Betty White’s acting career ranks among the best of the best with the sheer number of appearances she’s played. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, she fielded a number of questions, including her favorite role. While Rose Nylund from Golden Girls may be the obvious answer, White reveals it isn’t.
Sitting down with Oprah, the interview begins with Betty White answering Oprah’s question concerning her favorite role. “Ever played?” I… Sue Ann Nevins was an awful lot of fun,” White begins. Sue Ann Nevins was her character from The Mary Tyler Moore Show. She is the perky star of The Happy Homemaker on the show and a perfectionist. Though she appears sweet to her audience, she’s actually sardonic, competitive, and obsessed with men, particularly Lou Grant.
Even though she admits enjoying that role, White continues her answer to Oprah. “But I’m having a ball with Elka from Hot in Cleveland. She’s a rotten person, too. But we have a lot of fun.” Despite Rose from Golden Girls being one of her most iconic, if not the most, characters, White admits it’s “fun” playing mean characters and says it’s interesting.
For reference, Elka Ostrovsky is the character Betty White is referring to. A Polish widow in her late 80s, Elka is the caretaker of the home the ladies of Hot in Cleveland rent. To say she is opinioned and outspoken is putting things lightly. She lives to the fullest, having an active sex life, drinking heavily, and it’s suggested she uses marijuana. Interestingly enough, she was only supposed to appear in the pilot episode, but her reception was received so well she became a regular.
Overall, it seems Betty White has more fun with flawed, sassy characters than outright good ones.
Betty White Says First TV Job Was Like ‘Television College’
Betty White spoke about her favorite television role, but another seems to have helped set her up for decades of success. In another interview, White said her first TV job was like “television college.”
Speaking to Cleveland Magazine, White recalled her first television appearance. It’s understandable most people would be nervous, but hers had an interesting twist: no scripts. In 1949, the variety show Hollywood on Television hired her alongside Al Jarvis to co-host. It was a bit different in that it aired five hours a day, six days a week. In a true sink or swim situation, she had to be quick on her feet and clever to boot.
“Al was a great one to work with,” White told the outlet. “He’d throw something at me, and I’d try to be there to bat it back. It was like going to television college. You don’t get that kind of experience today.”