ABC News’ Mary Pflum reports:
The stars of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” — Mary, Betty White, Valerie Harper, Cloris Leachman and Georgia Engel — are all acting together again for the first time since the show’s finale in 1977.
The legendary ladies sat down with ABC News’ Katie Couric to reminisce about the golden days and chat about their reunion on the small screen when they joined Betty White for an episode of her hit show “Hot in Cleveland.” They also discussed how much they support their beloved co-star, Valerie Harper, as she battles cancer.
“What is it like for you all working together after 40 years?” Couric asked.
“It really is heaven,” Moore said. “And none of us has changed.”
“Well, we’ve done the best we can,” Leachman added.
Betty White, without missing a beat, joked, “Gravity has taken over little bit.”
When asked why the women believe “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” resonated so much with people, Moore replied, “It so reflected life, Katie. It reflected women.”
The show’s writing was groundbreaking for its time, highlighting the fierce friendships and lives of five best friends, with characters that were funny and interesting, but also imperfect. Each role had something that attracted the audience.
“Why do you think people were so attracted, first of all, to Rhoda?” Couric asked Harper.
“Because they recognized themselves,” she replied. “A friend of mine once said, ‘Mary is who you wish you were, Rhoda is who you probably are, and Phyllis is who you’re afraid you’ll become.”
But weighing on the minds of the old friends was Valerie Harper’s recent disclosure that she has an inoperable brain tumor.
“We’re progressing,” Harper said. “I certainly see what’s ahead, what could possibly be tomorrow. In fact, I’m hoping I get through Friday.”
“But I’ve got to tell you, my dear, my money is on you,” White assured her. “I went through this. But her [positivity], everything is on the upside.”
Couric asked Harper where she finds the strength to get out of bed each morning, noting that “a lot of people honestly would get into bed and put the covers over their heads.”
Harper’s reply was simple, direct and offered a bit of advice.
“Don’t go to the funeral until the day of the funeral,” she said. “Don’t miss your life while you’re feeling good and you can do things.
“To cry, be in grief or say, ‘Why me?’ and rage, let it be there. Go through it. And then move on from it.”
The lasting legacy of the ladies isn’t lost on younger generations, including cast members of ”Hot in Cleveland.”
“When I was young I kept thinking, ‘God, it would be so much fun to grow up and be in a show where you got to play with your girlfriends.’ Which is what they did,” said Wendy Malick, who stars alongside White. “It’s sort of like a dream come true.”
This may be the last time the five will be together, but the mood of the reunion wasn’t sad. It was a celebration of old friends and a shared past that made television history.
“As we sit around on the set running lines, it just makes me think, ‘What a lucky woman you are,’” Moore said. “How fabulous to be working with the people who are your very good friends.”
All the other women agreed.
“You become even more than a family,” White added. “It’s something that you can’t explain to anybody. It’s just there.”
“I look around at these girls and my heart fills up with so much happiness,” said Harper.
“I do too,” Moore replied.
“Happiness and love and celebration and what life really is,” Harper explained.
The ladies’ reunion episode of “Hot in Cleveland” airs in September on TV Land.