After signing with an agent at five years-old, Erin Moran was cast as a regular in the wildlife adventure series Daktari in 1968. She went on to film several theatrical movies, including Melvin Van Peebles’ social commentary Watermelon Man and the family drama 80 Steps to Jonah in which she played a blind girl. Erin appeared in numerous guest roles on comedy and drama series, including episodes of Family Affair, My Three Sons, Gunsmoke and The Courtship of Eddie’s Father.
In 1972, the ABC anthology series Love, American Style ran an episode called “Love and The Happy Days,” which was a pilot for a proposed series by Garry Marshall. The series was picked up, although some of the roles were recast. Series star Anson Williams, who played “Potsie,” suggested Erin Moran for the role of star Ron Howard’s little sister “Joanie,” Erin stayed with the show for eleven seasons and 234 episodes. She left to star in a spin-off, Joanie Loves Chachi, which followed the adventures of her character and her husband (played by Scott Baio). Joanie Loves Chachi only lasted 17 episodes before its cancellation. She returned to Happy Days for its final season.
After Happy Days, Erin had difficulty finding regular work. She appeared on game shows, reality shows and a few episodes of Love Boat, but was unable to secure a steady role. In 2011, she filed a joint lawsuit, along with some of her Happy Days co-stars (excluding Ron Howard and Henry Winkler). The suit, a breach-of-contract accusation, claimed that cast members had not been paid for merchandising revenues owed under their contracts. CBS (who now owned the show) estimated it owed the actors between $8,500 and $9,000 each, most of it from slot machine revenues, but the group said they were owed millions. The case was settled before going to trial and Erin and her co-stars each received a payment of $65,000.
Aside from the lawsuit, Erin had fallen on hard times. She was living in a trailer park in Indiana and was, reportedly, abusing drugs and alcohol and suffering from depression from a lack of acting work. She was evicted from the trailer park and was homeless for a time.
On April 22, 2017, authorities were alerted to an unresponsive female, later identified as Erin Moran. First responders pronounced her dead at the scene. She was 56. Initial reports were sketchy, but it is believed that Erin was hiding the the latter stages of throat cancer. Despite recent reports, no illegal substances were found in Erin’s home.