There are some people you just know you’d like. And Marion Ross, a.k.a. Happy Days‘ Mrs. Cunningham, is one of them. She didn’t disappoint when she phoned PopWatch to chat about ABC’s latest special, TV’s All-Time Funniest (May 9, 8 p.m. ET), and answer reader questions. How did she get cast on Gilmore Girls? Will she return to Brothers & Sisters? Where can you see her in "the greatest fart scene since Blazing Saddles?" (Okay, you didn’t ask that last one, but aren’t you glad she brought it up?) Read on.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: If you had to submit one scene from Happy Days to secure your win as TV’s Funniest Mother, which would you choose?
Marion Ross: Well, I had a wonderful one where I did a belly dance for Howard, to put some spunk back in the marriage. It is so funny. The writers said, "Marion comes down the stairs doing a belly dance." I thought, Did anybody ask me if I could do this?
That actually leads nicely into our first reader question: MRS. TAYLOR wants to know how hard it was — or wasn’t — for you to perform that dance for Howard (Tom Bosley).
[Laughs] I remember it as not being a good day at all. When I see it, it looks very nice and easy. I had lines like, "Treat me rough… Treat me rough." But when you put on that costume, that helps.
BF asks, "What was up with the sexual tension between Mrs. Cunningham and the Fonz?"
[Laughs] Well, we just adored each other, that was all. [HenryWinkler] always made such a fuss over me, and it would fluster me so. The more flustered I would be, then the more he would do that to me.We’re very, very close friends. I just adore him. We’re bronzing theFonz in Milwaukee in August. There’ll be a statue of the Fonz in thepark.
JAKEEM2007 is curious about what you think of today’s more risqué sitcoms, and whether you’re an avid watcher of any of them.
No, just Brothers & Sisters, which is not a sitcom. I think one of the problems is that we don’t know the people on the new sitcoms, the characters. People feel they know us [on Happy Days] — that we’re real, and that we really come from Milwaukee. I think it takes awhile to build up something like that, and these shows are faster. Although, I loved Friends. You felt like you were there with them, and you didn’t want them to end. You know my daughter, Ellen Plummer, was a writer-producer on Friends. She said she would regale the writers’ table with some dumb, dumb thing I had done and try to work it into the script. I’d think, Oh my gosh, I got to be careful what I say.
2CENTS asks whether you’d ever consider doing Desperate Housewives because "a versionof Mrs. C — even someone that dressed and acted like they were in the’50s would be so cool, and odd, and perfect for that show."
Well, you know, I did a spoof [on the 2005 TV Land Awards] where I played Bree. She killedher husband, and Tom Bosley was the husband. I think I poisoned him. Iwould love to be on Desperate Housewives. I think it would be so funny.I always wanted to be on Roseanne Barr’s show. Like, knock on the doorand just borrow a cup of sugar. Be as sweet and Mrs. C as possible. [Laughs] I would like to be on Monk. [PopWatch gasps] Is that a good idea?
Yes. What kind of character would you want to play?
Somebody quite insane. He would be trying to deal with me sensibly, you know, but I would be highly, highly neurotic and insane.
NINEDAVES wonders if there’s any job you’ve turned down in your career that you regret.
Ihave turned down a lot of smaller movies that are just absolutelypornographic, and then I turn around, and I see some actresses that Iknow very well took ‘em. I think Well, I’m still glad I didn’t take it. I don’t care.These young boys that write these scripts think it is so funny to have asweet, clean lady like me in one of these scandalous little situations.I can see ‘em fall down writing this. Idon’t want to be made sport of.
Can you give us one example of a movie that you turned down?
No, I can’t. [Laughs] Because someone else took it! But, you know, right now I am in Superhero Movie.I play Leslie Nielsen’s wife. Terrible things happen to me in thismovie, and I love being in this because here’s this young boy, DrakeBell. He’s a big star, and I never heard of him in my life. So, Ithought, I have to keep up with what’s going on. I have the greatest fart scene since Blazing Saddles in this movie. [Snorts]
We love a good fart scene. What happens?
You have to go to the movie. I’m not gonna give you this free! [Laughs]
Fine. RAE would love to know how you liked working on Gilmore Girls.
I loved being on Gilmore Girls. I was proud of myself because that wonderful Amy Sherman-Palladino sent me the script with a note saying, "I know you’re not old enough to play this part, but we’d love to have you do it," but I was too busy at the time. So my agent said, "No, she’s too busy, she can’t do it." But on Saturday morning, I woke up and said, "Oh, that’s too good a script," so I personally called up the studio and said, "Listen, why don’t we shoot this another week? I have to go away on Tuesday." "What are you doing Monday?" "Nothing." "Okay, it’s Saturday. We’ll send out the hairdresser to get your gray wig. Wardrobe lady will come out on Sunday, and figure out something. Monday, you can start. You go away and do that other thing, then you’ll come back." I was so pleased that I made such an effort because otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten to do that, and I love that show. I love that Lauren Graham. I love everybody. Of course, I didn’t have much time to learn the lines, and you have to talk very fast. Ed Herrmann [Richard Gilmore] would walk me around, and say, "You can do it. You can do it. You can do it!" [Laughs]
Moving on to another great show, SNARF hopes you’ll reprise your role as Ida, Nora and Saul’s mother, on Brothers & Sisters. Any chance of that happening?
Yes! I just talked to [the producers], and they want me to come back [in season 3]. I said to them, "I think she drinks, don’t you? I think that Grandma drinks a little bit." [Laughs]
What else are you working on?
I’m going to be doing a new play called The Last Romance, written by Joe DiPietro, who wrote I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, in Overland Park, Kansas [from Sept. 4 through Nov. 9]. It was written for me and my beau, Mr. Paul Michael, so this is a thrill. It’s very funny, and then it’s very touching. And in June, my hometown, Albert Lea in southern Minnesota, is renaming their cultural theater in my name. So Paul and I are going to go and do Love Letters to help raise money for the new sign on the theater. And then I’ll speak to the high school graduation class… So, it’s a busy life.