A MOMENT WITH RUE McCLANAHAN
By Andrew Moreno
Entertaining the masses since the 1950s, Rue
McClanahan has proven herself as the
personification of world-class acting. McClanahan
is a world-renowned Broadway, television, and
film actress. She has delivered numerous award-
winning roles and touched the lives of so many
people. McClanahan is in a league all to her own.
She is gorgeous, loving, funny, witty, determined
and a hard-worker with a sense of humanity,
culture and sophistication.
Although this Emmy-Award winning actress has
encountered many accolades in her vast career,
the entertainment business can be a bit
ambiguous. At a young age, McClanahan toured
the country taking on any role that came her way.
Traveling constantly took a toll on McClanahan,
including her romantic and family life.
One of McClanahan's most memorable roles was playing Blanche Devereaux on the
Emmy Award-Winning Sitcom, The Golden Girls. Deveraux is a three time Golden Globe
nominee and a four time Emmy Award nominee. Deveraux took home the coveted Best
Actress Award at the 1987 Emmy Awards.
During her acceptance speech, McClanahan apologized for those not mentioned.
However she assured them that they would soon be included in her memoir. Keeping
true to her words, McClanahan recently published her memoir, My First Five Husbands..
And the Ones Who Got Away. She speaks candidly in her new book, discussing her
relationships, life as an actress, success and her new role as an animal advocate.
Andrew Moreno had the complete honor of sitting and talking to the Hollywood icon
Moreno: Before I introduce Rue McClanahan, I must personally thank her for
her time and graciousness. Rue, you have been a complete inspiration to me
and have truly enhanced the quality of my life. There have been many times
when the darkest of days oppress my joy. I look forward to watching your films
and television programs knowing you will put a smile on my face. I am so
thrilled to meet you.
You stated in your 1987 Emmy Award acceptance speech that those who were
not acknowledged would be in your book. At what point in your life did you
decide you wanted to write a memoir?
McClanahan: I'd known I wanted to write a memoir long before I actually got to work on it,
maybe twenty years before. Once I began jotting down ideas, it took about two years to
complete. I was in "Wicked" for seven months, which slowed down progress on the book.
There were notes all over the office which had to be organized. The actual writing part
was a lot of fun, except for a few sticky places that hurt.
Moreno: I love the production of
Wicked. Might I also add you were
wonderful in that as well. After
finishing your book in two days, I
couldn't put it down. I realized how
hard you worked. I've known writers
who want their glory all too soon. They
don't realize they have to earn and
work for their rewards. You never had
this problem. Many of us put up self-
barriers out of fear. It seems you never
had any fears. As soon as you heard of
a theater opening, off you went. Where
did your courage and bravery come
McClanahan: If you mean was I scared of tackling a new role, no, I wasn't. I always felt
excited about getting into something new, learning something I had never encountered.
Maybe I was over-confident, but I did feel capable of portraying new characters. I think
there must be scores of different aspects of me. But the older I get, the more I realize
that while I can tackle any role, I may not be the best actress for every part!
Moreno: Well, I've loved all your performances. As a writer, I have to be careful
and cautious as to what I can write about. During the writing process, were you
apprehensive as to what you decided to include? You were so open about
your romantic life, family and work.
McClanahan: I was not apprehensive about what to include in the memoir, but what to
leave out! How honest to be, as opposed to how diplomatic, you see. Also, I wanted to
include everyone-but if I had, the book would have run 600 pages. The toughest part to
write was the section about Norman Hartweg in which I left him after only a few weeks of
marriage, when I was having a bit of a nervous breakdown, or whatever it was. Recalling
the hurt I caused him was very painful to write about.
Moreno: The sincerity in your words was easy to detect and signs of
compassion were very clear. I think the readers appreciate your honesty. We
tend to learn and connect more when a writer shares the more personal
stories. If you don't mind sharing a bit more, what have been your most difficult
McClanahan: Learning to stand back, take a breath, and think it over. As I said often in
the book, my tendency was to run for the cliff like a stampeded buffalo.
Moreno: Simple but very true. I know it's sometimes difficult to relax in the eye
of a storm. We have to train ourselves that induced stress only worsens any
situation. For some, writing is also a means for therapy. How long was the
writing process of your book?
McClanahan: Many hours, many days, many months- about two years, while doing
Moreno: Your career really began on Broadway. What are some of your
McClanahan: I don't have just one favorite production. Among my favorite acting jobs
are those done by Alan Bates in Fortune's Fool, Eileen Atkins in Vita and Virginia, Paul
Muni in Inherit the Wind, and John Malkovich in Burn This. Some of my favorite
productions are the 1973 Broadway presentation of A Little Night Music, The Cherry
Orchard by the Moscow Art Theatre in Russia, The Servant of Two Masters in Los
Angeles and Greater Tuna in San Francisco about twenty years ago. Recently, I went to
see The Drowsy Chaperone twice and plan to see it again.
Moreno: Thank you for the recommendations, I'll be sure to check those out.
As an actor, how do you go about rehearsing and planning for a role? There is
one episode of The Golden Girls where you are on the phone with your
daughter, Janet. In this scene, you beautifully portray a mother's wishes to
sincerely see and visit her daughter. You have the ability to make people
laugh and cry. Is this natural, or did you learn these skills in your acting
McClanahan: I just play every role as real as I can. That's a given talent, honed by skills
learned, plus lots of practice. All talent needs to be developed, improved, fine-tuned,
and in my case, that required a lot of work. Studying with Uta Hagen in my beginning
years, later being directed by Stanley Prager and Barney Brown, and much later
studying with Bobby Lewis, all served to help me delve deeper into each character and
to search out physical details that could both inform me, and help make the characters'
decisions clearer to the audience. I'm talking about ways of talking and moving as well
as ways of thinking. Many characters I've played are quite different from me. I always
look carefully for what makes them tick. The so-called villains have reasons for their
actions that are justifiable to them. Even Iago [from Shakespeare's Othello)], as evil as
his actions are, can give reasons why he feels compelled to act as he does. Maybe he's
a sociopath without a conscience, thinking he deserves to succeed at the cost of
Moreno: Well said. Back to the topic of your book, in your memoir you write that
you went back to one of your high school reunions. I can't imagine that feeling
when you walk back into your high school as a star. What was that like?
McClanahan: They might have been a bit too old! But oh, what fun to spend time with
the old gang of girls and get to know them better! Weï¿½ve stayed in touch for the last
several years- well, some of us have. Three old friends came to my book signings
across the country.
Moreno: I ask this question from time to time, as I always look to include the
advice of those I admire. If you could go back in time and give advice to your
younger self, what would it be?
McClanahan: Stand back, take a breath, and THINK IT OVER- a long time. Things will
change. Your feelings will change. Circumstances will change. Don't panic! And be kind
to yourself, to this nice person you are. She deserves consideration, as much
consideration as you are giving everyone else!
Moreno: Thank you for sharing those words of advice with our readers. If I y
ask, at what point in your career did you realize that your efforts have paid off?
In other words, when did you realize you were a star?
McClanahan: Am I!? Really? That's neat!
Andrew Moreno would personally like to thank Rue McClanahan for spending a
few moments with us. For more information on McClanahan make sure to
purchase her memoir, My First Five Husbands..And the Ones Who Got Away.
McClanahan can still be seen on television, Broadway, and film. She also
dedicates her time to such causes as AIDS awareness and PETA.
Thank you again Rue! You are a complete delight.
Interesting Facts about Rue McClanahan
- She now does a lecture entitled "Aging Gracefully" for breast-cancer support
- She graduated cum laude from the University of Tulsa with a degree in German
and theatre arts. She was also the only female member of the school's science
- Became a sister of Kappa Alpha Theta at the University of Tulsa.
- Played the same character, Blanche Devereaux, on four different TV series: The
Golden Palace, The Golden Girls, Nurses, and Empty Nest.
- Is of Scot-Irish and Choctaw Indian ancestry.
- Betty White was originally considered for the role of the sexpot, Blanche, on The
Golden Girls. However, Betty had already been the aggressive Sue Ann Nivens
on Mary Tyler Moore and Rue had played the introverted Vivian on Maude. It was
thought best not to typecast these two actresses by having them portray similar
characters. Therefore, Betty got the part of naive Rose Nylund and Rue played
the oversexed Blanche.
- Is a vegan and dedicated animal rights activist.
A MOMENT WITH RUE McCLANAHAN