Betty White Almost Starred As Blanche In 'Golden Girls'
The day we've long dreaded is finally upon us – Betty White, beloved actress, advocate, and the glue singlehandedly holding our society together in these trying, trying times, died on Friday. She was 99 years old -- just 18 days shy of her 100th birthday – but her passing still feels far too soon, a testament to the joy and laughter she brought audiences throughout her nearly seven decades in the spotlight.
Famed for starring as the sassy Sue Ann Nivens in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, putting the “hot” in TV Land's sitcom Hot In Cleveland, and being a general badass, pissing off racists by featuring Black tap dancer Arthur Duncan on her variety show in the 1950's, vocally advocating for animal rights, and repeatedly swerving the affections of Hollywood heartthrob Ryan Reynolds, White was arguably best known for her role as Rose Nyland in the long-running NBC sitcom Golden Girls.
Revered for her hilarious portrayal of the sweet, simple, and St.Olaf-loving Rose, White's casting wasn't always so cut and dry. If director Jay Sandrich had gotten his way, White would have embodied yet another golden girl – the loud, loveable, and slightly promiscuous Blanche Devereaux. Inspired by White's portrayal of not-so-secretly saucy Sue Ann Nivens, the actress was seemingly Sandrich's first choice to tackle the role of Blanche, according to media critic Ray Richmond's new book Betty White: 100 Remarkable Moments in an Extraordinary Life, which hit shelves last month.
With White seemingly poised to bring Blanche to life, Rue McClanahan, who ultimately would go on to play the cheeky character, was auditioning for the part of Rose with less-than-stellar results. Yet after McClanahan returned to read for Blanche, this time sporting a Southern accent, it was clear she was made for the part, leaving White's future on the sitcom uncertain. As such, Sandrich managed to talk White into taking on the role of Rose, a casting decision that Richmond says was a good call considering the actress's incredible comedy chops.
“It probably wouldn’t have worked if anybody but Betty played Rose, because she is the one member of the main cast that didn’t have punchlines that she could just pass out,” Richmond recently told Today. Without a solid stash of zingers, Richmond said that Rose's humor stemmed from “the way she created the character.”
"It was all underneath," he explained. “She had to project a realistic, you know, kind of version of a woman who was naive and unable to always understand what was going on. And it took a lot of different skills, comedic skills and dramatic skills at once to pull off Rose. And it’s incredibly difficult in hindsight to imagine anyone else doing that role," he continued.
Upon rewatching the show he says, this passion and talent is apparent by simply looking at her expression throughout the series – in case you needed another excuse to binge all 180 Golden Girls episodes for the 10th time. “When you look at her now, you can see just what’s going on in Betty’s eyes, that she’s doing this,” Richmond added. "And that’s the thing, she’s not always as fully appreciated as a great talent as she really is doing what she does. She makes it look easy, but it’s always been incredibly tough. And that’s the mark of a great performer, someone who makes it look as simple as she has.”
So folks, here's to Betty White. Thank you, always, for being a friend, on and off the TV screen.
Top Image: NBC