Rue McClanahan

Actress


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In her two-and-a-half hour Archive interview, Rue McClanahan (1934-2010) talks about how she got her start in acting on the stage, and touches on some of her feature films from the 1960s. She discusses her first regular role in television, as scheming nurse "Caroline Johnson" on Another World. She recalls how, when her character tries unsuccessfully to poison the mother of the twins she is caring for, she received a fan letter recommending a better poison. She speaks in great detail about her role as "Vivian Cavender," best friend to Beatrice Arthur on the sitcom Maude. For Maude, describes her character, talks about working with the ensemble cast, and comments on memorable series episodes. McClanahan then talks about her work as series regular "Aunt Fran" on Mama's Family. Finally, she discusses at length the production of the classic 1980s sitcom The Golden Girls and her role as "Blanche Devereaux." She talks about the casting process, working with the series production personnel, and the transition of the show into The Golden Palace. Jim Colucci conducted the interview on May 4, 2006 in New York, NY.

"This was funny. These were great characters. We had a great hit on our hands, I knew it. Betty White was always astounded. She'd say, 'We got picked up for another 13!' I'd say, 'Betty, join the real world. This is a big hit.'" 

People Talking About ...
Highlights
Rue McClanahan on the Maude episode "Maude's Dilemma," and on her fan mail
Rue McClanahan on guest-starring, along with Vincent Gardenia, on the All in the Family episode "The Bunkers and the Swingers"
Rue McClanahan on convincing Beatrice Arthur to take the role on The Golden Girls, and how the casting then fell into place
Rue McClanahan on "Blanche Devereaux's" accent and wardrobe on The Golden Girls
Rue McClanahan on The Golden Girls spin-off, The Golden Palace
Rue McClanahan on how The Golden Girls impacted her career
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On her early life and influences; on when she began to perform; on her first television appearance, on The Aquanauts
On various feature films; on appearing on Burke's Law, and on appearing on Broadway; on playing "Caroline Johnson" on Another World

Chapter 2

On being dropped from the soap Another World and going on Where the Heart Is; on guest-starring, along with Vincent Gardenia, on the All in the Family episode "The Bunkers and the Swingers"
On being cast by Norman Lear as "Vivian Harmon" on Maude; on working with Beatrice Arthur as "Maude Findlay" on Maude; on working with Bill Macy as "Walter Findlay" on Maude
On working with the supporting cast of Maude; on her favorite Maude episodes; on how Maude reflected the times

Chapter 3

On the Maude episode "Maude's Dilemma," and on her fan mail; on specific episodes of Maude; on working with producer Rod Parker on Maude, and on her favorite episodes
On the popularity of Maude and all of Norman Lear's shows; on Beatrice Arthur ending Maude, and on the series Apple Pie; on various pilots she did for Norman Lear
On appearing as "Aunt Fran" on Mama's Family; on working with the cast of Mama's Family, including Vicki Lawrence, Ken Berry, and Betty White; on favorite episodes of Mama's Family

Chapter 4

On first getting the script for The Golden Girls; on the switch to her playing "Blanche Devereaux" on The Golden Girls (the role originally intended for Betty White); on convincing Beatrice Arthur to take the role on The Golden Girls, and how the casting then fell into place
On working with Beatrice Arthur, Betty White, and Estelle Getty on The Golden Girls; on Golden Girls creator Susan Harris; on the show being a tough sell because they were all over 50
On "Blanche Devereaux's" accent and wardrobe on The Golden Girls; on her relationships with the cast of The Golden Girls; on Golden Girls producers Paul Witt and Tony Thomas

Chapter 5

On how the production team for The Golden Girls was different from her previous show, and having input into her character; on her favorite Golden Girls episode, “Journey to the Center of Attention”; on The Golden Girls spin-off, The Golden Palace
On how The Golden Girls impacted her career; on acting in front of an audience, and on the best advice she ever received about acting; on advice to an aspiring actor
On her proudest career achievement; on then-current projects; on her proudest life achievement
Shows

All in the Family

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Rue McClanahan on guest-starring, along with Vincent Gardenia, on the All in the Family episode "The Bunkers and the Swingers"

Another World

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Rue McClanahan on playing "Caroline Johnson" on Another World
Rue McClanahan on being dropped from the soap Another World and going on Where the Heart Is

Aquanauts, The aka Malibu Run

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Rue McClanahan on her first television appearance on The Aquanauts

Burke's Law

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Rue McClanahan on appearing on Burke's Law, and on appearing on Broadway

Golden Girls, The

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Rue McClanahan on first getting the script for The Golden Girls
Rue McClanahan on the switch to her playing "Blanche Devereaux" on The Golden Girls (the role originally intended for Betty White)
Rue McClanahan on convincing Beatrice Arthur to take the role on The Golden Girls, and how the casting then fell into place
Rue McClanahan on the real-life interactions of the stars of The Golden Girls
Rue McClanahan on working with Beatrice Arthur, Betty White, and Estelle Getty on The Golden Girls
Rue McClanahan on Golden Girls creator Susan Harris
Rue McClanahan on The Golden Girls being a tough sell because the main characters were all over 50
Rue McClanahan on "Blanche Devereaux's" accent and wardrobe on The Golden Girls
Rue McClanahan on Estelle Getty's difficulties remembering her lines on The Golden Girls
Rue McClanahan on her friendships with Betty White and Beatrice Arthur on The Golden Girls
Rue McClanahan on Golden Girls producers Paul Witt and Tony Thomas
Rue McClanahan on how the production team for The Golden Girls was different from her previous show, and having input into her character
Rue McClanahan on her favorite Golden Girls episode, “Journey to the Center of Attention”
Rue McClanahan on The Golden Girls spin-off, The Golden Palace
Rue McClanahan on how The Golden Girls impacted her career

Golden Palace, The

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Rue McClanahan on The Golden Girls spin-off, The Golden Palace

Mama's Family

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Rue McClanahan on appearing as "Aunt Fran" on Mama's Family
Rue McClanahan on working with the cast of Mama's Family, including Vicki Lawrence, Ken Berry, and Betty White
Rue McClanahan on favorite episodes of Mama's Family

Maude

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Rue McClanahan on being cast by Norman Lear as "Vivian Harmon" on Maude
Rue McClanahan on working with Beatrice Arthur as "Maude Findlay" on Maude
Rue McClanahan on her favorite Maude episodes
Rue McClanahan on working with Bill Macy as "Walter Findlay" on Maude
Rue McClanahan on working with the supporting cast of Maude, including Adrienne Barbeau, Esther Rolle, Conrad Bain, and Hermione Baddeley
Rue McClanahan on the writers of Maude
Rue McClanahan on how Maude reflected the times
Rue McClanahan on the Maude episode "Maude's Dilemma," and on her fan mail
Rue McClanahan on specific episodes of Maude
Rue McClanahan on working with producer Rod Parker on Maude, and on her favorite episodes
Rue McClanahan on the popularity of Maude and all of Norman Lear's shows
Rue McClanahan on the end of Maude, and on the series Apple Pie
Topics

Characters & Catchphrases

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Rue McClanahan on "Blanche Devereaux's" accent and wardrobe on The Golden Girls

Classic TV series episodes

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Rue McClanahan on the Maude episode "Maude's Dilemma," and on her fan mail
Rue McClanahan on the Maude episode "Maude's Dilemma," and on her fan mail

First Big Break

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Rue McClanahan on being cast by Norman Lear as "Vivian Harmon" on Maude

Pivotal Career Moments

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Rue McClanahan on being cast by Norman Lear as "Vivian Harmon" on Maude

Pop Culture

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Rue McClanahan on the Maude episode "Maude's Dilemma," and on her fan mail
Rue McClanahan on "Blanche Devereaux's" accent and wardrobe on The Golden Girls
Professions

Actor

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Rue McClanahan on advice to an aspiring actor

Actress

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Rue McClanahan on acting in front of an audience, and on the best advice she ever got about acting

Performers

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Rue McClanahan on acting in front of an audience, and on the best advice she ever received about acting
Rue McClanahan on advice to an aspiring actor
Genres

Comedy Series

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Rue McClanahan on guest-starring, along with Vincent Gardenia, on the All in the Family episode "The Bunkers and the Swingers"
Rue McClanahan on playing "Vivian Harmon" on Maude
Rue McClanahan on co-starring on Maude
Rue McClanahan on co-starring on Mama's Family
Rue McClanahan on The Golden Girls
Rue McClanahan on The Golden Girls, including the end of the show

Daytime/Primetime Serials

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Rue McClanahan on being dropped from the soap Another World and going on Where the Heart Is
People

Beatrice Arthur

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Rue McClanahan on working with Beatrice Arthur as "Maude Findlay" on Maude
Rue McClanahan on Beatrice Arthur ending Maude, and on the series Apple Pie
Rue McClanahan on convincing Beatrice Arthur to take the role on The Golden Girls, and how the casting then fell into place
Rue McClanahan on working with Beatrice Arthur, Betty White, and Estelle Getty on The Golden Girls
Rue McClanahan on her friendships with Betty White and Beatrice Arthur on The Golden Girls

Hermione Baddeley

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Rue McClanahan on working with the supporting cast of Maude, including Adrienne Barbeau, Esther Rolle, Conrad Bain, and Hermione Baddeley

Conrad Bain

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Rue McClanahan on working with the supporting cast of Maude, including Adrienne Barbeau, Esther Rolle, Conrad Bain, and Hermione Baddeley

Adrienne Barbeau

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Rue McClanahan on working with Adrienne Barbeau on Maude

Ken Berry

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Rue McClanahan on working with the cast of Mama's Family, including Vicki Lawrence, Ken Berry, and Betty White

Vincent Gardenia

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Rue McClanahan on guest-starring, along with Vincent Gardenia, on the All in the Family episode "The Bunkers and the Swingers"

Estelle Getty

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Rue McClanahan on working with Beatrice Arthur, Betty White, and Estelle Getty on The Golden Girls
Rue McClanahan on Estelle Getty's difficulties remembering her lines on The Golden Girls

Susan Harris

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Rue McClanahan on Golden Girls creator Susan Harris

Vicki Lawrence

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Rue McClanahan on working with the cast of Mama's Family, including Vicki Lawrence, Ken Berry, and Betty White

Norman Lear

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Rue McClanahan on being cast by Norman Lear as "Vivian Harmon" on Maude
Rue McClanahan on various pilots she did for Norman Lear

Bill Macy

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Rue McClanahan on working with Bill Macy as "Walter Findlay" on Maude

Esther Rolle

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Rue McClanahan on working with the supporting cast of Maude, including Adrienne Barbeau, Esther Rolle, Conrad Bain, and Hermione Baddeley

Tony Thomas

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Rue McClanahan on Golden Girls producers Paul Witt and Tony Thomas

Betty White

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Rue McClanahan on working with the cast of Mama's Family, including Vicki Lawrence, Ken Berry, and Betty White
Rue McClanahan on the switch to her playing "Blanche Devereaux" on The Golden Girls (the role originally intended for Betty White)
Rue McClanahan on working with Beatrice Arthur, Betty White, and Estelle Getty on The Golden Girls
Rue McClanahan on her friendships with Betty White and Beatrice Arthur on The Golden Girls

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