‘Golden Girls’: Rue McClanahan’s Incredible Story of Seeing Estelle Getty in Breakout Role Before Show

by Joe Rutland
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Rue McClanahan, who played Blanche Devereaux on “The Golden Girls,” remembers being so amazed by seeing Estelle Getty in an earlier role.

McClanahan, during a “Golden Girls” panel discussion at PaleyFest2006, talked about seeing Getty in her big Broadway breakout role in “Torch Song Trilogy.”

“She was the first one hired,” McClanahan said of Getty. “I saw ‘Torch Song (Trilogy)’ in Los Angeles after she’d been touring for four years in it. And, of course, she had that part nailed.”

‘Golden Girls’ Star Thought Getty Brought ‘Torch Song Trilogy’ To Life

McClanahan went on to praise the performance, and figured the show chose her for the talent she saw.

“And I thought she brought the show to life,” McClanahan said. “She really made it work for me. Only was in the third act. So when they cast her as Sophia, I thought, ‘They saw ‘Torch Song Trilogy.’ They saw what I saw.’ And that’s what I believed all these years.”

In 1982, Getty played Mrs. Beckoff in playwright Harvey Fierstein’s play. Getty, almost 60 years old at the time, would go on to play the role for four more years in on- and off-Broadway productions. That’s what McClanahan was referring to in her comment about touring four years in the show.

But Getty, as McClanahan said, happened to be the first of the four main actors hired for “The Golden Girls.” McClanahan, Betty White, and Bea Arthur rounded out the NBC sitcom’s cast. It’s amazing to know that all four of these actors won individual Emmy Awards during the show’s run. “The Golden Girls” provided ratings wins for the network throughout its run.

Only McClanahan and White from the original cast appeared at this event in 2006. Today, only White remains alive at 99 years old from the show. Sadly, McClanahan, Arthur, and Getty have all passed.

McClanahan Remembered Most Heart-Warming Moment For Her On Show

McClanahan, while sharing her memories of “The Golden Girls” at PaleyFest, remembered one moment that warmed her heart so much.

Before talking about it, McClanahan says the names of executive producers Paul Junger Witt and Susan Harris. Witt and Harris were present at the same “Golden Girls” panel event in Los Angeles.

What was this big moment? “When Paul and Susan would take me aside and say, ‘We just have to tell you, you are just the best one on the show,'” McClanahan said.

Now that got a big laugh and applause from the crowd. White, all in good fun, turned her back on McClanahan, who was sitting right next to her. White added, “Talking about going over the top.”

McClanahan replied, “Susan would say, ‘You’ve gone so far beyond what I wrote.'”

The two actors just seemed to truly adore their roles. McClanahan and White had crossed paths on “Mama’s Family” before joining “The Golden Girls.” Their previous time together helped them when it was time to play it up on their new sitcom.

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