‘Happy Days’: Mrs. Cunningham Actress Marion Ross Said Lack of Attention as a Child Drove Her to Acting

by Chris Haney

During a 2018 interview, actress Marion Ross who played Mrs. Cunningham on Happy Days opened up about what prompted her to pursue an acting career.

The famous actress wrote a memoir about her time on one of the most popular television shows of all time. She released My Days: Happy and Otherwise in March 2018. The same month, she spoke with a reporter over the phone at Smashing Interviews Magazine.

The pair touched on her lasting friendships with Ron Howard and Henry Winkler. They spoke about the #MeToo movement and the differences between old and modern Hollywood. Of course, Ross shared numerous details of her time on Happy Days.

Additionally, the actress opened up about her childhood and her lack of attention while growing up. She says that being the second daughter and having a crippled brother meant she was often ignored within her family setting.

“I had a crippled brother, and I’m the second little girl, so I didn’t get a lot of attention. I had to work hard to get attention, you know,” Marion Ross told Smashing Interviews Magazine.

However, Ross says the lack of attention helped make her who she is in the long run. In addition, her mother engrained it in her daughter that she could “be anything” she wanted to be.

“Well, it made me what I am. I just had to become somebody, whatever that means. 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.'”

‘Happy Days’ Cast Became Frustrated the Success of Fonzie

In Marion Ross’ Happy Days memoir, she revealed how difficult it was for the cast to deal with Winkler’s character Fonzie’s abrupt rise to fame. Originally, “The Fonz” was only supposed to be a bit character, making appearances here and there. Yet he became a fan favorite almost overnight and showrunners increased his role exponentially.

The show had already earned top ratings, so the other actors had trouble being in Fonzie’s shadow. All of a sudden, the main characters in Happy Days felt like they were taking a backseat to Winkler.

“The fact that Henry (Winkler) had risen to be the show’s breakout star, it did make the rest of us feel like we were supporting players,” Ross wrote in her book.

Furthermore, Ross shared an anecdote of Howard feeling dejected on set because of “The Fonz” craze. After some prodding, Ross got Howard to open up about feeling the “Fonzie overload.”

“I will never forget the day when, though the show was sitting strongly in the number one slot in the ratings, a dejected Ron Howard came into my dressing room and flopped into a chair,” she wrote.

“It’s just all about the Fonz,” Howard told Ross. “Every damn day it’s the Fonz this and the Fonz that. There are other people involved with this show other than him, ya know!”

Yet Ross made sure to differentiate Howard’s thoughts about Fonzie compared to Winkler. She said that Winkler “never acted like he was the star or was better than anyone else.”

All three of the actors are still close to this day, and occasionally meet up for lunch or dinner. But at the time, their professional frustrations boiled over at times. It sounds like Ross’ book My Days: Happy and Otherwise was aptly named.