It’s a sad day for family, friends, and fans of Happy Days‘ Erin Moran, 56, who was found dead in her home on Saturday after first responders received a 911 call. The cause of death is still unconfirmed and pending an autopsy.
Moran played Joanie on the legendary sitcom, and already her former costars have been paying tribute to her on social media. Ron Howard, who played Richie, tweeted, “Such sad sad news. RIP Erin. I’ll always choose to remember you on our show making scenes better, getting laughs and lighting up tv screens.”
Henry Winkler, aka The Fonz as Happy Days fans know him, felt the same. “OH Erin… now you will finally have the peace you wanted so badly here on earth,” he tweeted.
Moran’s character was popular on the show, leading to a spinoff called Joanie and Chachi about her relationship with the character played by Scott Baio. The spinoff only lasted 17 episodes, though, and after it ended Moran’s career as a leading lady was effectively over. She had some roles in TV and a part recently in Not Another B Movie, but she wasn’t working at the time of her death.
Baio and Howard and other cast members continued to work, but it was difficult for Moran to find parts. After a while, at age 22, she left Hollywood behind and went to live in the California mountains to get away from it all.
It wasn’t easy for Moran to grow up on the set of Happy Days. According to The New York Times, when she was just 15 years old producers on the show pressured her to lose weight and play her character “more sexy.” Later in life, Moran said that she suffered from depression. She told the Toronto Star in 1988:
In 2010, Moran was evicted from her home and went to live with her husband’s mother in Indiana. They were reportedly caring for her, but then soon moved out to a Holiday Inn nearby, and eventually landed in Corydon, Indiana where she was often spotted hanging out with locals.
Judging from the outpouring of grief from her friends and costars, Moran will surely be missed.