Friday, February 02, 2007

Rachel York Talks About Being Lucy

Broadway Belle, Rachel York, who portrayed Lucille Ball in the CBS television movie, Lucy, recently spoke of her experiences of playing the famous redhead.

Eugene: Your portrayal of the legendary Lucille Ball is often described as “brave” and “courageous.” What did it take personally and professionally to fill those shoes?

Rachel: You know at the time, I was in it: “I’m gonna do this!” But looking back I think “Oh my God! How did I do that?” I auditioned for the role about five times in two to three weeks. And I had about a month to prepare for the role, during Christmas time. You have to understand, as much as I love Lucille Ball and “I Love Lucy,” I didn’t know a lot about her. I had to do all of my research. I got a hold of every book and video on her comedy or her life. A couple of documentaries by Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz Jr. were incredibly useful to me. All of this was strictly research, I was relying on them. We had about a week of rehearsal before we started shooting and they were still making script changes. I had to learn so much about Lucy in that time. The script was a good script, but there were just so many interesting parts of her life that were not included. They just kind of had to stick to the TV version of her life. Part of the time I was fighting to get some really interesting information about her.

Eugene: Like what?

Rachel: Well for instance, she had rheumatoid arthritis or something, nobody knew. For about a year after she was a model, she couldn’t walk. She couldn’t walk! These are interesting facts! Basically, at one point, it was like her grandfather was living on like, strawberries, with so little money. She found a way. She had an incredible will. She found a way to be as successful as she was. She fought tooth and nail every bit of her life. I think that’s why later on, you saw her as a bitter woman. Not only because of her marriage with Desi – which made her bitter – but she fought. Perhaps with her comedy, that’s when she could be a child without all of her responsibilities. That was her outlet. So I was absorbing her. I literally was brushing myteeth, eating, drinking Lucille Ball!

Eugene: That’s work!

Rachel: I remember having dreams of her where I’d see every angle of her face and I’d play like she was talking to me in her dream, because I was absorbing so much information in such a short amount of time. We shot like 16-hour days in New Zealand. And on top of it, a lot of the crew was from Australia who do not know Lucille Ball as an American icon. “We have to have the Lucille Ball pony-tail… What are you talking about? I can’t do this scene with her hair long!” You know, people memorize these scenes! People know exactly what she looked like. I was working really hard to honor this woman and her fans. We had to get it right. But so many decisions were made before I got on board. I was fighting so hard, which is fitting, because I know that’s what Lucille Ball would have done. Funny because I don't think of myself as a “fighter.” I guess a bit of Lucy’s characteristics got in me off-screen as well as on! Because I know she had to fight to get all of these things. I sort of became a perfectionist on the set. I enjoyed the crew, producers, and directors. But there were some details that seemed insignificant to them but I know was important. It was probably the most difficult thing. I wanted it to be a tribute to Lucy… but it was a really good made-for-TV movie. That is just the “nature of the beast.”

Eugene: Quite an undertaking.

Rachel: I was proud of the work I did. That’s why it was “brave” and “courageous”! [laughs]

Read the complete intereview here:

Visit Rachel's official website: