Erin Moran, who rose to fame in the role of Joanie Cunningham on Happy Days, has died at the age of 56, The New York Times reports. She was found dead on Saturday by EMTs answering a report of an unresponsive female, according to TMZ, which first broke the news.
Moran, a native of Burbank, appeared in commercials and films before being cast at the age of 12 in Happy Days, Garry Marshall’s 1950s-nostalgia sitcom that ran for a decade beginning in 1974. Moran played the younger sister of star Ron Howard, and over the course of Happy Days’ run, grew up on national television. She later recounted pressure from the show’s producers to lose weight and dress more revealingly during her teenage years. Late in the series, Moran’s character was paired romantically with Chachi Arcola, a musician played by Scott Baio, which led to Joanie Loves Chachi, a quickly-cancelled spinoff that pulled Moran off Happy Days during its 10th season. She returned for the final season after Joanie Loves Chachi was over.
When Happy Days finally went off the air in 1984, Moran’s career fizzled; the actress, suffering from depression, left Los Angeles, eventually ending up in Indiana. She never had another leading role, although she made guest appearances on The Love Boat, Murder, She Wrote, and Diagnosis Murder, and appeared as herself in David Spade vehicle Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star. Her last appearance was in Not Another B-Movie in 2010.
Her Happy Days co-stars Ron Howard, Henry Winkler, and Scott Baio all memorialized Moran on Twitter:
The cause of Moran’s death has not been announced.