Veteran TV writer and producer Chris Thompson, creator of comedy series Shake It Up!, Action, The Naked Truth, Ladies Man and co-creator of Bosom Buddies, died unexpectedly Friday night after a long illness. He was 63. Thompson recently had solidified a deal to create a new comedy series based on a hit Israeli show. Amazon just last week had given the go-ahead for Thompson to produce a pilot.

“Chris Thompson was the kind of writer that writers write about,” longtime friend Jim Vallely (Arrested Development, Two And A Half Men) noted Saturday night. “He was pushing the envelope back when people still used envelopes. Chris’s show Bosom Buddies was the first sitcom I’d ever seen that was actively sneaking jokes by the censors.  On Chris’s Fox comedy Action, after he handed in a first draft of an especially raunchy episode, it was returned from S&P with a stamped ‘This script has been REJECTED’ on the cover page. I had never seen that stamp before or after and I don’t think I ever will. I and everyone who’s ever worked with him are devastated by this sad news.”

Shake It Up! stars Zendaya and Bella Thorne shared the photo above on Instagram. “Last night we lost an amazing, talented and loving man,” Zendaya wrote. “Thank you CT for always being there, for giving me my first role and creating beautiful memories I will always be thankful for. I will miss you, but I know you’re in heaven finally at peace.” Added Thorne, “RIP to my good friend Chris Thompson, mentor and creator of Shake It Up. You were like a dad to me at an early age and protected me through many years. I will love and miss you always.”

What Thompson thought was going to be his big acting break came when he was 23 and a producer approached him after seeing his improv performance at L.A.’s Off The Wall theater. Instead, it was the start of a long writing career that began when that producer offered him an apprentice writing position on the series Sirota’s Court. He later was introduced to and went to work for producer Garry Marshall on Blansky’s Beauties with Nancy Walker and Scott Baio. That let to a seven-year stint writing and later executive producing Laverne & Shirley which starred co-creator Garry Marshall’s sister Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams.

He went on to co-create the Tom Hanks starrer Bosom Buddies and create a slew of other starring vehicles, The Naked Truth starring Tea Leoni, Action, toplined by Jay Mohr, Ladies Man with Alfred Molina, and Shake It Up!. Additional writing and producing credits include the groundbreaking The Larry Sanders Show with Garry Shandling, House Rules, Hard Knocks and more than 30 pilots for various networks and studios. His credits also include the TV movies Big Deals, Lola, Slickers and the features Jumpin’ Jack Flash and Back To The Beach.