It’s hard to imagine now, but from the mid-’80s to the early ’90s, the hottest comedy on television revolved around four aging women sharing a house in Miami. Yes, NBC sitcom The Golden Girls dominated the ratings and awards shows during its seven seasons. But as you’re about to discover, things didn’t always run so smoothly behind the scenes.
20. Bea Arthur wasn’t the first choice to play Dorothy
Bea Arthur has become so synonymous with divorced grandmother Dorothy Zbornak that it’s difficult to think of anyone else inhabiting the role. But creator Susan Harris initially had Lee Grant in mind, as she’d worked with her on the brief comedy series Fay. Grant, however, turned down the part because of the character’s age – and the rest is history.
19. NBC were reluctant to cast Arthur
She might not have been first choice to play Dorothy, then, but Arthur was actually the inspiration for the character. Indeed, Harris and the actress had collaborated already on a number of episodes of ’70s sitcom Maude. But Arthur wasn’t considered to have been overly endearing to audiences, and so NBC head Brandon Tartikoff had major reservations about casting her in such a key role.
18. Estelle Getty suffered from severe stage fright
Years after the show finished, Estelle Getty admitted that she had been intimidated by her three more experienced co-stars. And that perhaps explains why she suffered from a severe case of stage fright with each episode’s recording. In fact, according to co-star Rue McClanahan, the star would dread each Friday taping from the moment they started dress rehearsals and would sometimes clam up completely on camera.
17. Getty was also scared of death
But stage fright wasn’t the only phobia that Getty had. The actress was reportedly also scared of anything to do with death – a subject, unfortunately, she had to deal with regularly on the hit show. Getty was also the first main cast member to die, passing away in 2008 just before she turned 85.