‘Being the Ricardos’ Shows the Unseen ‘Sexual Energy’ Between Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Javier Bardem Reveals

The much-anticipated movie Being the Ricardos is finally here. With the somewhat controversial decision to cast Nicole Kidman as Lucille Ball and Javier Bardem as Desi Arnaz, writer/director Aaron Sorkin brought forward a story people thought they already knew. After all, I Love Lucy spent six popular seasons showcasing the relationship between Ball and Arnaz on screen.

What viewers may find surprising and perhaps delightful is that Being the Ricardos does something I Love Lucy was never allowed to do: showcase the real depth and nuances of one of Hollywood’s most interesting love stories. 

‘I Love Lucy’ gave a superficial view of a real relationship

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz sun themselves in the garden of their home in 1955
Actors and married couple Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz in the garden of their home in 1955 | Archive Photos/Getty Images

As Lucy Desi Museum explains, I Love Lucy premiered in 1951 and includes 181 total episodes before concluding in 1957. The show became a classic part of TV’s foundation, providing a blueprint for many sitcom tropes that still exist today. This includes the Ricardo’s relationship with their neighbors, Fred and Ethel. In the series, Ball and Arnaz play fictional versions of themselves: Lucy and Ricky Ricardo. 

Viewers see the pair’s banter and comedic tension anchored by Lucy’s schemes and Ricky’s efforts to become a lounge singer. Over the course of the show, the pair welcomes a baby, too. The family sitcom has remained a fan favorite for decades. 

Ball and Arnaz were also married in real life. So many viewers believed they got a glimpse of their true love story through the show. But I Love Lucy — confined by TV network standards and the public’s own limited favor — had a very narrow lens through which to showcase the romance. The interracial nature of the relationship and the depiction of a real-life pregnancy onscreen made I Love Lucy groundbreaking. 

Still, the sanitized standards meant the pair couldn’t share a bed on the set. And the playful banter between them overshadowed other aspects of their marriage.

‘Being the Ricardos’ goes beyond ‘I Love Lucy’ laughs

In Being the Ricardos, fans can go behind the scenes of the popular TV series. The film pulls removes the lighthearted veneer and shows that, beneath the surface, there were far greater dramas.

From being monitored by the FBI for potential Communist ties to working to save her struggling marriage, the real Ball was laughing through heavy realities. The film does not shy away from these harder times. But it also doesn’t erase the more joy-filled, passionate interactions between Ball and Arnaz. 

In a behind-the-scenes interview with the cast, CBS Sunday Morning takes a look at how playing these roles helped the actors understand the real people behind the parts. Bardem pointed to the “sexual energy” between Ball and Arnaz that came forward in their portrayal: “You can tell on the show, you can tell when they’re talking. They have this force.” 

Fans will find other surprises in ‘Being the Ricardos’

An intimate glimpse of marriage isn’t the only way fans get a look at the couple in Being the Ricardos.

As Smithsonian Magazine reports, Sorkin received the opportunity to dive deep in an unprecedented way: “When writing the script, Sorkin drew on Arnaz’s autobiography and home movie footage provided by the couple’s daughter, Lucie Arnaz, who gave the director permission to ‘take the gloves off’ and portray her parents in all their complexity.”

The end result is a touching testament to the complexities of life. And these complexities can’t be fully captured on a sitcom with a laugh track. 

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