‘Being the Ricardos’ Producer Discusses Genesis of Movie

by Allison Hambrick
391835 12: A vintage photo of comedian Lucille Ball is part of an exhibition celebrating the 50th anniversary of the "I Love Lucy" television sitcom July 13, 2001 at the Orange County Fair in Costa Mesa, CA. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

In an interview, Being the Ricardos producer Todd Black explained what he views as the core of the film. His goal was to capture both Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz in a way that honors their story.

Directed by Aaron Sorkin, Being the Ricardos stars Nicole Kidman as Lucille Ball and Javier Bardem as Desi Arnaz. The film doesn’t cover I Love Lucy in its entirety. Rather, it focuses on the week in which Ball was accused of being a communist. Also at the core of the story are the tensions in Ball and Arnaz’s marriage.

For Black, working on the film was “kind of a dream come true, actually, particularly with someone like Aaron.” He appreciated the challenges of depicting such iconic figures. Black wanted to show “the machinations of their relationship and their marriage, and their professional relationship on I Love Lucy.”

The more difficult challenge in making Being the Ricardos was finding actors suited to the roles. Black and Sorkin focused on the “essence” of the couple.

“Aaron and I did not want to have imitations,” revealed Black to Gold Derby. “You’re never going to duplicate Lucile Ball and Desi Arnaz. It’s never going to happen. They were one of a kind, that’s it.”

“Being the Ricardos” Was in the Makings for Decades

Additionally, Black expressed interest in making a film as far back as 1995. Unfortunately, Lucie Arnaz, daughter of Lucy and Desi, initially declined. After a meeting with Black, the two began a “trust-building process.”

While she initially objected to the idea of making a movie about her family, Arnaz relented under one condition. She didn’t want the filmmakers to “soften” her parents. Rather, she wanted the film to show “the real and raw” history of her family.

“It’s the story of Lucille Ball, my actual mother, not Lucy Ricardo and her husband Desi Arnaz, my dad, not Ricky Ricardo,” Arnaz stated.

Despite Reservations, Arnaz Champions the Film

When fans began to criticize the casting of Nicole Kidman, Arnaz was the first to come to her defense.

“There seems to be a lot of discussion about ‘Nicole Kidman, it should be Debra Messing, it should be Carole Cook,’” stated Arnaz. “Here’s the deal, what you should understand: We are not doing a remake of ‘I Love Lucy.’ No one has to impersonate Lucy Ricardo nor do the Vitameatavegamin routine or … any of the silly things.”

Kidman appreciated the support from Arnaz, calling it a “huge relief.” The actress wanted “to honor” Lucy and Desi but also “show them with their flaws.”

“Being the Ricardos” Captures Lucy and Desi, Says Daughter

After seeing an advanced screening, Arnaz had nothing but kind words for the film, in spite of some inaccuracies.

“It’s freaking amazing,” Arnaz revealed in an Instagram video. “What can I tell you? [Sorkin] captured the essence of that time in their lives so well. He captured the love between those players in the I Love Lucy show. The tension that was brought on in this particular week when all hell broke loose. And Nicole Kidman became my mother’s soul. She crawled into her head. I don’t know how you do that.”

Being the Ricardos releases in theaters on Dec. 10, while it will be available to stream on Amazon Prime beginning on Dec. 21.