8 Simple Rules Kaley Cuoco Bridget Hennessy ABC

Kaley Cuoco is preparing for her return to television via HBO Max's The Flight Attendant and, ahead of the premiere, she's been reminiscing about her past roles. One of the early roles that brought Cuoco to prominence was the one she played on ABC’s 8 Simple Rules. On the show, Cuoco starred opposite Three’s Company legend John Ritter (and The Conners’ Katey Sagal) as one of his two teenage daughters, Bridget.

One of the sitcom’s running themes was John Ritter’s concerned father, Paul Hennessey, continually having to rein in his eldest teenage daughter, and this often included her wardrobe choices. Bridget had a knack for constantly wearing sultry outfits, and Kaley Cuoco fondly recalled Ritter telling her she did not need to dress too sexy for the part. Cuoco shared the memorable moment during Dax Shepherd’s Armchair Expert podcast, saying:

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.’ [Laughs]

Once a dad, always a dad. The fond memory came at a more hopeful time in 8 Simple Rules’ trajectory. Tragically, one season into its run, John Ritter died suddenly in September 2003 while filming 8 Simple Rules’ second season. Ritter’s untimely passing shook the show and his co-stars (including Kaley Cuoco) to their core.

On the show, Kaley Cuoco’s Bridget struggled with her dad’s sudden passing. James Garner and SNL vet David Spade tried to fill the void after 8 Simple Rules wrote Ritter’s death into the show. The ABC’s show handling of the tragedy occurred well before shows like Glee ended up having to address unfortunate behind-the-scenes circumstances in a similar manner. In the end, 8 Simple Rules only ran three seasons total, airing from 2002 until 2005.

The experience, however, would still prove to be an invaluable one for Kaley Cuoco, as she would go onto star in The Big Bang Theory, which wrapped last year after an incredible 12-season run. But despite being years removed from 8 Simple Rules, John Ritter remains a sharp memory for Cuoco, who she called an “unbelievable actor.” Cuoco also followed up the fond memory of Ritter’s wardrobe advice with this:

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?

I think it's pretty adorable that John Ritter was that fatherly force and jokingly encouraged his TV daughter to cover up. It's comforting to know that Ritter was as protective of Cuoco off-screen as Paul was of Bridget on-screen. Their relationship may have been short, but it still seems to have been filled with plenty of love and respect.

Fans will always have to wonder if 8 Simple Rules could have gone on as long as The Big Bang Theory had John Ritter not passed away, yet we're still grateful for the performance he gave. You can watch Kaley Cuoco and Ritter in 8 Simple Rules by streaming the sitcom on ABC’s website. And Cuoco takes flight in The Flight Attendant on Thursday, November 26, on HBO Max. As you wait for Cuoco’s new show to start, you can check out this fall’s premieres.

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