HomeEntertainment‘Golden Girls’: Betty White Explained Complicated ‘Guilt’ Feelings over Male Character Cut After Pilot

‘Golden Girls’: Betty White Explained Complicated ‘Guilt’ Feelings over Male Character Cut After Pilot

by Joe Rutland
(Photo by: Ron Tom/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images)

Did you know there originally was a main male character in “The Golden Girls” cast? He appears in the pilot but never gets any further.

Coco, a gay cook/butler played by actor Charles Levin, was all lined up for the NBC sitcom. When the show was picked up by the network, though, Coco was out. The fact that Levin’s character didn’t make the final cut bothered actor Betty White a lot.

White and costar Rue McClanahan appeared with “The Golden Girls” writers and directors at PaleyFest 2006 in Los Angeles. It’s named for late CBS executive William Paley and the event was held at The Paley Center for Media.

“Oh it was heartbreaking,” White said about Levin’s absence. “Because when you sweat out a pilot and you’re so thrilled. I think he was more as excited as all the rest of us. And then to discover that the part had been cut had to be, I just, I had such guilt feelings about it.

“But so much of our interaction took place at that kitchen table,” White said. “And it would have been altogether different if, had he been there.”

‘Golden Girls’ Star Says People Ask Why Coco Doesn’t Appear After Pilot

White said at the time people would see the pilot for the first time and wonder why Coco doesn’t appear anymore.

“They say, ‘Was it because he was gay?'” White said. “Well I say, ‘He wasn’t gay.'” In fact, Levin was married with one child.

Susan Thomas, who created “The Golden Girls,” said she and her team didn’t know what gold they’d found with those ladies.

“And there was just no room for him,” Thomas said. “It was hard enough in the 23 minutes we had each week to tell a story and give them material. We just had a wealth of riches. We didn’t want to deprive him so we cut him out for that reason. It wasn’t fair. He’s a good actor.”

Levin appeared as a cast regular on CBS’s sitcom “Alice.” He had a recurring role between 1982-86 on NBC’s cop drama “Hill Street Blues.” Other shows included “Falcon Crest,” “Family Ties,” “Murphy Brown,” and “NYPD Blue.” Sadly, Levin died on June 28, 2019, at 70 years old. He was found dead after falling down a 30-foot embankment in an unmaintained wilderness area near Grants Pass, Ore.

McClanahan died on June 3, 2010, at 76 years old. Bea Arthur, who was still alive when this event took place, died on April 25, 2009, at 86 years old. Estelle Getty, who played Sophia on the show, was in ill health and didn’t appear at PaleyFest 2006. She died on July 22, 2008, at 84 years old.