Several decades later and after the deaths of most of its cast members, The Golden Girls is still one of the most beloved TV shows of all time. Betty White, Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan, and Estelle Getty starred as four unlikely friends who found themselves in countless hilarious mix-ups and kept each other company as they navigated their golden years.
Sophia Petrillo was a critical part of ‘The Golden Girls’
The Golden Girls’ different personalities complemented each other perfectly, and they each represented a different kind of woman later in life. Even though Bea Arthur’s character Dorothy was often the most cynical of the four, it was Getty’s wisecracking character Sophia who always delivered zingers about her three best friends.
Sophia was a part of every iteration of the Golden Girls universe. In addition to her time on The Golden Girls, Getty also regularly appeared on the sister show Empty Nest, which ran from 1988 to 1995. After The Golden Girls came to an end in 1992, Sophia was one of the three Girls who returned for the short-lived spinoff series The Golden Palace.
Estelle Getty’s ‘Golden Girls’ character was different from her real-life persona
Even though Sophia is famously blunt, the actor behind the character is much more considerate when choosing her words. There were many topics that Getty felt shouldn’t be turned into jokes on the show, and she was known for not allowing her character Sophia to go from being lovably sour to straight up mean.
Getty spoke about her position in an interview in 1992 and confirmed that there are things that she didn’t want Sophia to say. “I have a thing about gratuitous pain,” she said truthfully. “I have a thing about using humor to really hurt.”
She went on to explain why she didn’t think it was funny to make fun of things that were common punchlines at the time. “Why would I make fun of somebody who’s fat, or who’s cross-eyed, or who’s bald?” she said frankly.
Getty was also an outspoken advocate for the LGBTQ community at a time when few celebrities were. As a result, she added that she “won’t do gay-bashing jokes,” especially given the context of the AIDS pandemic throughout the show’s run.
The 1 joke that Estelle Getty refused to say on ‘Golden Girls’
Getty went on to describe one joke in particular that was part of the script, but she refused to say it, no matter how acerbic Sophia sometimes is.
“I remember once, they wanted me to do a line and the end of the tagline was, ‘My husband said, “You do that and I’ll beat the hell out of you.”‘ And I said I wouldn’t do that line. I don’t make jokes about beating,” Getty stated plainly.
She continued by describing how adamant she was in her stance. “They said, ‘Oh, it’s just a joke!’ and I said I won’t do it.”
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