‘Being the Ricardos’: Nina Arianda Discusses What She Learned From Vivian Vance

by Allison Hambrick

Being the Ricardos actress Nina Arianda opened up about what life lessons she learned from I Love Lucy’s Vivian Vance. With Nicole Kidman as the Lucy to her Ethel, Arianda painted a sympathetic portrayal of Vance. The actress found a relatability in how Vance sort of fell into her comedy career.

“Are you familiar with the Chekhov play ‘Three Sisters?'” Arianda said in an interview with Variety. “I once played Olga, which is a really ‘womp womp’ part. You don’t get the sex appeal of Masha or Irina. When you play Olga, you’re sad for the entire run but you have an appreciation for someone in their position and how they make the best of it. Vivian is no Olga, mind you, but what came from this was… Boy, you better appreciate your own layers on a personal basis even though the world might not.”

While Vance is known to the world as Ethel, Being the Ricardos presents a more nuanced figure. Arianda felt that it was important to recognize the strength Vance showed by moving past being typecast.

“It’s important to give that to yourself, especially these days when we need constant validation from other people,” Arianda continued. “She has to reconcile with herself that what she did in her past and who she is, that’s so very important to where she presently was — which was on a hit show. Nobody can take any of that away from her, as hard as they may try.”

Prior to Being the Ricardos, Arianda admitted she mostly knew Vance through I Love Lucy. Trying to find information on her proved difficult. Luckily, Arianda found archival footage of Desi Arnaz introducing the cast. In the video, Arianda saw a different side of Vance: the “seductress.”

Being the Ricardos Star Talks Vance’s Career

As a result of seeing how she “oozed femininity,” the Being the Ricardos star discovered another side of Vivian Vance.

“I realized she was a famous torch singer, an ingénue mostly,” said Arianda. “Further on, she had her own line of beauty products. She was a very established theater actress. It only built up the idea that this was a woman who was so desirable and beloved. Her voice, the way she moved. Knowing all of that helped me contextualize the fall — and by that I mean, her being boxed in for the rest of her life as [her character Ethel]. We find her at place in this movie where she’s almost in a mourning stage, a bit in denial that this part of her is gone. She’s so desperately fighting to keep it alive.”

Additionally, her understanding of Vance’s frustrations created a fully fleshed-out character–something sorely needed to make a particular scene work. While they were friends on and off-screen, Vance felt creatively stifled by Lucille Ball. In one scene, the characters argue over Ethel’s appearance on I Love Lucy.

“These were two people that were best friends and begging to be seen by one another,” explains Arianda. “Lucy is saying, ‘You have to understand, this is my job, I know what people want.’ Vivian is saying, ‘You have to let me be me, even a little bit. Im losing it.’ It’s all coming from love.

Being the Ricardos is currently playing in select theaters. The film is also available on Amazon Prime.