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‘The Golden Girls’: Rue McClanahan Was Responsible for Blanche Devereaux’s Accent

'The Golden Girls' fans love the series for its witty banter, interesting storylines, and, perhaps, most of all, the actors who took on the show's key roles. Each actor brought something special to the table, but Rue McClanahan is responsible for her character sounding the way she did.

The Golden Girls ran for seven seasons in the 1980s and early 1990s. The series remains beloved even today, and the loss of its last living star, Betty White, at the age of 99, has fans returning to the series once more. The show almost sounded a lot different, though. Rue McClanahan, the actor who played Blanche Devereaux, was instructed not to play up Blanche’s southern accent initially. Thankfully, later direction corrected that.

Rue McClanahan wasn’t initially tapped to play Blanche Devereaux on ‘The Golden Girls’ 

The Golden Girls fans lost a cultural icon on December 31, 2021. Betty White, the last living member of the cast, died in her sleep at the age of 99, weeks before her 100th birthday. White was best known to fans of the famed series for portraying Rose Nylund, but White was initially tapped to take on the part of Blanche Devereaux. Concerns about typecasting led to a casting swap that made the series what it was. 

Rue McClanhan as Blanche Devereaux speaks with Bea Arthur as Dorothy Zbornak in 'The Golden Girls'
Rue McClanahan and Bea Arthur | ABC Photo Archives/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

McClanahan, who was initially tapped to play Rose, took on the part of Blanche. White seamlessly dropped into the role of naive Rose. White had spoken openly about the decision to cast McClanahan in the role of Blanche several times over the years. She noted that McClanahan was braver with the part than she ever would have been. McClanahan certainly brought a special spin to the role. One of Blanche’s signature traits was actually McClanahan’s idea. 

Rue McClanahan dreamt up Blanche Devereaux’s southern accent 

Blanche Devereaux’s southern accent was one of the character’s signature traits. The accent was further complemented by the character’s grandiose style of speech. Initially, though, Blanche wasn’t going to have the accent that fans came to know and love. McClanahan, born and raised in Oklahoma, was told to use her natural voice during the filming of the pilot. 

According to James Colucci, the author of Golden Girls Forever: An Unauthorized Look Behind the Lanai, McClanahan created a southern accent to go with her character but was told to speak in her natural voice by the pilot’s director, Jay Sandrich. Sandrich was replaced, and a new director opted for McClanahan’s original vision.

Rue McClanahan used Vivien Leigh as inspiration for Blanche Devereaux

McClanahan was an accomplished actor when The Golden Girls fell into her lap. That doesn’t mean she didn’t need inspiration from other famed performers, though. McClanahan once explained that she used Vivien Leigh as inspiration for the role of Blanche. Of Blanche, McClanahan once said, “She wanted to be a Southern heroine, like Vivien Leigh. In fact, that’s who I think she thought she was.”

Poster for the 1939 production of 'Gone with the Wind' staring Vvien Leigh and Cark Gable
‘Gone with the Wind’ | Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images

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Vivien Leigh was a British actor famous for her work in A Streetcar Named Desire and Gone with the Wind. In A Street Car Named Desire, she portrayed the southern heroine, Blanche DuBois. She portrayed Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind