Why Lucille Ball's Daughter Made a Deal to Be Fired From Mom's Show
Lucie Arnaz agreed to co-star on Here's Lucy under one condition.
Lucie Arnaz ended up starring on her mom's sitcom for six seasons, but when she took the job as a teenager, she expected her stint on the show would be much, much shorter. In 1968, Lucille Ball began starring on the sitcom Here's Lucy with her daughter and her son, Desi Arnaz Jr., both of whom she shared with her ex-husband, Desi Arnaz. The former couple had, of course, starred on I Love Lucy from 1951 to 1957, prior to their divorce in 1960. Ball went on to The Lucy Show from 1962 to 1968, and Here's Lucy began right after series ended.
Ball was excited to work with her two children, but Lucie has revealed that she did not share the same initial enthusiasm. Instead, she was so worried about how she would come across to the public that she and her mother struck a deal that she would be fired from Here's Lucy if her fear about the show became reality. Read on to find out more.
Lucie feared she would get bad reviews.
In a new interview with Page Six, Lucie shared that she was concerned about being compared to her comedy icon mother and thought people would criticize her for being cast on the show because of nepotism.
"I debated about whether or not I should actually do that," the 71-year-old told Page Six of the show. "Because people will say 'Oh, she just got that job because she's her daughter,' and they would be right."
When Here's Lucy premiered, Lucie was 17. Meanwhile, her younger brother, Desi, was 15. On the show, they played Kim and Craig Carter, the children of their mother's character, a widow named Lucy Carter.
She made a deal with her mom.
Because Lucie was convinced that she'd be the target of backlash, she made a deal with Ball that if that happened, she would be fired from the show and her character written out.
"I said, 'Please, if that happens … you got to write me out of this show. You got to help me save face, and I'll go to school and then I'll start doing something,'" she explained. "And she agreed. And we kept that bargain."
By "kept that bargain," Lucie means that her mom didn't end up needing to boot her from the show. She remained part of the cast for all six seasons until 1974 rather than going to college like she originally planned. She told Page Six that the show was a "wonderful education" and "probably better than anything I could have ever learned at Northwestern, at least in the sense of actually doing."
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She thought she was going to "embarrass herself."
Lucie also talked about her escape plan in a 2011 interview with The Television Academy Foundation. She said that she had planned on "graduating from high school and trying to get into some place like Northwestern or NYU." She said that the prospect of being on the sitcom with her mother made her think, "What if I go on this show and I'm no good and then I will have embarrassed myself in front of millions of people and I can never go back again?"
She explained of making a deal with her mom, "So we kind of made a pact, my mother and I, seriously, that if that happened, like, if we're on the show and after the first few weeks the feeling was 'well, these kids are not cutting it' that, please, just write me out in some way—send me away to college, whatever you have to do—and just save me from the embarrassment of that."
She added, "They said that they would, and thank god that didn't happen. So I ended up staying there and learning quite a lot in six years."
She revealed the sad reason why her mother wanted to work with her children.
In a 2013 conversation with Smashing Interviews, Lucie revealed that Ball's reason for keeping her children on set with her was pretty bleak.
"My mother was changing series, and she wanted us to be closer to home," Lucie said. "I think she was scared if I went to college, I'd get shot because it was the year of Kent State." In 1970, four Kent State University students were killed and others were injured by the Ohio National Guard during a Vietnam War protest.
"I'm not kidding," Lucie continued. "She literally put us on the show so we wouldn't get shot (laughs). It's funny, but when I think about it now, that's what happened. She'd say, 'You're gonna get shot if you go to college! Don't go to college! They're going to shoot you!'"
Lucie was part of the reason the show went off the air.
Lucie told the Television Academy Foundation that getting a big break in her career was one event that prompted the end of Here's Lucy. She was more interested in theater, and when she was cast in a touring production of the musical Seesaw, she and her mom both knew she had to take the job.
"Mom figured, Well, of course you have to go do that, and I don't think I'm going to go if it's the sixth season, Desi's not here, and now Lucie's not here. So, she quit." Desi had previously left the series after three seasons.
Lucie went on appear in other TV shows and in movies, but her focus has been on live performance, including on Broadway. In recent years, she's been performing her solo show, I Got the Job! Songs from My Musical Past.