All in the Family changed Sally Struthers over the course of nine seasons
Sally Struthers changed her attitude because of her role in All in the Family. It also brought her closer to her real-life family.
During All in the Family's nine season run, the '70s sitcom reached the top of the ratings quite often. In fact, All in the Family is only one of a few TV series that had been number one in the Nielsen ratings for five consecutive seasons. The show remained in the top 10 for seven of its nine seasons.
That's a lot of eyes watching the cast each season, including those who watched Sally Struthers. Struthers played the role of Gloria Bunker-Stivic, who married Michael Stivic in the series.
With all of her success that came from All in the Family, Struthers was able to start thinking about upcoming roles to add to her resume.
In a 1973 interview with Longview Daily News, Struthers said she hoped to switch to a more dramatic role during an All in the Family hiatus.
"When we go on hiatus, I want to do something different," she said. "And there are so many ways to represent a woman. I would like to play a murderess and an unwed mother, and a nun, and an old Jewish mother. At the end of my career I'd like to have people say that I am as funny as Judy Holliday and to be as revered as Ruth Gordon."
Before pursuing a career in acting, Struthers said she thought about going into medicine or becoming a famous painter. According to the interview, one day she "flipped out" and moved to Hollywood.
Struthers said she would call All in the Family creator, Norman Lear, "father of us all." This is because Lear fought for the frankness and reality of the series, something a show wasn't well-known for before. Because of his devotion, Struthers said she changed during the course of the series.
"At first I behaved like an idiot on the set," she said. "I thought that was the way to get people to like me. I've been educated on the set. I've learned to be myself. And now, they respect me."
In a 1973 interview with Tallahassee Democrat, Struthers talked about the suspense the cast and crew felt while waiting on ratings during the pilot episode's premiere. She said there were about 16 of them, from cast and production, waiting for the thumbs up or thumbs down.
"After it was over, it became a real celebration," she said. "We figured we'd made it in spite of all the pessimism. We hadn't been cut off anywhere. But I guess a lot of people were stunned into indecision. TV had offered nothing quite that frank before."
Struthers said her greatest satisfaction was meeting fans, who were usually teenagers. They would gather around her in public and talk about the series with her. Struthers felt All in the Family was bridging the generation gap better than any show ever had.
Struthers came from a middle-class, conservative family. According to the interview, when she first took the role on All in the Family, she became worried about how her own family would react.
"I thought before we went on air that this kind of show might turn them off of me completely," she said. "But fortunately, their sense of humor won out. That grandmother of mine, she now sits and giggles at things that a year ago would have offended her."
Turns out, grandma had good taste in television.