Estelle Getty, the actress best known to television audiences for playing outspoken Sophia Petrillo on NBC’s The Golden Girls, has passed away. She was 84 years old and died this morning, just three days short of her 85th birthday. She was surrounded by family and friends. Getty is survived by her two adult sons (Carl and Barry), a brother, a sister, and legions of grateful viewers and fans.
Getty was a veteran of stage for many years prior to being cast on The Golden Girls. She had struggled for many years, taking low-paying office jobs to help support her family between acting work. Her most notable role was playing Harvey Fierstein’s mother in Torch Song Trilogy on Broadway.
The tiny actress auditioned for the role of spunky Sophia three times before getting the role. She was one year younger than Bea Arthur and it was felt that she had too much energy for the part. For her third audition, Getty wore an oversized thrift store dress and old age make-up and she soonafter won the role. Sophia was supposed to be just a recurring character but the pilot audience loved her so much that she became a regular. Getty was nominated for an Emmy award for each of the show’s seven years on NBC and won in 1988.