‘The Simpsons’ Actor Got Started on ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’ Spinoff ‘Rhoda’

The Simpsons, one of the most famous TV shows on the air, has a strong connection to the 1970s sitcom Rhoda, a spinoff of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. One of the most prominent voice actors on The Simpsons had a significant role on Rhoda. Here’s a look at how the role changed this actor’s life — in addition to how she thinks The Simpsons compares to Rhoda.

One of The Simpson' main characters was played by an actor from The Mary Tyler Moore Show's spinoff Rhoda
The Simpsons characters | Paul Redmond/WireImage

How an actor denied a role on ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’ got a role on ‘Rhoda’

It all starts with The Mary Tyler Moore Show. While Moore was the star of the show, one of the show’s most memorable characters was Rhoda, who was played by Valerie Harper. According to The Star, an actor named Julie Kavner tried out for the role of Rhoda’s sister, who was supposed to appear on The Mary Tyler Moore Show for a single episode. Kavner did not garner the role.

However, Rhoda became the star of a spinoff from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, simply called Rhoda. While casting the role of Rhoda’s sister, who was given the name Brenda, TV producer David Davis reached out to Kavner and gave her the role.

The theme from The Mary Tyler Moore Show

What getting a role on ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’ spinoff ‘Rhoda’ was like for Julie Kavner

This was a huge change for Kavner. She told the East Bay Times she’d never had a paid acting job before. Describing her previous employment, she said “They were (expletive) jobs. I worked in real estate for a short time. Then I was a cocktail waitress for a few minutes. That didn’t work out. The best (expletive) job I ever had was at the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture.”

Although she was the least experienced actor on the show, Kavner said the other cast members saw her as an equal. “I think a big part of that was almost everyone had worked in theater,” she recalled. “And like it is in theater, it was always about the work. All you had to do was concentrate on making the best show you could. We shot the series in front of a studio audience. So, that helped me a lot.”

The role Julie Kavner got on ‘The Simpsons’ and how the show compares to ‘Rhoda’ in her eyes

Rhoda was canceled in 1978. The Simpsons premiered in 1989. Fans of Rhoda may have heard a distinct and familiar voice on The Simpsons. Kavner was now playing Marge Simpson, the beloved matriarch of the Simpson family and one of the two voices of reason on the show alongside Lisa Simpson. While The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Rhoda was a straightforward sitcom, The Simpsons would sometimes parody sitcom writing — in addition to so much else.

The Simpsons theme

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Clearly, The Simpsons is Kavner’s most famous work. It inspired a theatrical film, theme park rides, and numerous types of merchandise. However, she told The Star that Rhoda is the show she acted on that is closest to her heart. Why? Kavner said  “It gave me my life, it gave me my career, it gave me the love of my life, David Davis.” Davis was the TV producer who got Kavner her role on Rhoda. The Simpsons is more famous than Rhoda — but Rhoda means more to Kavner.