On so many episodes of “The Golden Girls,” character Sophia Petrillo would preface one of her stories with the phrase “picture it.”
So in keeping with that sitcom tradition, “picture it”: Betty White playing Blanche Devereaux. Also, “picture it”: Rue McClanahan playing Rose Nylund. That would have been a very different version of the beloved show about four older women living in Miami during the late 1980s.
While it seems difficult to imagine any actor playing Rose Nylund other than Betty White, or any actor playing Blanche Devereaux other than Rue McClanahan, that is almost what happened.
FoxNews.com looked back on the early days of “The Golden Girls” with an article published in May 2018. In that article, the news agency references a few comments Betty White made to the Associated Press during 2010.
In that interview, White talked about how she felt fairly certain that “The Golden Girls” would be a hit television show.
“You get a lot of scripts mailed to you and not too many of them are good, but when this one came along it just hit the spot and they sent it to each of us,” Betty White reportedly said.
However, the script she received for “The Golden Girls” suggested that White play Blanche Devereaux.
“They sent (the script) to me with the idea of me doing Blanche,” White said.
Jay Sandrich Suggested Having Betty White, Rue McClanahan Switch Roles on ‘The Golden Girls’
However, one man stepped up and offered a different suggestion. That man was director Jay Sandrich. He apparently looked at the roles on “The Golden Girls” and thought Betty White should play a different character.
Why? Because, according to FoxNews.com, the character of Blanche was too close to the role White had played to great acclaim on another sitcom. That character was Sue Ann Nivens. And, that sitcom was the famous “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”
“Jay Sandrich, who was our director for most of the ‘Mary Tyler Moore’ shows, said if Betty plays another nymphomaniac they are going to think it is Sue Ann Nivens all over again,” Betty White reportedly said. ‘He said, why don’t we switch them?'”
So, Betty became Rose and Rue became Blanche. And, television audiences have been all the better for it ever since. Joining those actresses on the show were Bea Arthur as Dorothy Zbornak and Estelle Getty as her mother, Sophia Petrillo.
Betty White was fairly certain that “The Golden Girls” would be a success during the show’s early days.
“… It was the most exciting … We all began to look at each other because there wasn’t any first reading feeling about it,” White reportedly said. “It was like we had been working together forever. I still get goose bumps thinking about it.”
“The Golden Girls” is one of the most successful and memorable sitcoms of all time. According to the FoxNews.com report, the show was nominated for 68 Emmy awards. It won 11. And, “The Golden Girls” ranked as No. 69 on the “101 Best Written TV Series of All Time” by Deadline.