‘I Love Lucy’: Doris Singleton Dishes on What It Was Like Being the Star’s Frenemy

by Jennifer Shea
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Actress Doris Singleton got to know Lucille Ball personally and professionally during her years on the hit TV show “I Love Lucy,” and she says it worked out well for her. Singleton played Carolyn Appleby, longstanding frenemy to Lucy Ricardo.

In a Television Academy Foundation interview, Singleton explained that despite their characters’ onscreen rivalry, Ball was actually quite nice to Singleton.

“Well, Lucy, as I keep saying, was very nice to me, because she really liked my work,” Singleton said. “And when you did that show, if Lucy liked you – and not just Lucy, but Desi as well, and the producers, the writers and directors – you did the show a lot. So she had her little stock company too.”

‘I Love Lucy’ Was All Work and No Play

However, Singleton made clear that “I Love Lucy” was hard work. And as a working actress, she was juggling multiple shows per week. So when she got a break on the set, she usually just went to her dressing room to learn her lines.

“It was a very difficult show to work,” Singleton recalled. “It was challenging. We came in, we had four days of rehearsal. We came in on a Monday and did the show on Thursday. So it was really four days… And there were changes, constant changes.”

“If you made a mistake, they stopped you,” she added. “And then you went on, you picked up with a certain line. As I say, there was no teleprompters. So that was difficult. And then after, they would ask the audience to stay and laugh in the same place they did before.”

There really was no time to just hang out with the other actors on the set. In the week before the final run-through, they were all plowing through so much new material and perfecting their delivery to perform before a live audience that they didn’t have the time or the inclination to relax.

“We really didn’t socialize a lot on the set,” Singleton stressed. “We worked very hard. And it was all work and not so much play. It was like doing a stage performance every time we did the show… It wasn’t what we have today. I mean, they have the privilege, or the cushion, of knowing that [the bloopers will be cut]. We did not have that at all.”

Singleton Got to Know Ball Socially

Despite the tense atmosphere on the set, Singleton said she did cross paths with Ball socially. They vacationed in the same spots – Hawaii, Palm Springs, Vancouver. And they got invited to some of the same parties.

At one party, Singleton recalled that she went to answer the door for the host and was startled to find Ball standing there. To her further surprise, Ball asked her where the game was. Singleton asked, “What game?”

It turned out that to get Ball to attend the party, the host had told her there was a backgammon game happening there. Ball was an avid backgammon player. When she wasn’t working on the show, Singleton said, she’d often be in her dressing room playing backgammon with friends.

But Ball was working on the show more often than not, and all these years later, that carefully crafted television classic is still her legacy.

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