Ron Howard pays tribute to late ‘American Graffiti’ co-star Cindy Williams

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Cindy Williams was “highly intelligent” and “very funny,” Ron Howard says of his frequent co-star, who died last week at age 75.

Williams played Laurie, the girlfriend of Howard’s Steve, on 1973′s “American Graffiti,” directed by George Lucas. She later appeared alongside Howard on “Happy Days” before starring on the spinoff series “Laverne and Shirley.”

“In ‘American Graffiti,’ she was 24 and I was 18, and I had my first kissing scenes with her, but they weren’t very romantic because she knew that she had this nervous kid on her hands and she had to take charge of the situation,” Howard told People.

“And so she was like, ‘Here’s how we got to kiss for the camera. Here’s what we have to do.’ She’s always had almost a big sister energy around me.”

Williams died in Los Angeles following a short illness, her family announced Monday night.

The actress debuted as Shirley Feeney on a 1975 episode of “Happy Days,” which starred Howard as Richie Cunningham. “Laverne and Shirley,” which also starred Penny Marshall, premiered the following year and aired for eight seasons and more than 150 episodes.

“We wound up over a period of about five years working together a lot, being cast in other comedies, in dramas,” Howard said. “The ‘Laverne & Shirley’ spinoff from ‘Happy Days,’ it was so interesting. We had terrific acting chemistry, but she always treated me like the kid.”