It was mostly laughter -- and only a few tears -- when the cast of The Mary Tyler Moore Show reunited Thursday at the CBS Radford lot in Studio City to reminisce about their show and discuss their upcoming on-air reunion in TV Land's Hot in Cleveland.
Mary Tyler Moore, Valerie Harper and Cloris Leachman will join Cleveland star Betty White and recurring actress Georgia Engel in the Sept. 4 episode, appropriately titled "Love Is All Around" (that, of course, also was the title of Mary Tyler Moore's theme song). It marks the first time all five women have acted together since their 1970-77 series went off the air.
Though they have kept in touch over the years, the quintet also hasn't been together in the same place since the 2012 SAG Awards, where Moore was honored with a career achievement award.
Asked whether there was more tears or laughter while they've been shooting Cleveland, Harper replied: "I would say laughter, and the tears come up, and they’re part of the laughter. Did you ever laugh 'til you cried? That's been happening a lot. And the remembrances and the stories -- it's been wonderful, so full of life and joy and fun."
"And heartbreak, and sadness, and loneliness, and torment…," quipped Leachman to laughs.
Indeed, the actresses kept the throng of reporters, camera operators and publicists entertained throughout Thursday's press conference. The vibe was upbeat and positive, with the cast's chemistry clearly on display. Moore noted that they picked up right where they left off as if no time had passed.
"Even though we are playing different people [on Hot in Cleveland], we are still ourselves, and no matter where you put us, we will continue to be ourselves and interact as only you can when you've been together for a long, long time," she said.
Added White: "We're grateful for the fact that we love each other. We've always gotten along. It would be different if it were one of those shows where we don't speak. That wouldn't have been any fun."
The episode finds Elka (White) and Mamie Sue (Engel) deciding to get their bowling team -- named GLOB: the Gorgeous Ladies of Bowling -- back together. The team, which also includes, Diane (Moore), Peg (Leachman) and Angie (Harper), had a falling-out decades earlier after their championship season went to their heads.
Asked what motivated the group to reunite, Leachman quipped: "It wasn't the money."
The idea of the reunion came about through the Cleveland staff, and it was suggested that the first one to sign on was Moore, who said she was "thrilled" to do it. (She previously appeared in a season two episode of Cleveland as Elka's cellmate.) While their former co-stars Gavin MacLeod and Ed Asner were available to be a part of the reunion, Harper joked that the Cleveland writers wanted to keep the reunion "really high estrogen."
Meanwhile, Harper also addressed her recent revelation that she has terminal brain cancer during the event. She said she's gotten an "overwhelming" amount of support from fans in the form of letters, gifts and blankets as well as remedies.
"Some are a little questionable, but it comes from a good place," she said, noting that she's hoping to respond to everyone who reached out. As for her condition, "I don't have a lot of bad symptoms. Maybe down the road, but I'm not thinking about down the road; I'm thinking about today and getting my lines right."
She added that while her doctor told her she has only several months to live, she believes that it's impossible for anyone to accurately predict such a thing. "Every experience is different," she said.
Moore teared up once, when asked what her favorite scene with Harper was. She noted that anytime they were filming together, they had a shorthand.
"We look into each other's eyes and would be comforting and uplifting for each other," she said.
For her part, Harper said Moore often would graciously tell the writers to give jokes to Harper if she felt they would be better for her character.
Meanwhile, Moore admitted that it makes her sad that her she isn't able to see her former co-stars, as well as the cast and crew, more often.
"It makes me feel, well, why don't I have this in my current life?" she said. "Where are all these friends and buddies and co-workers and people who loved each other? Why aren't they around?"
At one point, the topic came around to the state of comedy today and the impact of their show on TV, with Moore noting that the Mary Tyler Moore writers were able to explore topics that hadn't already "been seen hundreds of times."
Harper also noted the writing on was held up to a high standard.
"Our writers wrote high-class comedy," she said. "They didn't throw a character overboard for a cheap joke, boobs and ass. They never went over the line."
Hot in Cleveland returns with a live episode at 10 p.m. June 19. The Mary Tyler Moore reunion episode airs Sept. 4.