Marion Ross is a veteran of TV acting. She came to fame by playing Maria Cunningham on Happy Days. She credits the role as a turning point in her career and looks back fondly on what the fame brought to her life.
During an interview with Smashing Interviews, Ross took the chance to reflect on her most famous role and what it meant to take on the world after humble beginnings.
“Well, it made me what I am. I just had to become somebody, whatever that means,” Ross said. “My mother was a Canadian, so I always say, ‘My mother was an immigrant.’ She was an Irish-Canadian from Saskatchewan, and she would very much always say, ‘You can be anything. You can be anything.’ So I thought, I will be. I will be.'”
Once she landed her signature role, the world became her oyster. She became a two-time Emmy nominee and went on to create a very successful career in film, television, and voice acting. However, Hollywood at the time was a ruthless place, especially for women. Ross’s role in Happy Days helped her overcome the norms of the time and stand out from the crowd.
“It is, of course. It’s a power game [in Hollywood], and the powerful people run everything,” Ross said. “So you can get in the position to get some power, and Happy Days did this for me. Otherwise, you’re just one of the thousands and thousands and thousands of actors. If you look up Screen Actors Guild and how many members there are, I would be curious myself today now to see how many members there are in SAG. A lot.”
Marion Ross Helped Change the Game for Actresses
During her rise to fame, the acting environment was a very different place than it is today. Back then, the business was male-dominated, and for women to succeed it was expected of them to adhere to the whims of their male counterparts.
“Because in the old days that’s how you got ahead in the business. You made a few gentleman friends there,” Ross said. “Early on in my career, a man said, ‘I want to help you. How do you think you’re going to get ahead in this business?’ I said, ‘Well, I’m a really good actress.’ He said, ‘Well, that’s kind of hard.’ I realized what he was talking about.”
But Ross stood her ground. She lived by her values and used her acting talents to help her career longevity rather than cozying up to male power players. Actresses today can look up to the standard Ross set for herself decades before the fight for equality gained the steam it now has.
“I don’t want anyone ever to think that about me. No one’s ever going to know me that way,” Ross said. “The same happens in the business world, too. That’s what’s so fun about now with all the young actresses standing up for their rights. It’s wonderful. It’s a new movement.”