Happy Days star Marion Ross is a pretty grounded, down-to-earth person, and she owes a lot of that to her family, who didn’t make a fuss about her fame on Happy Days.
In a recent appearance on the Media Path podcast, Ross said her brother Gordon was the star of the family growing up, and even in adulthood, although she had rocketed to fame with the success of Happy Days.
“They didn’t make a big, big fuss with me, really,” Ross said. “You know? I don’t know, because my brother was a crippled boy. So a lot of the attention went to my brother Gordon, who was an awful nice guy.”
Watch the full Media Path interview here:
Ross Said Getting Cast in Happy Days Was Just the Beginning of Long Process
For Ross, getting cast in Happy Days was just the beginning. Mrs. Cunningham was not much of a role when she signed on to do the show, so she began a gradual process of encouraging the writers to give her a more substantial part.
Here’s how it all started. Ross got invited to a dinner with a casting director who was working on Happy Days. Ross knew her from before, but the woman was reminded that Ross was a maternal presence and a redhead to boot at the dinner.
“I was getting divorced, I was in a terrible state of my life,” Ross recalled in an interview with the Television Academy Foundation. “So she called me in, and said I’d make a good mother for Ron Howard. And at that point, the part was like, ‘Oh, Howard. Oh, Richie.’ You know, that was the part. ‘You’re not eating.’ It was a very simple part.”
Ross Juggled Live Theatre and TV Show
While they were waiting for the Happy Days pilot to sell, Ross went over to the Globe Theatre in San Diego to do a Tennessee Williams play, Summer and Smoke. She got news that the pilot had sold while she was in San Diego. So then she had to act in the play, run up to Los Angeles, say, “Oh, Howard. Oh, Richie,” and then run back to San Diego to act in the play again.
“As the years went on, when we would read the play every Monday morning, around the table, they would say, ‘Marion, read all the girls.’ And, ‘Read this other woman,’” Ross recalled. “And read all these parts. My heart would start to pound. And I would really try to sell these parts, try to sell myself. And their little heads would snap around, and they’d say, ‘Oh, God! You should play this part! You should play this, this and this.’”
“So they began to write – I always tell young actors. I say, try to educate the writers to what you can do,” Ross explained. “Because they need help. They’re writing in a vacuum. And they’ll start to write better for you. So my part would get better and better.”
Watch Ross talk about the evolution of her Happy Days role here: