“The Beverly Hillbillies” almost had a very different Granny Clampett. Actor Bea Benaderet wanted to play the family’s matriarch.
Benaderet and the show’s creator Paul Henning were long-time friends. He allowed her to read the script for the show before he even started casting. Benaderet instantly fell in love with the cast of characters. But there was one character, in particular, she had her eye on. She wanted to play the show’s Granny.
“Bea Benaderet, she was more than just a good actress,” Henning said, according to Cheatsheet. “She was, in my opinion, a fine judge of material. And I asked her to read the script and she said ‘This is wonderful.'”
Unfortunately for Benaderet, Henning didn’t really think she was right for the part. The actor didn’t look how he envisioned Granny to in his mind.
“‘This is wonderful’ she said,” Henning said. “‘I’d love to play Granny’ and I said ‘Bea you’re not built like my picture of Granny.’”
Instead, the part ended up going to Irene Ryan. Henning allowed Benaderet to screen test for the part. But both quickly agreed that Rayan would be perfect for the role. At the time, Henning was familiar with Ryan’s work and agreed to come on the show to play the character.
“When we had the screen tests Bea Benaderet was there to try out for the part of Granny and as soon as Irene Ryan read the part, Bea came over to me and she says ‘There’s Granny,’” Henning said.
She Joined ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’ in a Different Role
While Benaderet may have lost out on her dream role, Henning made sure his friend made it on the show. After-all, Benaderet was a capable actor in her own right and also knew how to make a script work in her favor.
“She had an infallible eye for a script and for a character. She was just wonderful,” Henning said.
So audiences may remember Benaderet for her role as Cousin Pearl Bodine in the show. For 23 episodes, largely in the show’s first season, Benaderet lent her talents to the character. After the first season, the actress left the show to star in another show Henning created, “Petticoat Junction.” She starred in that show until her death in 1968.