I played her daughter (Kate Zbornak) who was about to be married off. She never said another thing the rest of any day unless it was to give a directorial note. I got one as she opened the set’s front door to greet me/my character and moved in for a hug; “Don’t put your arms around my neck.” I made sure not to get another.
People always ask the same question about any celebrity I work with; “Is she/he nice?” I’ve asked it myself. In this case I would have to say no. We have no real right to want the people we admire to be approachable but it certainly makes working with them a lot easier. I’ve known perfectly despicable people who could be worked with. In those cases, people aren’t usually doing their best work-especially if it’s supposed to be comedy. I always hated those “trust exercises” in acting class but the point didn’t go unappreciated.
In Bea Arthur’s defense, I was just one more actress in a long line of guest cast members who drifted through the many pioneering shows she starred in. Situation comedy never being my strong suit, I probably wasn’t even a very good guest-cast member. But it wasn't just me. As far as I could tell, everyone got short shrift and a few got shorter. At the very least she had a lack of patience or compassion for anyone on the set. I spent time wondering what it would take to find her good side. I spent time making sure I didn’t cover it up with a downstage hugging arm. I made sure my deodorant was working, my breath was sweet.
Maybe she was going through menopause. Maybe her dog (if she had one) had died that week. Maybe it was a one-off. Maybe she was cheerful and gay the rest of the time. She may have felt my reticence toward her. In a later episode, Dorothy’s daughter was played by another actress. That actress and I have never compared notes. Maybe I was just unavailable for that episode.
I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking of her or my Golden Girls experience. Her coldness made it hard to be my best. It created dis-ease, was the beginning of my inability to feel good about myself in the business of acting. I admired her brilliant and hilarious work in spite of her manners, my experience. I’ve just always been a sensitive plant.