their time together, the HBO star told Variety last February: "The respect and the kindness and the joy he brought to that set, it was unbelievable."

Cuoco also revealed the things she learned from Ritter following their first-ever interaction when he taught the young actress that she didn't need to dress sexy for a part.

"He showed me what it meant to be a leader. He was so inclusive. Nobody was beneath him. He said hello to everyone and shook everyone’s hand. Every single day, it would take extra hours to shoot and get things done because John would be outside talking to fans and signing autographs," she told Emmy magazine.

Sharing she viewed Ritter as a role model, the actress said: "In the future, if I was that number one, I knew how I was going to run my set."

She added: "I am the example, just like John was the example. If I’m not ten minutes early, then I feel like I’m late. You need to treat the people around you with respect. Having a wonderful heart is more important than being famous."

Her 'Friend'

In an interview with Elizabeth Olsen for Variety's Actors on Actors series, Cuoco told the WandaVision star she often thinks about her talks with Ritter.

"I remember conversations when I was 15 years old where he said, 'You have to remember when you're on a set, it's like a tree. Number one's here, and any way you act is all trickling down that tree,'" she said. "You can be a boss, you can be a great actor, you can get work done, but you can just be nice. People are missing that."

Cuoco paid another tribute to Ritter on the eve of Superstar, which aired in August 2021 and featured interviews with the actor's family as well as fellow stars, such as Bryan Cranston, Jimmy Kimmel, Henry Winkler, and many more.

"Don’t miss this next week.. all about my friend John Ritter ❤️," Cuoco wrote on Instagram, sharing bits of the ABS docuseries.

Watch it below!