I can’t start a story about The Golden Girls without first thanking you for being a friend. No, really, you’re a pal and a confidant. There, now, I can begin.
Rue McClanahan spoke in 2006 to EmmyTVLegends.org about her storied career in television and film. Specifically, she spoke, about her long-standing role as Blanche Devereaux on 1985’s The Golden Girls. It turns out, she was originally supposed to play Rose, and not Blanche.
The feisty, promiscuous Blanche was a Southern debutante with a fiery attitude who lived with Dorothy (Bea Arthur), Rose (Betty White), and Dorothy’s mother Sophia (Estelle Getty) in Miami. McClanahan spoke about how she first got the role of Blanche, and her first look at the script.
She stated in the interview that she thought, “This is going to be good,” after one look at the script. McClanahan read the script and loved Blanche, but her agent said the role was promised to Betty White. Her agent said she should look at the role of Rose instead. McClanahan didn’t agree.
She said, “I can’t play Rose, I’ve got to play Blanche,” to which her agent gave her an ultimatum: “Either you can be in the series and play Rose, or you can forget it.”
McClanahan read for Rose, but director Jay Sandrich told her to read for Blanche as well. Later, Sandrich called McClanahan and Betty White into the same room and had them read as Blanche and Rose, respectively. McClanahan said in the interview that White’s “eyes went blank [as Rose], just as they stayed blank for the next 7 years.” She said that she told White that she had “Little Orphan Annie eyes, these two white ovals with nothing inside them, [you could] see straight though the head.”
“I didn’t have a handle on Rose,” said McClanahan, “I didn’t know how to play Rose.” It’s true that Rue McClanahan seemed born to play the role of Blanche Devereaux. She played Blanche for 8 years, 7 on The Golden Girls and one on the spin-off The Golden Palace.
‘The Golden Girls’ Once Performed Live for the Queen
In 1988, the cast of The Golden Girls took part in the Royal Variety Performance, performing live in front of the Queen and royal family. Talk about pressure.
The Girls had to censor some of their riskier jokes for the Queen; but, according to a review of the show at the time, the Queen was seen chuckling along with a risqué joke that slipped through the cracks. Bea Arthur as Dorothy asked Rue McClanahan’s Blanche how long she waited to have sex again after her husband died. Sophia, played by Estelle Getty, in her trademark one-liner style, interjected, “until the paramedics came.”
This, allegedly, delighted Queen Elizabeth II. Behind that royal appearance, apparently, a secret Golden Girl resides.