‘I Love Lucy’: Why Lucille Ball’s Daughter Lucie Arnaz Says Vivian Vance is Responsible for Her Return to Theater

by Madison Miller

To this day, Vivian Vance will always be remembered for her role as the beloved, affectionate, and hilarious Ethel Mertz on “I Love Lucy.”

In many ways, her role in the series was both a blessing and a curse.

On one end, the show was a huge national success that continues to be popular. It also provided her with a lifelong, sister-like bond with Lucille Ball. However, it also left her typecast for the duration of her career. “I Love Lucy” was on for only six seasons as well, but that character and those episodes would forever define her career.

‘I Love Lucy’ Star Pushes Lucie Arnaz to Do Theater

According to an interview with “KMC Chat: Coffee & Cocktails” from 2020, Lucie Arnaz revealed that Vivian Vance was incredibly close to Lucille Ball for the remainder of her life. This means that Lucie Arnaz, the daughter of “I Love Lucy” couple Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, grew up with her around.

“Vivian was one of the funniest people on the planet, truly, truly funny. When she would get together with my mother it was just lovely,” Lucie Arnaz said.

In many ways, the iconic “I Love Lucy” star had become like another parental figure in her life.

“Because she kind of raised me as a kid, she was around a lot, when she was a guest star on the ‘Here’s Lucy’ show, which was about once a year, she would always check in with me. She would say, ‘How you doin’? How you doin’ in school? How you doin’?’ … She knew about the plays I had done at my high school,” Arnaz said.

As one of her biggest fans, Vance wanted to see Lucie Arnaz reach her full potential, which she knew wouldn’t happen on “Here’s Lucy.” She told her one day, “What are you saying? What are you going to waste the rest of your life on a television series and get typecast as this Kim Carter person? You gotta get back to theater Lucy … you should be out there auditioning.”

Vivian Vance Shows Up at Performance

She took the advice from one of her favorite people to heart. When she had summer vacations off from the show, she started to audition for plays. During those four weeks, she would do plays and work toward a career in the theater. Eventually, she landed the first national tour of “Seesaw,” which was really her breakout role. From then on, the “I Love Lucy” daughter has been in many different Broadway productions.

As it turned out, her opening show for “Seesaw” took place in Hartford, Connecticut. Vivian Vance happened to be living in Connecticut at the time and gave Arnaz a surprise she would never forget. After she concluded the show and was bowing and receiving audience applause, she heard particularly loud applause from backstage. She turns and, “there was Vivian standing in the wings.”

It was Lucie Arnaz’s first major theater performance, but certainly not her last. However, unfortunately, Vivian Vance passed away on August 17, 1979. The “I Love Lucy” star got to hear that Lucie Arnaz was making her Broadway debut in “They’re Playing Our Song” in 1979, but never got to see her perform.