Treat Williams' 'Chesapeake Shores' Co-Star Barbara Niven Emotionally Remembers Him and His Legacy (Exclusive)

Barbara Niven starred opposite Williams in the Hallmark Channel series and paid tribute to the actor following his death.

Treat Williams is being remembered. The Hair and Everwood actor died Monday at 71 after being involved in a motorcycle accident. Following news of his death, Williams' co-stars, collaborators and friends, including Kim Cattrall, John Travolta, Matt Bomer and Everwood's Gregory Smith, paid tribute to the late actor, whose career spanned more than four decades. 

One of his later works was Hallmark Channel's Chesapeake Shores, where he played the patriarch of the family, Mick O'Brien, for six seasons from 2016 to 2022. His co-star, Barbara Niven, who portrayed his character's estranged wife and later love interest, Megan, spoke with ET's Deidre Behar and emotionally remembered her friend and the legacy he's leaving behind.

"It's really hard to even consider the fact that he's not here because he was just so larger than life. He just filled up the room, filled up the set," Niven said. "What a blessing to be able to have worked with him on Chesapeake for six years in that kind of atmosphere where we all became a family."

"My heart is just... He left his family so much, and they must be so bereft and heartbroken and that's mostly what I'm thinking about," she continued, referring to Williams' wife, Pam Van Sant, and children, Gill and Elinor, aka "Ellie." "Treat just lived a large life in every way. He savored it. He loved to eat, he loved good wine. He loved to break out into singing in the green room, and that's how we'll all remember him."

The actress recalled Williams' love of flying and being a pilot, calling it one of her "favorite things about him."

"He talked about it all the time and one of my favorite poems is called High Flight by John Gillespie Magee. And this is what I think Treat is doing right now because he always used to text me photos of himself looking out the window from his plane," Niven shared, before reading a passage from the poem: "Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth and danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings. Sunward, I've climbed... and done a hundred things you have not dreamed of. High in the sunlit silence, hovering there... Put out my hand and touched the face of God.' That's where I think Treat is right now."

Niven fondly remembered filming the series finale of Chesapeake Shores, which featured their characters getting remarried. 

"The last scene of Chesapeake, the last day that we had six wonderful seasons, and I got to marry him the last day with all family around, the cast ... we were a family. And we were all in tears," she shared. "I have a photo of Treat at the fire pit with the family leading us all in a toast and that's what he's doing right now. What a joy, what an honor, what a legacy he's left behind! And he taught us all how to be better actors and how to live life and just get more out of it. Never to settle, just to live full out."

The 70-year-old actress reminisced about the times when Williams rented a house on Vancouver Island while filming Chesapeake Shores and holding movie nights of classic black-and-white films because "he loved old movies." He'd also host dinner parties, Niven recalled.

"This house had a big screening room and he would always screen movies for us, the black-and-white ones that the kids had never seen before and he also grew a garden. He planted tomatoes. He planted romaine lettuce. He planted arugula. And fresh lettuce from Treat's garden was amazing. He'd cook for us and we just had big family gatherings," she said. "And there were eagles on this property, too, so he would always take everybody out to where the eagles were."

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If there was a legacy Williams left behind, it's to always live life to the fullest.

"To not settle for less than wonderful in your life. If you have a dream, go after it," Niven said as she got visibly choked up. "He has done it all. I don't think there's anything he ever went halfway about and his family. He loved his family so much. He posted that he was out on his favorite [place] where they live, on the tractors smelling the grass and then three hours later, he was gone, I think his legacy is also to know that it can end at any time. So don't settle and make sure you tell the people you love them, that you love them way more than you think you should because they'll remember. And that's how we're going to remember Treat."

Niven was on set filming an upcoming Hallmark holiday movie when she learned of Williams' death. She recalled having a moment of silence and some who had worked with Williams on previous projects "spoke thoughts about Treat." "He was remembered and he will always be remembered," she said. "The Hallmark family lost a family member. We lost a patriarch and we all miss him. It was a privilege and an honor to work with this man."

She also praised Williams as "one of the best actors I ever worked with and his craft meant so much to him, and the stillness was everything. You sat in front of him and you just listened and you were there and that was his gift to me, and I think it's his legacy. Young actors need to study his work and they will. They will be better."

Williams died Monday at Albany Medical Center in New York after being airlifted in a helicopter from following a motorcycle collision in Vermont, according to Vermont State Police Department PIO Adam Silverman and Lt. Steve Coote, who held a virtual press conference Tuesday. 

The fatal accident happened around 5 p.m. Monday on Route 30 by Long Trail Auto near the southwestern Vermont town of Dorset. The accident involved Williams' motorcycle and a 2008 Honda SUV. Investigators believe the driver of the car was turning left into a parking lot and didn’t see the motorcycle. 

Barry McPherson, Williams’ agent of 15 years, told ET, “Treat was killed yesterday afternoon. His motorcycle was going straight and a SUV cut in front of him. I'm just devastated. He was the nicest guy. He was so talented. He was an actor's actor. Filmmakers loved him. He's been the heart of Hollywood since the late 1970s. He was really proud of his performance this year. He's been so happy with the work that I got him. He's had a balanced career."

"He was a wonderful guy, friend and actor and beloved by so many other actors,” McPherson said.

Hallmark Channel released a statement to ET on Monday after news of Williams' death: "We are heartbroken over the passing of Treat Williams, a beloved member of our Hallmark family and an immense talent who captured the hearts of millions. It was a privilege to have worked with Treat, who brought to life so many memorable characters over the years. We will remember him for the joy he brought to our screens, and the legacy he leaves behind. We extend our sincerest condolences to his family, friends and loved ones."

Williams' Chesapeake Shores co-stars, Meghan Ory, Emilie Ullerup and Andrew J. Francis, were among those paying tribute.