What Robby Benson Wishes He Had Said To John Ritter Before He Died (VIDEO)

Feb 24, 2014 | Updated Feb 25, 2014

Blue-eyed heartthrob Robby Benson rose to fame in the 70s, starring in movies like "Ode to Billy Joe" and "Ice Castles." Younger generations know him as the voice of the Beast from "Beauty and the Beast," but in recent years, he's been pursuing a life behind the scenes as a director and teacher, "Oprah: Where Are They Now?" found out.

In 2003 he was working on the television show "8 Simple Rules," and befriended the show's star, John Ritter. During one particular scene, Ritter had to run up a flight of stairs and across a room, and Benson noticed he was out of breath.

"I really didn't want to embarrass him by saying anything, but I didn't want him to do it again," Benson says in the above video. They decided to cut the scene.

Fewer than two weeks later, Ritter died of an aortic dissection.

Benson, who was born with a rare heart condition he kept secret for years, says he was in shock when a friend told him the news. "All it made me think was, why didn't I have the guts to open my mouth when I saw him breathing heavily? I had only known him for less than two weeks and I had felt like I made a friend for life. So if I really felt like I had made a friend for life, why didn't I just open my mouth? Why didn't I say something to him?"

Today, Benson says he tries to be as proactive as possible. "I don't care how obnoxious it is of me -- if I see something, I'll say something," he says. "Because maybe if I had said something, just maybe, he'd still be with us -- because he was a national treasure to me."

In the video below, Benson gives more insight into his life and friendship with Ritter on HuffPost Life, joined by OWN executive producers Julie Simpson and Jill Van Lokeren.

"Oprah: Where Are They Now?" airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET on OWN.