Rue McClanahan said it felt like she was holding a “piece of gold” in her hands when she first saw the pilot script for The Golden Girls. And despite producers originally having someone else in mind for Blanche, McClanahan knew she had to have that part.
The cast spoke with the TODAY show in 1991 about their first impressions of the script, and why they believed the show was so popular.
McClanahan said she knew it was special the moment she first saw the script.
“Well it was even before day one because it was the moment that the script arrived at my house to look at,” she said. “Which was way back in the beginning, and they were still thinking of me to play Rose … When I just saw the title page, it was the way the script looked. You know the script they picked to save The Golden Girls, and then I thought this is a wonderful piece. This is a piece of gold in my hands. I didn’t read anything, opened it, and began to read. Oh my god, I said, ‘I’m gonna play Blanche. This is a role I know how to play.'”
McClanahan fought to play Blanche and won out in the end. Though, she joked that she was always jealous of Estelle Getty’s Sophia.
“I still want to play Sophia when I grow up,” she joked.
‘Golden Girls’ Said Life Can Still Be Fun as You Age
Betty White, who played Rose on The Golden Girls, said in the interview that the show captured something most television programs ignored. Namely, that life can still be fun and invigorating at any age.
“Oh, I think it’s great. You don’t fall off the planet once you pass a given age,” White said. “You don’t lose any of your sense of humor or your zest for life. If you were a dull young person, you’re going to be a dull old person. But I don’t think, just because the years go by, that you have to be that way.”
Estelle Getty, who starred as Sophia, said Hollywood executives were smart to target a show at an older generation.
“Some of the smart boys from Madison Avenue got onto the idea that there are a lot of older people in this country, more so than younger people,” Getty said. “And they have possession and command of a great deal of money. And they go on trips and they buy rugs and they buy beer and they buy everything that younger people buy. Someone tapped into that and said, ‘Let’s see older people.’”
Ironically, even as The Golden Girls targeted an older demographic, it was popular as its appeal felt universal.