"It's what you are on the inside" that matters, says Marion Ross

By Tim Nudd
Updated November 02, 2013 10:30 AM
Credit: Jerod Harris/WireImage; Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Happy Days took place in a whole different era. And to Marion Ross, who played Mrs. Cunningham on the nostalgic sitcom, Hollywood today is unrecognizable.

Asked in a recent interview what she thought of Miley Cyrus‘s twerking routine, Ross, 85, recalled what her mother told her when she was starting out as an actress.

“[She] would say, ‘It’s what you are on the inside, not what you are on the outside.’ Now, when I go to Hollywood, I think, well, obviously she had it all wrong. It’s what you are on the outside!” Ross tells Parade.

But in fact, young actresses don’t have to sell themselves out to get noticed, says Ross. “They should be very careful with the way they run their lives. It’s dangerous out there,” she says. “I was so green, so pure. I was so damn good. But I ended up being Mrs. C. So, if you stick it out, it can be good for you.”

Ross admits with a smile that she’s still reaping the rewards of her Emmy-nominated role on Happy Days. “It’s a very great blessing, and I’ve never regretted being Mrs. C,” she says. “I take advantage of it every time I want the plumber to come – anything I want I use it.”

Ross is still a working actress – she recently appeared in several episodes of the TNT drama Major Crimes. But she is pulling back a little on her workload.

“I’ve been very busy,” she says. “My husband [Paul Michael] died two years ago, and I’ve kept on the move, doing plays. I think, ‘Alright, now you can stop a minute.’ I’m going to not push myself quite so hard right now.”

That gives her more time to spend with her grown children – son Jim, an actor and impressionist who recently appeared on America’s Got Talent; and daughter Ellen, a sitcom writer and producer.

“Thank God I have my lovely family,” says Ross, “and I can pour a lot of my attention into them.”