Susan Lucci recalls working with ‘gracious’ Betty White on ‘Hot in Cleveland’: ‘I had no idea what to expect’

Susan Lucci is revealing what it was really like working with Betty White.

The “All My Children” icon was a guest star on “Hot in Cleveland,” which aired from 2010 until 2015.

The 75-year-old described how nervous she was during her first day of rehearsal.

“When I got there, I opened the door to the sound stage and it was dark except for one set that was lit because they were rehearsing,” Lucci told People magazine on Thursday. “I stood there by the door because I didn’t want to make any movement to possibly interrupt the rehearsing. I didn’t want to be in any of the actor’s sight lines, so I was just kind of hanging by the door.”

BETTY WHITE: A LOOK AT THE ‘GOLDEN GIRLS’ STAR’S LIFE, CAREER ON WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN HER 100TH BIRTHDAY

Betty White and Susan Lucci attend the Actors And Others For Animals 40th Anniversary Celebration Saluting Betty White at the Universal Hilton Hotel on April 9, 2011, in Universal City, California.

Betty White and Susan Lucci attend the Actors And Others For Animals 40th Anniversary Celebration Saluting Betty White at the Universal Hilton Hotel on April 9, 2011, in Universal City, California.
(Getty Images)

“All of a sudden Betty White — who I had never met, but admired so much, of course, from ‘Golden Girls’ and everything else, just like everybody else — called out to me in a stage whisper, ‘Susan, Susan! Come sit next to me,’ and she patted the director’s chair next to her,” the actress shared. “I will never forget that. I mean, I was the new girl in town. I had no idea what to expect.”

“And certainly, to have Betty White welcome me so beautifully, and have me sit next to her — first of all, she called me by name,” Lucci continued. “That Betty White knew my name was amazing to me. And she was just delightful as that moment, all the way through. Betty White was everything you would hope Betty White would be. She was warm, gracious and talented.”

White, whose saucy, up-for-anything charm made her a television mainstay for more than 60 years, whether as a man-crazy TV hostess on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” or the loopy housemate on “The Golden Girls,” passed away on New Year’s Eve. She was 99.

White’s death was confirmed by Jeff Witjas, her longtime agent and friend. She would have turned 100 on Jan. 17.

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Susan Lucci, known for starring in ‘All My Children,' appeared on ‘Hot in Cleveland’.

Susan Lucci, known for starring in ‘All My Children,’ appeared on ‘Hot in Cleveland’.
(Getty Images)

White launched her TV career in daytime talk shows when the medium was still in its infancy and endured well into the age of cable and streaming. Her combination of sweetness and edginess gave life to a roster of quirky characters on popular sitcoms.

“Hot In Cleveland,” TV Land’s first original scripted series, starred Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves and Wendie Malick as three past-their-prime show-biz veterans who move to Cleveland to escape the youth obsession of Hollywood. They move into a home being looked after by an elderly Polish widow — a character, played by White, who was meant to appear only in the pilot episode.

But White stole the show, and the salty Elka Ostrovsky became a key part of the series, an immediate hit. She was voted the Entertainer of the Year by members of The Associated Press.

“It’s ridiculous,” White said of the honor. “They haven’t caught on to me, and I hope they never do.”

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(L-R) Actresses Valerie Bertinelli, Wendie Malick, Betty White and Jane Leeves pose onstage during ‘Hot in Cleveland’ LIVE! at the CBS Studio Center on March 26, 2014, in Studio City, California.  

(L-R) Actresses Valerie Bertinelli, Wendie Malick, Betty White and Jane Leeves pose onstage during ‘Hot in Cleveland’ LIVE! at the CBS Studio Center on March 26, 2014, in Studio City, California.  
(Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for TV Land)

By then, White had not only become the hippest star around, but also a role model for how to grow old joyously.

“Don’t try to be young,” she told The AP. “Just open your mind. Stay interested in stuff. There are so many things I won’t live long enough to find out about, but I’m still curious about them.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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