Updated: Rue McClanahan passed away today, June 3, 2010 at the age of 76 after suffering a stroke. The interview below is from 2009 and a special Thank You to Michael J. La Rue who sat down with Rue to answer these questions and send them on to me. I am forever grateful!
Rue McClanahan is an icon. An OBIE and Emmy Award winning actress, not a decade has passed by without Rue being in the spotlight since making her stage debut in 1957 at the Erie Playhouse in "Inherit The Wind." She studied with theatre legend Uta Hagen and made her Broadway debut in 1969 in "Jimmy Shine" starring Dustin Hoffman and in 1970 won the OBIE Award for her role in "Who's Happy Now?" Rue joined the soap opera "Another World" from 1970-1971. It was her guest starring role in 1972 on "All In The Family," created by Norman Lear, that lead Lear to cast Rue in "Maude" (alongside Bea Arthur), where she stayed until the show ended in 1978. In the 80s, Rue was on the hit show "Mamma's Family" starring Vicki Lawrence (and Betty White for a time) and then came "The Golden Girls" from 1985-1992, reuniting Rue with Bea Arthur and Betty White along with Estelle Getty. After the "The Golden Girls," Rue continued on as "Blanche Devereaux" in "The Golden Palace." The late '90s & new millennium has brought Rue back to the stage, starring in such hits as "The Vagina Monologues," Roundabout Theatre's revival of "The Women" and the Broadway production of "Wicked." She also released her autobiography, "My First Five Husbands and The Ones Who Got Away" and came back to series TV in "Sordid Lives: The Series." You can catch Rue September 19 at the Majestic Theatre in Dallas, TX as part of "A Sordid Comedy Affair" tour with creator Del Shores along with cast members Leslie Jordan, Jason Dottley, and Caroline Rhea. Like the characters Rue has played, she is strong, funny, and always making fans smile. So watch out, 'cause Rue is still rising!
1. Who inspired you to become a performer? My Mother, Rheua-Nell McClanahan.
2. When did you realize you wanted to become a performer? I realized I wanted to be a performer when I was five and cast as the Mother Cat in my Kindergarten’s performance of “Three Little Kittens.” I realized I actually could do it as a profession when I was 12; I figured out that the people I saw in movies were not from Hollywood, they were actually from other towns, even small ones, just like me.
3. Who is the one person you haven't worked with that you would like to? Harrison Ford.
4. Is there ever a time you thought about quitting? Heavens no!
5. What is the best advice a teacher ever gave you? Barney Brown, a man who directed me at The Pasadena Playhouse – and directors are often teachers, at least the good ones – he told me: “You’ll never become great until you’re willing to go out on a limb, much further than you feel comfortable, so far out it is dangerous, and then you learn to pull it back and refine it.
6. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? It would be me actually, but only because there is a particular dream I want to experience again. In it, I was floating in the air, conducting a symphony that I had created; and I knew I was in a dream and wouldn't be able to bring the wonderful music from my subconscious out with me. I would love to have that dream again!
7. Favorite kind of shoes? Anything that is really comfortable.
8. Favorite holiday? Christmas.
9. Favorite color? Blue.
10. Favorite kind of sundae (ice cream flavor & topping)? A classic: vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce.
11. Do you have any strange or unusual talent that no one knows about? I can write backwards, upside down, and even upside down AND backwards.
12. What is the weirdest thing you've read about yourself and where did you read it? There was an article filled with lies about the “Golden Girls” actors in the “National Enquirer.” Someone gave it to me on the way to the airport and I read that I had narcolepsy; that condition where you just fall asleep out of the blue. It also said that Betty White ate six cheeseburgers a day! Whoever leaked to the press got it wrong. I have the ability to take naps anywhere, and often did, even behind the couch on the set of “Golden Girls,” but I do not suffer from narcolepsy. And Betty White did not eat six cheeseburgers every day, she ate one.