Marlo Thomas Reflects on Working on a Series Lucille Ball Produced

by Allison Hambrick
Photo credit: Getty Images

Actress Marlo Thomas wrote about her experiences working with comedy icon Lucille Ball after seeing Being the Ricardos. The biopic stars Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem as Ball and her ex-husband Desi Arnaz. Additionally, it follows the week in which Ball was accused of being a member of the communist party.

The film features a scene in which Ball brings two actors back to the studio to practice a scene again. The catch is, the comedian brought them back at two in the morning.

“She knew it wasn’t good enough, funny enough,” Thomas wrote. “And so we watch Lucy push them to rehearse it — position them, instruct them — and they comply, even though their expressions reveal that they think she’s gone mad. But Lucille Ball knew where the funny was. She could envision it. She could hear it. And she knew what to add to it to make it better. And making it better haunted her.”

In what she calls a breathtaking moment, Ball unpacks her motivations. To keep herself in good standing with CBS after her pregnancy, she has to “kill every week for 36 weeks in a row.” According to Thomas, this is an accurate portrayal of her fellow actress.

Lucille Ball Opened Doors for Women in Television

Additionally, Ball’s perseverance created an avenue for other talented women to succeed in the entertainment industry. In fact, Thomas’s own career was made possible by Lucille Ball.

“Despite her genius behind and in front of the camera, the movie shows how Lucy was dismissed and patronized for her gender,” said Thomas. And yet because of her steely perseverance, she opened the door for all the female TV writers, creators and producers who would come after her.”

Back in the late 1960s, Thomas starred as aspiring actress Ann Marie in That Girl. Though she wasn’t properly credited, Thomas executive-produced the show under her company, Daisy Productions. She is quick to credit Ball paving her way.

“I was one of those women,” she continued. “When I was In my 20’s, I produced and starred in my own series that was shot at Desilu, the studio owned and run by Lucy and Desi Arnaz. And even then, gender bias was thick in the air.”

While sexism was hard to deal with, Thomas appreciated the support she had from Ball. Because of her successes, she learned to brush off the things men said about her.

“Years later, my brother told me that whenever someone was looking for me on the set, the joke was, ‘She’s having a meeting with Lucy in the men’s room.’ But I got the last laugh — because the truth is, there is no room in which I wouldn’t have been happy to take a meeting with Lucy,” Thomas wrote.