Lucille Ball’s Co-Worker Reflects on How ‘Being the Ricardos’ Star Nicole Kidman Brought Her to Life

by Josh Lanier

Marlo Thomas was worried when she heard that Nicole Kidman would play Lucille Ball in Being the Ricardos. Kidman is a talented actress with the resume and accolades to prove it, but is she funny? The That Girl star knew Lucille Ball and looked up to the pioneering TV comedienne. Kidman didn’t seem like the right fit.

Then she watched the movie.

“I cried at the end of Being the Ricardos,” Thomas writes in Variety. “Everything in it reminds me of my growing up in television. The hangar-like stages, the first table-read, blocking day, the fighting over who thinks what’s funny. The blur of a real-life and storybook life. And the aching love for all of it.

“Sorkin went there. He went all over there. Showing us what it takes to make a comedy work and what it takes to try to make a marriage work within it — and all the heartbreak that happens when funny isn’t enough to make you happy.”

Aaron Sorkin, Being the Ricardos writer and director, said he wasn’t looking for a Lucille Ball impersonation. He wanted to show the person trying to navigate the politics of 1950s television and married life. But not always getting it right.

Marlo Thomas now thinks Nicole Kidman was a perfect choice for the role.

“Were this a conventional movie review, I would write pages on the deeply felt performances Sorkin draws from his actors — especially the submersion of Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem into the soul of Lucy and Desi, as we watch their passionate romance consumed by the bonfire of their creative success,” she writes.

Nicole Kidman Said She Nearly Left ‘I Love Ricardos’ Over Backlash

Marlo Thomas wasn’t the only person skeptical of Nicole Kidman’s casting. There was a massive fan backlash after news broke Sorkin had cast her in Being the Ricardos. Most argued that Debra Messing should get the role.

The fallout was so bad that Kidman nearly walked away from the movie.

“I went, ‘What have I said yes to?’ — to which I then went, ‘Oh no, I’m not right. Everyone thinks I’m not right so I’m going to try to sidestep this,’” she explained on Live With Kelly and Ryan. “And the producer Todd Black and Aaron Sorkin were both like, ‘Absolutely not.’ I was in Australia and they were like, ‘No.’ And thank god, because then I was so grateful because I got to fall in love with her.”

Kidman did all she could to block out the critics and focus on her performance. It seems to have worked as she’s picked up award nominations for the role. They’re nice endorsements, but the one that she said mattered most came from Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s daughter, Lucie Arnaz.

Lucie Arnaz visited the set of Being the Ricardos earlier this year and raved about Kidman’s performance.

“Nicole did a spectacular job,” Arnaz said. “The two days that I watched, though, were both little flashbacks, so she was playing Lucy in the late ’30s and mid-’40s. She wasn’t Lucy of Lucy Ricardo fame yet, so it was a trifle different.

“And I know she meant it to be, so it could feel different. But boy, what she did was astounding. She’s got such poise and class.”