‘Golden Girls’: Betty White Wasn’t Originally Cast as Rose Nylund

by Madison Miller

“The Golden Girls” was a classic sitcom with characters so iconic it’s hard to picture them portrayed as anyone else.

Betty White played Rose Nylund. Rose was the small-town girl who had moved to Miami after her husband Charlie passed away. She is often not the brightest member of the group of friends but is hilarious in her own way.

According to MeTV, Betty White was originally supposed to play Blanche Devereaux on the show. The director, Jay Sandrich, switched their roles at the last minute because he felt Betty White would be a better fit for Rose due to her role as Sue Ann Nivens on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” He felt that role would be too similar to Blanche and wanted to have her be her own distinct, new character.

Rue McClanahan was instead cast as Blanche. White’s character on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” was considered fun and promiscuous and it had become a role White was known for. Neither White nor McClanahan wanted to be typecast, or strongly identified with a specific role, so the last-minute switch happened.

McClanahan was previously in “Maude” alongside Beatrice Arthur as well as in “Mama’s Family” alongside Betty White. “Maude” was a spinoff from “All in the Family.” Arthur, or Dorothy on “The Golden Girls,” played the opposite of Archie Bunker. McClanahan played Vivian, Maude’s best friend.

The switch appears to have been the perfect move. The roles of Blanche and Rose are two of the most popular characters on the show. White and McClanahan bring an iconic sense of humor and wit to their characters.

It also prevented White or McClanahan to become known for a certain stereotype in Hollywood.

‘The Golden Girls’ Develop an Iconic Following

Even now, “The Golden Girls” continues to be popular. Decades after its 7-season run from 1985 to 1992, a new generation has come to love Rose, Blanche, Dorothy, and Sophia on the show.

Since airing on TV, “Golden Girls” managed to build a strong following with people of all walks of life. According to Biography.com, the show had a very loyal fanbase amongst the LGBTQ community at the time.

Much of that support for “Golden Girls” came due to the show tackling controversial topics and embracing its lead female characters. Also, throughout the series, several of the characters featured belonged to the LGBTQ community. In fact, “The Golden Girls” was one of the first shows to address AIDS and HIV. Betty White’s Rose actually gets an AIDS test in a 1990 episode after receiving a blood transfusion during surgery.