‘Lucy and Desi’ Director Amy Poehler Reveals What She Learned About Lucille Ball Through Documentary

by Jennifer Shea

Comedienne Amy Poehler has directed a new documentary about the iconic TV duo of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Titled Lucy and Desi, it examines the couple’s relationship through the years.

In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Poehler revealed what she learned about Ball in making the documentary. She found out a lot about both members of the couple, Poehler said. But “Lucy’s voice is the voice that I heard a lot and I thought about a lot.”

Before she made Lucy and Desi, Poehler had little if any understanding of the towering show business legends as “real flesh and blood people.” But now she does. And she’s sharing what she learned with audiences at the Sundance Film Festival today and on Amazon starting March 4.

Amy Poehler Opens Up About Lucille Ball’s Work As a Mentor

Ball and Arnaz each had their cross to bear, as Poehler sees it. For Arnaz, it was being a Cuban immigrant and all the tragedy he left behind to forge a successful career. For Ball, it was being a trailblazing woman in Hollywood at a time when women’s roles on screen and in society were very limiting.

“Not enough is spoken about Desi’s early trauma and the way that he turned that into an incredible success,” Poehler told THR. “ [And] how expensive that was for him, personally. I also was really moved by the way, in Lucy’s later years, she not only continued to work, but she also mentored a lot of young women, especially in comedy. Everything from getting to know exactly what they were dealing with in the television studio system at the time to realizing that Desi brought the conga line to the U.S. You know that dance that your aunts do at your cousin’s wedding? It’s because of Desi.”

Beyond those women Ball mentored directly, other women followed in Ball’s footsteps and pursued comedy careers. And many have cited Ball as an influence. She lit the way for generations of young women, including arguably Amy Poehler herself.

Ball and Arnaz Remained Good Friends Even After Their Divorce

Ball and Arnaz had a famously tempestuous marriage, shaken by adultery, jealousy and drinking problems. But no one could accuse them of failing to love each other, and after their 1960 divorce, they stayed close as friends until Arnaz’s death in 1986. (Ball passed away in 1989.)

“I was blown away by the way in which Lucy and Desi adapted their relationship to each other throughout their lives, and remained friends and partners until the end,” Poehler added. “And it’s so symbolic because here you have this couple that represented safety and security, rupture and repair. That is a thing that we, as Americans, had for the past 60 and 70 years looked for in our television. Then to see that they also worked on that in real life is very cool.”

Indeed, the couple remain beloved cultural figures to this day. And fans of their work can learn more about their lives behind the scenes when Poehler’s documentary becomes available for widespread viewing later this year.