‘I Love Lucy’ Producers Originally Named Desi Arnaz’s Ricky Something Entirely Different

I Love Lucy might have gone off the air in 1957, but for millions of viewers all around the world, the show is as timeless as the day that it debuted. The show catapulted Lucille Ball to worldwide stardom, launching a television empire that is still going strong to this day.

However, it wasn’t just Ball who made an impression on audiences: Her television husband, Ricky Ricardo, who was also her real-life husband, became an instant fan-favorite. It’s unquestionable that I Love Lucy wouldn’t have been possible without his contributions. Still, there was a time when showrunners on I Love Lucy had a very different idea for the character of Ricky.

Desi Arnaz played Ricky Ricardo in ‘I Love Lucy’

Desi Arnaz plays the drums
Desi Arnaz | George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images

Desi Arnaz had been married to Ball for several years by the time they decided to work together on a television show. Their marriage had been faltering for some time, and Ball, in particular, was determined to save their union by creating an atmosphere where they would be together all the time. Their perseverance in the face of the status quo eventually paid off, and the two launched I Love Lucy in 1951. The show would go on to change the course of television history.

Arnaz broke many barriers as Ricky Ricardo, Lucy’s hot-tempered but loving bandleader husband. Not only was he one of the first Cuban performers to reach prominence, but his onscreen relationship with Lucy proved to be one of the first examples of interracial marriage on television, according to History Collection. While Lucy and Ricky fought a lot, mainly over her unceasing desire to get into show business, there was no question that Ricky loved Lucy—and that Arnaz loved Ball. 

What name did Desi Arnaz originally select for his character?

The name Ricky Ricardo is an iconic one. However, according to Outsider, when the show was still in pre-production, Arnaz wanted to dub his character “Larry Lopez.”

The name was eventually changed because other members of the production team thought that the names “Lucy and Larry” were bad alliteration. After the name “Larry Lopez” was vetoed, Arnaz and the I Love Lucy team came up with the name “Ricky Ricardo,” and the rest is history.

Lucille Ball had to fight to get Desi Arnaz cast in ‘I Love Lucy’

Ball was an established star by the time I Love Lucy was in pre-production. While she was an easy sell for the network, it was much harder to get Arnaz, Ball’s real-life husband, cast as her co-star. According to Outsider, when executives balked at hiring Arnaz, Ball laid down the law, telling them that she would only agree to sign on for the project if Arnaz was cast as her husband in the show. 

Reportedly, executives weren’t thrilled with the idea of an interracial marriage on television. Still, their desire to cast Ball in the show outweighed their belief that Arnaz shouldn’t play her husband, and so they eventually agreed to hire both Ball and Arnaz to star in I Love Lucy.

Of course, Ball’s hunch that Arnaz would be the perfect TV husband proved to be correct, and viewers all over the world fell in love with his character of Ricky Ricardo, as well as Ball as the zany Lucy Ricardo. These days, Arnaz is viewed as a television trailblazer in more ways than one, a cultural icon and a truly talented musician and performer.

RELATED: The ‘I Love Lucy’ Cast Member That Little Ricky Actor Keith Thibodeaux Connected With Most: ‘We Had Something In Common’