‘Being the Ricardos’: Who Are Set to Play Vivian Vance and William Frawley in the Upcoming Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Biopic?

by Suzanne Halliburton

We know the movie, Being the Ricardos, will document a week in the real and fictionalized version of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.

It has terrific talent at the top of the movie. Academy Award winner Nicole Kidman is playing Lucille Ball, while Javier Bardem is Desi on Being the Ricardos. Like Kidman, Bardem also owns an Oscar. And in the movie, Kidman and Bardem portray the actors who were Lucy and Ricky Ricardo from I Love Lucy.

Aaron Sorkin, another Oscar winner, wrote the screen play for Being the Ricardos and is directing the movie.

Lucie Arnaz, the daughter of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, said Being the Ricardos isn’t a remake of the TV show.

“It is a story of the two of them and how they met,” Lucie Arnaz said in a Facebook video promoting Being the Ricardos. “And what went right with finding the show and what went wrong, their relationship, their love affair.”

But the show still is a vital part of the movie plot, which means Fred and Ethel are there, too, right alongside the Ricardos. So, in the movie, Vivian Vance and William Frawley will be right there with Ball and Arnaz. Vance even played Lucille Ball’s best friend, again, on the sitcom Here’s Lucy.

So who did the director for Being the Ricardos cast as Fred and Ethel?

Being the Ricardos Cast J.K. Simmons, Nina Arianda

J.K. Simmons is William Frawley, aka Fred. He won Best Supporting Actor at the 2014 Academy Awards for his performance in Whiplash. But he’s also a familiar face on TV. You’ve probably seen him as the lead pitchman on the Farmer’s Insurance commercials. He’s also been on several big TV series, including The Closer, Law & Order, New York Undercover and Oz.

Nina Arianda is Ethel. She’s best known to Broadway fans. Arianda has one Tony Award in the trophy case for her performance in Venus in Fur. She also was nominated for Born Yesterday. She’s only 36, so she’s about five years younger than Vivian Vance was when she was cast in I Love Lucy. Although they played a married couple on TV, there was a big age gap between Frawley and Vance. Frawley was in his mid-60s when I Love Lucy started.

Sorkin should be able to pull many dramatic details from real life to feature them in Being the Ricardos. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz fell immediately in love when they met on the set of Too Many Girls in 1940. The two were married within six months.

Being the Ricardos probably will feature how combustible the marriage was. Ball nearly divorced Arnaz seven years before I Love Lucy started. Ball and Arnaz were new parents when the sitcom started, then Lucy became pregnant with son Desi Jr after the first season. Her pregnancy was written into the show.

The movie currently is filming. There is no release date, as yet.