‘Happy Days’ Star Said They ‘Didn’t Know How to Have a Personal Life’ While on Show

by Josh Lanier

Marion Ross, who played Marion Cunningham on Happy Days, said she had to learn how to have a personal life once the show became a hit.

The main reason, she told The Next Kid Thing in 2015, was that she’d spent her entire life looking for work and raising her children. She had no social life during those years or many social skills for that matter. She spent so much of her time tending to her kids as a single mom, that playing “house” on Happy Days was actually a blessing. Someone else would have to clean up any mess.

I was single, but I was able to balance it all because I didn’t have a personal life.  I had work, but going to work was fun because I got to play “house.”  And first of all, I didn’t know how to have a personal life.  And when you don’t know how to do it, you just don’t have it.  And once the work got successful, I had so much paperwork and trivia. 

Someone said to me, “What’s your reward now?’ Now you get to work harder than ever.” That’s when I thought, I don’t have enough help.  So when you find the extra money and can afford it, I’d recommend getting help.  It can be too much for one person to handle.  And then I got an assistant who became my everything;  my husband, my helper… When I had littler children, I didn’t have a dishwasher or a dryer; I had to cart everything to the corner to get it all done.  Nowadays, we have everything.

Marion Ross, The Next Kid Thing

But it wasn’t all bad for Ross. In fact, there was one major upside to her Happy Days role.

‘Happy Days’ Did Have an Added Benefit for Ross

Marion Ross played a character who had two teenage children: Richie and Joanie. But in her real life, she had three children who were three years younger than her TV kids.

So, Ross said the show was written so well, she got a head start on their “situations.” She knew what to expect and the excuses her kids might try and use to get out of trouble. Or she could spot trouble coming, she told NKT.

“It was very handy for me because I would practice at work and play “house” with Richie and Joanie, and my own children at home were about 3 years younger,” she said. “So, my kids wouldn’t have had their “situations” yet, and I could study it a bit, which help me a lot. I was always a step ahead of my kids.  …  I was a single mother, divorced, so I’m sure I would’ve been more nervous and panicky, but the writers always treated it as a journey—as a very ordinary thing. 

“The first time Richie drinks, it wasn’t the end of the world;  these are natural things that happen along the line.  The first kiss, all of that; it helped me prepare for what was next with my own kids.”