EXCLUSIVE: Julie Chen, Gayle King and More Reveal Mary Tyler Moore's Influence on Women in Television
By Raphael Chestang
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Mary Tyler Moore was all about girl power even before the phrase was coined, and ET caught up with some of the powerful ladies who are continuing her tradition of redefining what it means to be a modern woman on television.
"She was a woman who broke glass ceilings and showed she could accomplish anything and everything she set her mind to in a man's world," The Talk host Julie Chen said.
On the hit television series The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Moore played Mary Richards, an ambitious, single, professional woman confidently going after her dreams as a TV producer. In 1970, the idea was a foreign concept to many, but for the young girls watching at home, it would plant a seed that would grow and lead thriving careers.
"I can remember gathering in the student lounge to watch Mary Tyler Moore on a Saturday night," CBS This Morning co-host Gayle King explained. "I think she made it OK that if you didn't have a date, if you didn't have a boyfriend, you could still do that and not be a loser."
"She was someone that gave us an idea about who we might want to be in life," said King's fellow co-host, Nora O'Donnell. "She dealt with bosses who were sometimes grouchy and had outdated views. And what's amazing to me is that 40 years later, some of those issues still exist!"
The show was one of the first to address equal pay during an episode where Mary confronts her bosses about why she's earning less than her male counterparts.
"Back then, she was pushing the envelope," 60 Minutes Correspondent, Lesley Stahl, said. "She was giving us courage because we didn't do that. We were just grateful to be inside: 'Oh! They gave us a job!' She was one brave cookie."
Allison Janney tackled similar feminist themes with humor on The West Wing.
"Mary Tyler Moore was one of the most important figures in my life," she revealed. "When I got the role of C.J. Cregg, I thought of her in this male world and I thought of her all the time. That role was because of what she started. We all should bow down and be grateful. Hats off to Mary."
Patricia Heaton, who played Debra Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond, also noted her admiration for Moore, explaining how the TV icon was able to get a message across without pontificating.
"The thing about comedy is you can make a great statement of the world," Heaton says, reflecting on Moore's portrayal of Laura Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show. "Laura Petrie was a lot sweeter than Debra. Debra was this newer, can I say b****ier type of wife."
Moore died on Wednesday from cardiopulmonary arrest after she had contracted pneumonia. The groundbreaking actress was 80.