Cindy Williams had experience with two decades: Shirley's and her own
Cindy Williams portrayed a child of the '50s in the ever-popular Happy Days (1974) spin-off series, Laverne & Shirley (1976). She played the role of Shirley Feeney, one-half of the iconic duo, for a total of eight seasons.
Although Williams had her role as Shirley down perfectly, she had a hard time relating to a child from the '50s.
Williams was born in 1947 and had been more about the 1960s than she was in the '50s. Yet, Williams embraced the nostalgic setting and her goofy kitty-carrying character resonated with audiences of all generations.
According to a 1976 interview with Ventura County Star, Williams said relating to her "milk-and-cookies" character on the series was one of her biggest struggles as an actress at the time.
"I don't care much about the '50s, because I'm a child of the ''60s," Williams said. "I belonged to the generation that was sleeping on mattresses on the floor, living in the cheapest places possible, and going to love-ins. I shared a house with a group of friends - together we were poor."
Williams said she grew up in a poor family. Laverne & Shirley was just one of the many big steps forward she made to make her situation more secure and stable - something she never had while growing up.
"It wasn't the run-of-the-mill, middle-class, happy family life," Williams said. "We were poor. But there was still a lot of love, and I can't blame being poor on my parents."
According to the interview, Williams felt that not enough had passed for the public to look back and laugh at the events of the 1960s, but the '50s was fair game.
Though she was too young to have actually lived through the problems of 1950s teenagers, Williams did a great job of portraying a character from the decade. Perhaps it's because she'd already playing a child of the '50s alongside Ron Howard in the 1973 film, American Graffiti.
With just a little experience from her own life and her career, she was able to resonate with Laverne & Shirley viewers across the country.
According to a 1977 interview with the Press of Atlantic City, Williams said money was never that important, but having a wealthy career was. In a world where all eyes were on Williams, she
"My career is what I'm married to," Williams said. "Even when I was doing theater in college, I realized it was something I could always depend on; that here was a relationship that always gives me back what I put into it. Even the response from an audience is a kind of love."
Williams may not have been a child from the '50s, but she was a child of some very hard times. Her past experience helped her become a forever popular character and her career helped her become financially secure.
"I realize how lucky I am," Williams said. "This whole game is a spin of a wheel. It's roulette. You are given incredible amounts of money, but you must stop and tell yourself that it may not always be good. I had no money growing up as a kid, so I see the value in it. I'm saving."
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