‘Golden Girls’: Rue McClanahan Revealed Internal Conflict Over Playing Blanche with Southern Accent

by Suzanne Halliburton
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As any good Golden Girls story would start: Picture It, Blanche Devereaux might not have been southern.

Well, be still my bosoms. Blanche not southern? Is this a dirty, Yankee trick?

Rue McClanahan, who played Blanche to southern perfection, told an audience in Los Angeles in 2006 about how she was told no to a southern accent. Director Jay Sandrich gave her those instructions before the pilot episode — The Engagement. McClanahan brought up a famous character played by Vivien Leigh in the movie A Streetcar Named Desire.

“I said but (show producer) Susan Harris wrote this character to be more Blanche than Blanche DuBois,” McClanahan said. “And, (Sandrich) said ‘well, I don’t want to hear a Southern accent.’ So I tried doing it with kind of a modified southern accent. And then we got to when we were picked up (by NBC) and I remembered being in (Harris’) office and I’ve been thinking about how to play her and not play her southern.”

Blanche On Golden Girls Could’ve Sounded Like Mae West

Then McClanahan came up with another idea, she says.

“So OK, guys, I know I’m not supposed to do this in a southern accent, but how about Mae West?” Surely, that would work. Mae West was a famous sex symbol from sixty years before the Golden Girls.

But, that idea was a Golden Girls no go. So a southern accent was in, again.

“I said, Oh, thank God because I don’t know how to play it without a southern accent,” McClanahan said.

Then Betty White, who was sitting next to McClanahan on the panel, stole the discussion. She quipped:

“Mae South West”

It’s difficult to imagine the Golden Girls without Blanche being southern or speaking with an accent. She was the belle from Georgia who talked about her southern upbringing in every episode. She even called her father, Big Daddy.

And, could a woman without a southern accent pull off this line?

Well, I certainly didn’t wait for my wedding night, honey. I couldn’t. I had these urges. You know, in the South, we mature faster. I think it’s the heat.

The Golden Girls anecdotes came during the 2006 PaleyFest LA. And the panel discussion was devoted to all things Golden Girls. On hand that day were McClanahan and Betty White, the lovable Rose from St. Olaf, Minn.

Plus, a number of behind-the-scenes people were there, too, including Susan Harris and writers Marc Cherry, Mitchell Hurwitz, and James Vallely. Director Terry Hughes and executive producer Paul Junger Witt also joined the panel discussion. Bea Arthur (Dorothy) and Estelle Getty (Sophia) were not there.

Sadly, White is the only surviving cast member. She’s 99. Getty died in 2008, followed by Arthur (2009) and McClanahan (2010).

But the Golden Girls stay in our hearts thanks to a constant stream of reruns. Otherwise, we’d miss all of Blanche and her southern stories, like this one, about her high school prom date.

You have to understand that in those days in the South, a lot of things were still taboo. Certain people were not to mix.

What was the big deal about her date? He was from New Jersey.

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