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Mary Tyler Moore in Her Own Words: How the Actress Transcended Television to Inspire a Generation

by Raphael Chestang 5:04 PM PST, January 25, 2017
Playing Mary Tyler Moore in Her Own Words: How the Actress Transcended Television to Inspire a Generation

As the world continues to mourn the death of Mary Tyler Moore, ET is looking back at some of our favorite interactions with the TV icon.

In 2013, Hot in Cleveland orchestrated a mini-Mary Tyler Moore Show reunion for Moore, Betty White, Georgia Engel, Valerie Harper and Cloris Leachman, and ET was on the set.

WATCH: Mary Tyler Moore Dies at 80

The episode was the first time the five ladies had acted on television together since the Mary Tyler Moore Show finale in 1977, which brought on strong feelings of nostalgia for Moore.

"It's wonderful, but it makes me sad too," Moore told ET. "It makes me feel, 'Well, why don't I have this in my current life?' Where are all these friends, buddies and co-workers and people who loved each other?"

Moore spent most of the '60s and '70s working on two of the most acclaimed programs in television history -- The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. The actress won Emmy and Golden Globe awards for her roles on both shows, but she refused to take all the credit for her accomplishments.

"It was so beautifully written," Moore told ET of her eponymous TV show. "It was a joy to play."

EXCLUSIVE: Dick Van Dyke Says He and Mary Tyler Moore Had a 'Teenage Crush' on Each Other

During one of our first interviews with Moore in 1985, she let us in on her acting secret.

"Every character I've played has had a great deal of Mary Tyler Moore in them -- especially the television characters," she said. "So Laura Petrie was me. Mary Richards was me."

While the charismatic beauty effortlessly won over audiences for decades, acting was not her first love. Before hitting the big time on The Dick Van Dyke Show in 1961, Moore aspired to be a famous dancer.

"To this day, beneath the exterior of a successful actor beats the heart of a failed dancer," Moore told ET in 2004.

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But Moore was much more than just an actress. Her iconoclastic approach provided inspiration to a generation of young women who refused to be burdened by societal norms.

Before her, there had never been a housewife on television who wore pants.

"The network was concerned, and they go to [creator] Carl Reiner and say, 'Just make sure she only wears those pants in one scene per show," Moore told ET. "We did that for maybe two shows and then we just said, 'I'm going to wear them whenever I feel like it.'"

Even after the golden years of her show business career, Moore continued to inspire. In 1995, she released the autobiography, After All, pulling back the veil on her seemingly perfect life to recount her battles with diabetes, alcoholism and her son's tragic death from an accidental gunshot wound.

READ: Mary Tyler Moore's Last TV Appearance Was an Epic Reunion With Betty White, Valerie Harper and More Co-Stars

"That is part of what writing the book is about. Showing other people that you can have faults and weaknesses and pain, and still go on," she told USA Today in '95. "I've gotten gratifying feedback from women like myself who denied their alcoholism for so long because they were so ladylike and all-American. In my admission, they were free to take a long look at themselves."

In her final years, Moore stayed out of the spotlight, but her last major public appearance came in 2012 when she was honored at the SAG Awards.

"Tonight, after having the privilege of working in this business among the most creative and talented people imaginable, I too am happy after all," she said as she accepted her Life Achievement Award.

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Moore married three times. She last said "I do" in 1983 to Dr. S. Robert Levine, whom she remained married to up until her death.

Moore died on Wednesday surrounded by friends and her husband. She was 80.

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