As Mrs. Cunningham on “Happy Days” Marion Ross became one of the most beloved mothers in the history of television. However, according to the actress, the people behind the show initially saw her character as a minor role.
“Happy Days” aired from 1974 until 1984. Ross discussed her early work on the show with Smashing Interviews Magazine in 2018. During the interview, she was asked what she knew about the character of Marion Cunningham – a.k.a. Mrs. C. – going into the show.
What Ross had to say in response to that question is somewhat surprising. She claimed the role as the matriarch of the Cunningham family was viewed at that time as “insignificant.”
“Not very much,” Ross said about her knowledge of the Mrs. C. character. “They just said that the mother was such an insignificant part, so they said, ‘You’re good for the mother.’ My part was like, ‘Oh, Howard! Oh, Richie! You’re not eating.’ Things like that. It was not an important part. It was a story about the boys and the kids in school.”
Marion Ross Impressed Producers
Fortunately for Marion Ross – and fans of “Happy Days” – the show’s writers eventually recognized her talent. They also saw that giving her character more to do would be an asset to the show. It was during table reads for episodes of the series where Garry Marshall and others learned what Ross was capable of.
“We would read the script around the table on a Monday morning, and Garry Marshall and everybody would say, ‘Marion, please read all the girls’ parts.’ Wow. I would gear down,” Ross recalled. “I was auditioning for those writers all the time, so that their heads would snap around and they’d say, ‘Wow!’ They began to write better for me all the time.”
Despite Acknowledgement of Talent, Mrs. C Remained a Secondary Character on ‘Happy Days’
Even though writers saw the talent Marion Ross brought to her role of Marion Cunningham on “Happy Days” and gave her better material to work with, they still remained more focused on writing for other characters on the show. The actress said she approached the show’s creator about getting more scenes.
“I even asked Garry Marshall. I said, ‘Couldn’t you write more scenes for Tom and me and the kids?'” Ross recalled. “He said, ‘No. Not about you. It’s not about you. It’s about these kids.'”
Despite this, Marion Ross said she was still very thankful to have appeared on “Happy Days.”
“I tell you, I was so grateful to have the job. It’s a tough business, and I was divorced. I had two children to raise,” Ross said. “I was lucky to have the job and to have the show become such a hit. So I was lucky.”