Marion Ross aged up a few years for her role in Brooklyn Bridge

Image credit: The Everett Collection

Marion Ross had just wrapped up playing the role of Marion Cunningham, the mom to Richie and Joanie, on Happy Days (1974) when she decided to put on a wig, some old-fashioned clothes and makeup that aged her by a few years.  

The Veteran actress put in some major work in order to make herself appear older than she actually was in the role of the strong-willed grandma, Sophie Berger, in the 1991 series Brooklyn Bridge.

"I look old, plenty old," Ross said in a 1991 interview with The Daily Times. "But I don't care. I can't believe I had the good fortune to get a comedic role this rich in a series with such a genuine creative impulse behind it."

The short-lived series was a nostalgic 1950s time capsule — something Ross already had experience with because of her role on Happy Days. The series was set in Brooklyn in the 1950s and revolved around the family of Sophie and Jules Berger (Louis Zorich).

"What's wonderful about it is that it's an immigrant story and that generation of grandmothers, no matter what nationality they were, devoted their life to the family and to bringing up those kids," Ross said. "They stressed so much character, to be the best you can."

"I'm afraid we'll never go back to that," Ross said. "But we're asking you to walk back across the Brooklyn Bridge with us and remember what it was like when family meant getting together with people you loved."

Besides a TV movie or two, Brooklyn Bridge was her first series with a leading role since Happy Days ended. She worked regularly, literally playing hundreds of roles, for decades. The successful actress said she was happy playing the role of a grandmother on TV — even if she did have to put on loads of makeup to look the part.

"I thought about this," Ross started. "I thought, 'Here are actresses my age, all getting their faces done and getting thin. But they're never going to work again."

Despite the series' short run on television, Ross said it was a role she'd never forget. In a 1992 interview with the Omaha World-Herald, she said she liked playing a strong character and saw so much of Sophie in herself.

Not only did she like the character, but she identified with her too. 

"I understand Sophie Berger completely," Ross said. "She knows sacrifice. For Sophie Berger life is family. One day I said something or other to my son and he said 'Mom, you are Sophie Berger.'"

Although the role was short-lived, her role as Sophie Berger will live on.