‘Happy Days’: The ‘Dark Depths of Depression’ This Cast Member Went Through

The cast of 'Happy Days', 1975
The cast of ‘Happy Days’, 1975 | Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives

The comedy series Happy Days brought lighthearted laughs and wholesome entertainment to television in the 1970s and ’80s.

The show was set in the 1950s in Milwaukee, USA. It followed the experiences and challenges of life for teenager Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard) and his friends. Even the neighborhood thug The Fonz (Henry Winkler) turned out to be quite a great guy.

Of course, the “happy days” in the show’s scripts didn’t resemble real life and one cast member revealed that a fellow co-star was living with a depression that “severely” affected their well-being.

Marion Ross and Tom Bosley were nothing like The Cunninghams

Marion Ross as Marion Cunningham on 'Happy Days', 1975
Marion Ross as Marion Cunningham on ‘Happy Days’, 1975 | Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

The relationship between Ross and Bosley at the start of Happy Days was nowhere near the domestic bliss enjoyed by their characters Marion and Howard Cunningham. Bosley, in fact, seemed to loathe the sight of the red-headed actor and didn’t seem to mind humiliating his co-star in front of the rest of the cast and crew.

“Along with his aversion to my making any sort of physical contact with him, Tom also seemed irritated by just about anything I did or said,” Ross wrote in her 2018 memoir My Days: Happy and Otherwise.

“I remember times during rehearsals when the cast and some of the technical crew would all be sitting around telling stories and laughing. It seemed that whenever I told a story, Tom would grunt and say, ‘Who gives a sh*t, Marion?’”

Bosley was in a deep depression due to a family crisis

The two actors, Ross detailed, seemed to be getting along better, only to have Bosley snip at or criticize her. She was at a loss regarding his moodiness.

As Ross would eventually learn, Bosley’s incivility towards her was directly related to the stress and anxiety he was experiencing as a result of his wife Jean’s illness.

Tom Bosley and Marion Ross, 1982
Tom Bosley and Marion Ross, 1982 | Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

RELATED: ‘Happy Days’ Henry Winkler on Ron Howard’s Emotional Departure: ‘When I Said Goodbye to Richie, I Said Goodbye to Ron’

“Jean was suffering from an inoperable brain tumor,” Ross said. “Tom was dealing with all those issues at home and then, somehow, managed to get to work and appear to Happy Days viewers from coast to coast as this cuddly little father figure with a touch of cantankerous charm.”

The actor who is considered one of the greatest TV moms said that eventually Bosley “began experiencing the dark depths of depression. I remember him saying, many years later, that as his wife faded, his depression grew.”

Jean died from her illness and as Ross noted, Bosley’s depression deepened as he now had to learn to parent his young daughter on his own.

Bosley used his platform to educate others about depression

Tom Bosley
Tom Bosley | Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Ross noted that she and Bosley at some point became the best of friends and the actor “opened up about what he had been going through while doing the show.”

In time, the Howard Cunningham actor, according to Ross, “participated in various campaigns to educate people on the signs and symptoms of depression and its treatment.

“I know [his participation] helped a lot of people by explaining that depression is not a natural part of aging, and that if people become depressed as they age, they should not keep it to themselves, but rather should discuss their symptoms with loved ones and seek help from medical professionals.”

How to get help: In the U.S. and Canada, text the Crisis Text Line at 741741 to reach a crisis counselor for support.