Before finding fame with “Desperate Housewives,” Marc Cherry found himself working with Betty White on the final three seasons of “The Golden Girls” – an experience that forever changed his life.
“I was so broke and out of work for years before I sold ‘Desperate Housewives’ and Betty was so supportive of me,” the writer told Extra on Monday. “She would say, ‘Yes, you must enjoy these successes when they come along because they don’t always come along.’”
It’s a piece of advice that the 59-year-old said has stayed with him over the years.
In 1985, White starred on the hit sitcom with Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan and Estelle Getty. Its cast of mature actors, playing single women in Miami retirement, presented a gamble in a youth-conscious industry. But it proved a solid hit and lasted until 1992.
White played Rose Nylund, a gentle, dim widow who managed to misinterpret most situations. She drove her roommates crazy with off-the-wall tales of childhood in fictional St. Olaf, Minnesota, an off-kilter version of Lake Wobegon.
The role won her an Emmy and she reprised it in a short-live spinoff titled “The Golden Palace.”
Cherry recalled one moment during filming that series that touched his heart.
“We were doing ‘Golden Palace’ and we had a character actor and he was having problems with his lines,” Cherry told the outlet. “He was in his mid-80s… We’re doing the second show in front of a live audience, this guy is really struggling, you can feel the audience getting irritated with him.”
“I witnessed Betty do something that I have never seen any performer do,” he continued. “At some point, she realized the audience was turning against this guy, so she started saying things like… ‘I’m not sure what the line is here. Can you bring the script over?’… She made sure he saw the correct line… She was so charming, she disarmed the audience… She thought, ‘I’m going to save this taping and this man’s dignity’… She wasn’t just kind, she was smart too.”
The beloved actress passed away on Dec. 31 at age 99. She would have turned 100 on Jan. 17.
Cherry said he will always remember White fondly.
“She was, to my way of thinking, the most beautiful of steel magnolias,” he said. “She was lovely and sweet and kind, but in her core, she was very strong.”
“I got to write for her, she got to say my words, and that’s something I’ll be proud of for the rest of my life,” he added.
A film honoring White on her birthday will be released as planned for a one-day showing in more than 900 theaters nationwide, said Steve Boettcher and Mike Trinklein, producers of “Betty White: 100 Years Young — A Birthday Celebration.”
“We will go forward with our plans to show the film on Jan. 17 in hopes our film will provide a way for all who loved her to celebrate her life — and experience what made her such a national treasure,” they said in a statement.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.