How Eight is Enough Star Willie Aames Found True Love with a Former Fan: 'It Was Meant To Be'

Willie Aames shares a real-life fairytale love story. Photo credit: Winnie Hung and Willie Aames Kevin Clark
Kevin Clark
Willie Aames has always felt that there was more to life than fame and fortune.
In an exclusive interview with PEOPLE, the former teen heartthrob and Eight is Enough star, 62, opened up about how he found true love with his now-wife Winnie Hung - a former fan and pen pal of over three decades - and like her managed to turn their love story into a movie with Hallmark's love in the spotlight.
It all started with a letter.
"It's my favorite story in the whole wide universe," said Aames, who is best known for playing Tommy Bradford on the 1970s television series Eight is Enough and Buddy Lembeck on the 1980s sitcom Charles in Charge to play. "Winnie started sending me letters when she was a kid. I received thousands of letters every week. I took letters out of the bag and read a few of them and they always put their phone number in there. It was always like, 'Please call me sometime if you ever need a friend.' And I thought, "These poor girls. They'll never get anyone to call them." So I thought, "I'll do it. I'll call." "
After pulling out a letter, Aames picked up the phone. "I was like, 'Hello, is this the Hung residence?' And she says, 'Yes.' And I said, 'Hi, this is Willie Aames calling from Universal Studios.' She hang up.
"I called back and she said, 'It can't be you,'" he recalled. “We started chatting and became pen pals for 30 years. We never met, but spoke on the phone a few times.
Universal Television/Everett
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After years of correspondence, the duo briefly lost touch - during which time Aames battled addiction and eventually became homeless.
"When I started my life again at 48, I had to relearn everything," says Aames, who was then starting out as cruise director on Oceana. "I had to learn who I am again. I had to overcome all the mistakes of the past.”
The timing was perfect when Aames heard from Hung, now 50, again via social media. So the duo decided to finally meet up during a cruise stop in Vancouver.
Willie Aames shares a real-life fairytale love story. Photo credit: Winnie Hung and Willie Aames Kevin Clark
Winnie Hung and Willie Aames
"I took one look at her that afternoon and I knew it," Aames said of their first interaction. "There's no way around it. That afternoon I went and bought Winnie a little Pandora tag that said 'fairy tale'. That was one of the things I said to her because she was so adamant against going out with me that I said, 'Don't miss your own real fairy tale.' "
"I feel like everything was timing as it should be," said Hung, actress and producer. "By the time we actually met in person, I already trusted him as a person."
"I was literally healed into something new," added Aames, who was previously married to Vicki Weatherman in 1979 and Maylo McCaslin in 1986. She was the right man for Winnie."
After a dreamy first meeting, Aames wanted to travel to France for work but couldn't get Hung out of his mind.
"I flew back to Canada and when I got through immigration, she was standing there and I walked up to her and said, 'I'm going to marry you.' "
Willie Aames shares a real-life fairytale love story. Photo credit: Winnie Hung and Willie Aames Kevin Clark
Winnie Hung and Willie Aames
Ten months later and with the approval of Hung's family, the duo married in 2014.
"I never thought in a million years that he would be the one," said Hung, who had been waiting her whole life for the perfect man. “It was such an innocent back and forth. I never thought it was even a possibility.”
"It's so funny, we're still sitting across the table and looking at each other and saying, 'I can't believe it's you. You are the one.'"
Her story is so remarkable that the couple decided to write and produce a film loosely based on her journey.
The Hallmark film Love in the Limelight -- starring Alexa and Carlos PenaVega -- tells the story of pen pals Nick and Summer, who are reluctant to publicize their relationship with him when the former boy band singer is preparing for a comeback concert coming to town.
Willie Aames shares a real-life fairytale love story. Photo credit: Winnie Hung and Willie Aames Kevin Clark
Winnie Hung and Willie Aames
"We're really grateful to everyone at Hallmark for giving us the opportunity to tell a story inspired by ours," said Aames. "Obviously they can't travel the world in ships and stuff like that, but I'll say if there's one thing I hope readers and viewers get, it's that there are so many moments in this film that actually happened. We're really grateful that they can tell a version of our story."
Now the happy couple continues to live out their happy ending!
"I've never been happier," said Aames, who is now CEO of his own production company. "I've never felt better about life and opportunity and I don't know what I would do without Winnie. It should be like this. Like I said, I met her when I'd learned enough in my life not to look for something, so the most natural thing happened."
"It's never too late to find love," Hung said.
Love in the Spotlight premieres Saturday at 8 p.m. EST on Hallmark Channel.
Willie Aames
American actor, film and television director

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