‘Golden Girls’: How Did Estelle Getty Win the Role of Sophia?

by Joe Rutland
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Estelle Getty got a lot of quick comebacks and one-liners in her role of Sophia on “The Golden Girls.” Getting the role wasn’t hard for her.

Getty was a veteran of the New York theater scene, making a big splash with a role in “Torch Song Trilogy” as Mrs. Beckoff. It is said that this role played an important part in getting the TV show producers’ attention.

So, how did Getty nab the role of Sophia Petrillo? According to an article in The New York Times, she showed up to the audition looking like “a little old lady.”

Getty Was One Year Younger Than ‘Golden Girls’ Costar

Funny thing about Getty is that she was actually a year younger than Bea Arthur, who played her daughter Dorothy on “The Golden Girls.” In order to make herself look older, Getty wore wigs and heavy makeup. It’s not like Getty couldn’t pull it off thanks to her years of theater work.

“The Golden Girls” provided her with a platform to truly let her humorous side out. The writers gave her quick, snappy one-liners and comebacks that enhanced her old-lady character. Sophia’s ability to turn a serious moment into a funny one made Getty valuable to the show.

After the show ended, though, Getty kept making appearances on other TV shows. They included “Empty Nest,” “Blossom,” “Touched by an Angel,” and “The Nanny.”

But Getty reportedly had some health problems start to crop up during “The Golden Girls” filming. She would begin to have dementia issues, forcing Getty to read her lines off cue cards.

Getty died on July 22, 2008, from dementia with Lewy bodies in Los Angeles. Her husband, Arthur Gettleman, had died four years earlier in 2004. She had two children.

Getty Used Work Lunch Breaks To Go Audition For Roles

Now Estelle Getty was determined to get roles, though, and would take lunch breaks from work to do so.

In a 1990 interview, Getty recalled what her bosses would tell her. Remember, this was all before her success on “The Golden Girls.” One job was with Snap-Out Forms. It shocked the office manager to realize, which he never did, that this older woman was trying to be an actress.

“The first day I came to work, I had an audition,” Getty said. “And I said, ‘Can I go for my lunch at 10 o’clock?’ The next day I had to go someplace else. I said. ‘Can I take my lunch at 2:30?’ The next day I asked if I could take lunch at 11 o’clock.

“The office manager said, ‘You have the strangest eating habits of any secretary we’ve ever had,'” Getty said.

Her eating habits might have been weird but they all paid off in due time.

Outsider.com