Penny Marshall was afraid of stardom during her time on Laverne & Shirley
Image credit: The Everett Collection
One would assume that being a leading star on a hit TV show like Laverne & Shirley would boost anyone's confidence. Both as an individual and as an actor. However for Penny Marshall, who played the role of Laverne, being the star of a show didn't mean instant confidence.
In a 1978 interview with The Tampa Bay Times, Marshall described an evening she had with her husband Rob Reiner, Richard Dreyfuss and Carrie Fisher, whose star had skyrocketed in prominence with the premiere of Star Wars in 1977.
During this get-together with the stars, Marshall said the four of them found one major thing in common: a fear of being found out.
"When you're first starting out you're filled with excitement, enthusiasm because there's nothing at stake, nothing to lose," Marshall said. "But when you become lucky and make it, all of a sudden the fears come in to play and you keep worrying, 'When are they going to find out I'm not as good as they're saying I am?'"
As her peers, co-workers, most of the country and anyone who helped determine TV ratings knew... Marshall was talented. Marshall dealt with different degrees of pressure during Laverne & Shirley's 8 seasons.
This pressure affected not only Marshall, but the rest of the cast as well. According to the interview, Marshall and the rest of her co-stars never developed the knack of making the workplace fun.
"With the exception of Betty Garrett, we're a group of insecure people," Marshall said. "That's why we've tended to sometimes complain too much when there has been really no cause for complaints. It's just been our fears getting to us."
There was an even larger amount of fearful energy and tension on set in the summer of 1978. Both Marshall and her co-star, Cindy Williams, threatened to leave Laverne & Shirley unless they were given a piece of Laverne & Shirley profits.
They eventually did get the profits and a compromised raise. Marshall said with the good news, she had hoped to make season three of Laverne & Shirley the happiest set they've ever had. However, Marshall knew that was easier said than done.
"I stopped over at the soundstage where Taxi was shooting the other day, and was really impressed by the mood of the set," Marshall said. "There was a new show... and everyone was making plans to go out to dinner together. I wondered, 'Why aren't things like that on the Laverne & Shirley set?'"
According to the interview, Marshall went back to the Laverne & Shirley set the next day where she pitched the idea of bonding both on and off the set. Marshall figured out the problem: "They're scared and that's why they behave that way."
There was more than one thing about stardom that scared Marshall, but she knew it was a feeling she'd have to get used to, especially as the star in a TV show. Marshall would make the best of her fear for as long as she was on Laverne & Shirley.
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