‘Golden Girls’: How Long Did It Take for Makeup Team to Transform Estelle Getty into Sophia?

by Keeli Parkey
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Picture it, the set of the classic sitcom “The Golden Girls” during the 1980s. Actress Estelle Getty isn’t actually old enough to play her character, Sophia Petrillo, who was the oldest of the beloved “Golden Girls.”

According to IMDb.com, Getty was born in 1923. Therefore, when “The Golden Girls premiered in 1985, she was only in her 60s. That made her approximately two decades younger than the iconic character she was hired to play.

So, what do the producers of the show do? They use some television magic, of course. That magic was a whole lot of makeup. According to IMDb.com, Estelle Getty had to sit through 45 minutes of makeup during filming to become the Sicilian firecracker known as Sophia Patrillo.

To make things even more difficult for the crew behind “The Golden Girls,” Estelle Getty had a facelift after the first season of the show aired, according to IMDb.com. She wanted to look younger (and who can blame her with the pressures of Hollywood and the public eye).

However, when you’re portraying a character two decades older than you, making yourself look younger isn’t the best thing for your job.

Estelle Getty Was Actually Younger Than the Actress Who Played Her Daughter on ‘The Golden Girls’

Here’s another interesting fact you might not know about “The Golden Girls.”

As Sophia Patrillo, Estelle Getty famously played the mother of Dorothy Zbornak. Dorothy was famously played by Bea Arthur, an actress who years of experience from the Broadway stage and television screen to the role.

Did you know that Bea Arthur was actually older than Estelle Getty? According to IMDb.com, Arthur was 1 year, 2 months, and 12 days older than Getty. No wonder Getty had to wear so much make-up to play Sophia on the show.

Here are some of Estelle Getty’s best moments while she portrayed Sophia Patrillo on “The Golden Girls.”

Betty White Was First Intended to Play Blanche

In addition to Estelle Getty being older than her television daughter played by Bea Arthur, there was another interesting casting story. Getty and Arthur were two of the four Golden Girls. The other two were Blanche, who was played by Rue McLanahan, and Rose, who was played by Betty White.

Fans of the show will know that Blanche is most known for her numerous relationships with men. Rose is known as the sweet, naive, and – sometimes – air-headed one of the bunch. What fans might not know is that White was originally supposed to play Blanche. McLanahan was originally wanted for the part of Rose.

However, director Jay Sandrich had another plan. He asked McLanahan to read for Blanche, even though she had auditioned for Rose. She did so well that White was later asked to read for Rose. And, of course, Betty White nailed it. Just like that, television history was made. It’s hard to imagine anyone by Rue McLanahan playing Blanche and anyone but Betty White playing Rose.

Just because it will put a smile on your face, you can watch the opening credits for “The Golden Girls” below. And by the way, “thank you, for being a friend!”

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