I had the honour of interviewing legendary actress Marion Ross, also known to millions as Mrs C from the hit TV show, Happy Days. Marion is a lady of honesty, integrity and inspiration. Her newly released book, My Days: Happy and Otherwise, is truly life changing.I encourage you to pick up a copy today. – Sue London
Q: Tell me a little bit about your children.
My daughter was a writer/producer on Friends and now, she is creating a new pilot. She is a writer/producer for ABC. My son is an actor and he is in a commercial that you’ve probably seen, I think it’s for, George Washington being pulled across the freeway. My granddaughter is a beginner in acting, but she’s got all the looks and the lovely personality. We’ll have to see how much drive she has, because you have to be the engine and it has to come from you.
Q: How much fun was it on the show?
I know when Happy Days started, working with Tom Bosley in the beginning was a little tough. Actually, we were like children at play. Jerry Paris, the director, was the biggest child of all. We were more grown up than Jerry. On top of that, Garry Marshall, created the softball team, so a lot of us were interested in softball. We went to Germany and played softball with the US Infantry, along the Russian boarder. Then when the show was totally over, after 11 seasons, the very next morning, we all got on a plane and flew to Okinawa and played softball with the US Marines. I have my own bat with my name on it, my own glove and my own uniform.
Q: Garry often asked you to calm down different cast members. What kind of advice would you give them?
They would come to ask me for advice. Poor little Erin, I tried to advise her, but her parents hadn’t given her a good basis or a good background. So, you couldn’t be the parent that they were missing. She was missing that. When we had parties, her parents stayed forever and had a wonderful time. Ron’s father come to the party and then took Ron home right away.
Q: In your earlier years, you were married to a man who was an alcoholic, what advice would you give to others who are faced with this situation?
First of all, you have to figure out why you married him? I kept thinking to myself, why would I pick him? That’s an interesting thing, so I started seeing a shrink after asking myself that question, because what was that all about? What was it that attracted me to him? It was pretty complicated.
Q: What I love about you is that you are a very grounded person and you are so genuine. As I was reading throughout the whole book, you stayed that way, you didn’t let fame get to you, which really impressed me.
I am quite a realist. I see reality all the time. Being in Hollywood, I was very watchful and would think “oh, not that, don’t do that.” I could see the lurking danger. Thank God I was married right from the get-go, because I got married when I was 21, so I had the protection of being married, even though it was a lot of work, I stayed married for almost 20 years.
Q: In your memoirs, you talk about what it was like to be a starry-eyed young girl with dreams, while living in poor rural Minnesota. Can you tell our readers about the struggles you’ve faced and what it took for you to make your dreams come true?
You have to understand that I was the second little girl in the family. My brother, who was 18 months younger than me was a crippled boy. So, that made me have to achieve. I had to really try to make up for everything. Also, I was very strong and healthy. I think because my mother was a Canadian immigrant, she made sure we knew we could be whatever we wanted to be. I was told I could do it, so I thought “I will Mama! I will!”
Q: In your book, My Days: Happy and Otherwise, it fascinated me how much strength, courage and determination you had. You don’t hear many people have the amount of focus that you had when you were a child, where do you think that came from, your Mom?
Absolutely, the fact that I had a crippled brother, I had to be something special. In my mind, to be an actress is of course not the wisest choice in the world, but it was my secret. I would go to the library and read who was who in the famous world and it would say they were born and now they are a star. I would think “what happened in between? How old were they?”
Q: Let’s talk about the power of intentions? In your book you said, “I will become a great actress, I will be in the theatre, I will have all the people clamouring to me, I should be talent.” It’s obvious that you achieved that.
This was just written in my diary when I was in about the 6th grade. By the time I got to be 14, I would go to the library and read theatre art magazines and told my mother that I had found a school in Minneapolis, McPhail School of Music & Drama, so I asked her if I could go up in the summer and take care of somebody’s children and take some lessons. My mother said, “of course you can.” So that’s how I started, I stayed with that family for my whole junior school year.
Q: You raised a TV family & you raised two real life children. What was your hardest challenge of raising kids and being a mom yourself?
At one point, it was earning a living because nobody had a job. I used to go on interviews and the interview people would say, “tell me about yourself.” I would start to cry. I would say “I’m getting a divorce!” and they’d say, “oh God, get her a cup of coffee.” I rented a room out in my house, in fact, one time I was so poor I was just trying to keep the house going. I found a piece of linoleum tile that was breaking in the kitchen. So I put it in the oven, heated it up, put some glue on the back of it and I repaired the kitchen floor. It was so wonderful.
Q: Were your kids very accepting and supportive of when your soul mate came into your life?
Yes, absolutely because I was 60 years old, so they were all grown up and they liked him. Paul was a Christian Lebanese, born in this country, but his parents were from Lebanon. He was a fantastic cook. Everybody wanted to come here for his cooking! Paul was such a treat because he had been on Broadway and he was a great singer, handsome and strong.
Q: When you meet that Mr. Right, you just know, don’t you?
Well, it took about 6 years. It wasn’t until he had an operation and needed to be looked after when I said, “move in here with me.” We were together, but he hadn’t moved in. He was a very independent man and he didn’t wantto become Mr. Me.
Q: What is your greatest joy or satisfaction?
Well I think there’s a lot of comfort in the fact that I haven’t screwed anything up, that I haven’t made a mess of all of this. I’m very glad of that. I’m pretty pleased of everything. Now I’m 89, which is amazing! I have told my agent, I am retired as far as I don’t want to work anymore because one of the last shows I did, I kept saying “what’s that line?”
Q: What final words of inspiration would you like to leave with our readers?
That you can follow your dreams and give it a go because you can do it. Keep looking for that inner strength in you.