I recently spoke with actress Marion Ross, who everyone will remember as Happy Days‘ very own Mrs. C, a character she would play in no less than 255 episodes. We discussed her work in the upcoming film A Reason, and her thoughts on the changes she’s seen in acting and directing since her career began in 1954.
A Reason was directed by Dominique Schilling, produced by Caroline Risberg, and made by Risberg Schilling Productions.
When we first began talking, we focused on filming A Reason, her experiences on set, and her recent win at the Hoboken International Film Festival.
Bethany Rose: Can you tell me about your role in the film A Reason?
Marion Ross: I get to play this wealthy old woman, and it’s kind of fun since I’m always so sweet and perfect, really to be kind of the villain of the piece. Except that she feels that she has her reason for being on the outs with her family. But there is a reading of her will and she is putting the children into the will, but she doesn’t think much of them. She is disappointed with everybody. You know what was fun? To see her turn around. She does turn around of course.
We were filming in Brentwood, part of LA here, and in a fine house that was going to be remodeled, so they said we could use it, and do whatever you want. It was the swimming pool, and the house, and so forth, so that was fun. And all these young filmmakers, it’s amazing how many people are making films now, so we just had a good time.
BR: I was going to ask about the house because it really was a stunning set piece and was a major part of the film.
MR: You have to look wealthy. You know. It was a very beautiful estate.
BR: What drew you to the role? Do you think it’s different from some of your other work?
MR: The producer, Caroline Risberg, is from Sweden. The director, Dominique Schilling, is from Switzerland. So you have these European people, the freshness of it. I got to know them all very well, and I just had a good time being that character and working with them.
BR: When you read it, did you think that fans of some of your other work would be surprised with this role?
MR: I’ve done a range of things. I did a series called Brooklyn Bridge where I played a Jewish matriarch. I’ve done several Holocaust movies, even though I’m not Jewish. Mrs. C, of course, my trademark, and of course that’s very much what I’m like. But I love acting, being somebody else.
BR: What were some of your favorite scenes to film in A Reason?
MR: You know what was interesting to me is you have all of these young filmmakers, and they would set up—like at the big dining room table, you have seven or eight people in that scene—they would set up this track that moved around the table. You can get a master shot, two shot, close-up, as they swing down this track.
I love the economy of the new filmmakers. In the old days, you’d stop, reset, set up, all the time. Now, they are fluid. They want to do it fast. It’s intriguing to me to see the technique of filmmaking change. You don’t have to stop and relight all the time. I love the fact that all the sudden, Hollywood filmmaking is wide open.
When I started, I started under contract at Paramount when I was 22 years old. I’d come from San Diego. I’d already been to college, did all the plays. In those days we just had MGM, Paramount, I don’t even know that we had Universal Studios. This was like 1952. Then television came in. And now, everyone and their uncle is making a movie down in their basement. It is wide open. So that is very exciting.
BR: That’s one of the exciting things about Influx Magazine, is that we talk to a lot of the new filmmakers, and it is interesting to hear how they are able to make their films now.
MR: And that’s, when you ask why I took this role, I want to help these young people. Of course I have Ron Howard, and Garry Marshall, and all those people that I work with, but these kids are coming up, and I like it. It’s fun to keep in the game. I feel very fortunate to be healthy, smart, fit, and able, so I can keep doing this.
BR: You clearly are able and capable, and for your work in A Reason, you won a Best Supporting Actress award at the Hoboken International Film Festival.
MR: I did. This is great. There’s so much going on with festivals, film festivals are everywhere. I attended the festival, and that was so much fun. Caroline Risberg and Dominque Schilling asked if I wanted to come and I said absolutely. And I came home with my trophy.
Marion and I then spoke about her children and some of the wonderful work they have done in writing and acting.
MR: My daughter, Ellen, was a writer and producer on Friends, and she has an Emmy for that. My son is a wonderful actor, he’s on the internet and everywhere, Jim. He has a thousand things on Youtube.
BR: I have seen your son in many things. I’m a huge fan of his work. In the area where I’m from, we have the grocery store chain Schnucks, and he did a series of commercials for them that my dad and I loved. So we looked up who he was, and we watched just about anything we could find him in after that.
MR: Have you seen his Shakespeare?
BR: No, but that sounds interesting.
MR: Look it up, because he does a monologue from Richard III imitating 26 different actors. He’s fabulous. You must look it up.
BR: Have you worked with Jim before?
MR: He was on Happy Days once. He was in the episode on the beach when Fonzie jumped the shark!
Then we discussed some more of her work, including some stage work she continues to do.
MR: I always go to Overland Park, Kansas, also, to do theatre. I think the last time I was there was 2012, so I’m due to go again. I talked to them today, and they said they want me to come again. I said, OK, I will. It’s called the New Theatre in Overland Park. Lots of movie stars and television stars go there.
BR: Do you have a favorite between film, television, and theatre, or do you enjoy all of them equally?
MR: I must say film is really tedious unless you use a lot of new techniques. That’s what I liked about A Reason. I love the theatre. I love film in that you mustn’t act. You must do something, but don’t let them catch you acting. The joy of acting is when you forget you’re even acting, you’ve become somebody else. What a nice thing, to quit being you and go be somebody else.
BR: Absolutely! And do you have any upcoming projects?
MR: I think I could use a vacation. At Christmas time, I have three different shows I finished. One is Hallmark, and another one is a Christmas movie I’m sure will be on television. I have worked a lot. But I enjoy it.
I’ve had a wonderful life as an actor. Now there are so many actors. When I started, I was the only one in my college class at San Diego State University that was going to become an actor. Now it’s a full field, but there are more opportunities everywhere. It equals out. Film is our medium, our tool for everything: Education, travel, entertainment, everything. I would never say to somebody, “Don’t go into that.” I would never say that to somebody anyway. You should really have the freedom to follow your dream.
by Bethany Rose