This month, viewers of The Bold and the Beautiful have been given an early Christmas present: Betty White has joined the cast for a limited 10-day run as Stephanie Forrester's mother, Ann Douglas. It seems Stephanie told her family that her mother was dead, when actually she's been living in Chicago.
Long ago, Stephanie's father physically abused her, and her mother did nothing to stop it. So when Stephanie left home, she left them all behind and started fresh. She also left behind a sister, Pamela, played by Alley Mills (The Wonder Years).
So, how were the producers of B&B able to snag the services of Betty? "They asked me," she explains, as her familiar laugh follows immediately behind. "But really, it's a different part of the business than I had ever done. My agent called me and told me about it, and I thought it sounded like an adventure."
Betty has nothing but compliments for her short-term co-stars, gushing: "I am amazed at the pace of the work. I'm so in awe of soap-opera actors. Those guys really work. It was a lovely experience." And of her on-screen daughter, she says: "Susan (Flannery) is such a pro. It really was a privilege to work with her."
It was also fun for Betty to play a villainous-type character and break away from her usual comedic roles. "Ann has spent 30 years denying any of this (her daughter's abuse) had anything to do with her," Betty explains. "She has to face some deep truths. It was quite dramatic, which is a switch for me. The most dramatic work I had done was some 'Ellery Queen.' It was a delightful exercise to dig a little deeper and see where it took me."
Aside from her stint on B&B, Betty is keeping herself plenty busy with work. She has a recurring role on Boston Legal as murderess Catherine Piper. She has already appeared once this season, and the producers have told her a few more scripts will be on the way. She confides about working on the BL set: "Bill (Shatner) and James (Spader) are such good friends. When you walk on the set, there's chemistry in the air. They are crazy about each other." She even participated in Comedy Central's Roast of William Shatner earlier this year.
She is also amazed by the phenomenon that her sitcom The Golden Girls has become. "I don't think anyone expected when it aired for it to take off like it did. The network wanted to address an audience that no one had really addressed yet. But it was the audience that amazed everyone. You had high-school kids watching it, as well as the older folks. During its entire run, I don't think it ever fell out of the Top 10."
As for the new cult resurgence of the 'Girls' on DVD? "I don't ask why; I just accept it," Betty explains. "Did you know that there are college clubs devoted to it? It's just amazing how people have embraced the show."
Betty is also very much involved in the Morris Animal Foundation (www.morrisanimalfoundation.org) and is devoted to the health and wellness of animals. "My whole life is divided exactly in half - I have to stay in show business to be able to stay in animal business." Betty has been with the Los Angeles Zoo for 39 years and was the zoo commissioner for three terms.
Earlier this year, the zoo honored her lifelong commitment to animals by naming her Ambassador to Animals. While accepting the honor, she said, "I'm not sure what I'm going to do as ambassador except to love the animals, as I have all my life."