She didn't really want to be an actress, but Johnson encouraged her to do it.She agreed but was terrified of performing in front of the camera.Penn took a paternal interest in her, and she felt confident and gave a riveting performance, doing racy nude scenes.
Her mother, from Minnesota, is of Swedish, German, and Norwegian ancestry, and her father, from Maryland, was of English, as well as Irish, Scottish, and Welsh, descent.
Her parents' marriage ended in 1961 and Tippi came to Los Angeles to get a new start.
Tippi married her then-agent, Noel Marshall, in 1964 (they divorced in 1982), and Melanie grew up with three stepbrothers.
Tippi took a very liberal approach and allowed Melanie to move in with Don at a tender age.
Even though Melanie didn't like modeling, she continued to do so to pay the bills.
One day, she went to meet with director Arthur Penn for what she thought was a modeling assignment.It was actually an audition for his film Night Moves (1975), and Penn gave her the role of a runaway nymphet, which got her noticed in Hollywood.Meanwhile, her father married Nanita Greene Samuels, with whom he had two more children: Tracy Griffith and Clay A. Melanie also grew up with tigers and lions, as Tippi and Noel were raising them for the movie Roar (1981), in which the family later starred.Her career began as a model at just nine months old and she later appeared as an extra in Smith!(1969) and The Harrad Experiment (1973), where she fell in love with her mother's co-star, Don Johnson.She was only fourteen years old, while he was a twice-divorced 22-year-old.