With the flash of a smile and the toss of her hat, Mary Tyler Moore quickly became America's sweetheart. Mary says her character on the show was partly modeled after her aunt, a successful executive at a Los Angeles news station. "Her name was Birdie Hackett," Mary says. "They used to call her Birdie Hatchet."
Despite her gruff professional demeanor, Mary says her aunt always encouraged her to follow her dreams. "She was the one who said to me when I was failing subjects in school, 'You're going to be a dancer, or you're going to be an actress. Whatever it is, you're going to be very good at it,'" Mary says.
Part of Mary Richards was inspired by the real Mary as well. "My then-husband, Grant Tinker, chose Jim Brooks and Allan Burns to create the character based on what they were getting to know about me," she says. "So a lot of what I have as an actress came into that character."
Throughout her accomplished career, Mary has won seven Emmys, received one Oscar® nomination and starred as one of Elvis's leading ladies on the big screen. The year before The Mary Tyler Moore Show aired, Mary played a nun opposite Elvis's doctor in Change of Habit. Oprah says she read that Elvis once said there was only one leading lady he never slept with. Was it Mary? "It was I," Mary says. "What was I thinking about?"