It’s been 35 years since The Golden Girls first premiered on TV in September 1985, and Rue McClanahan‘s son, Mark Bish, says the best thing about the series was the cast. “Their abilities ran deep. They pretty much could have done anything,” Mark exclusively tells Closer Weekly in the magazine’s latest issue, on newsstands now. “All of them had been trained to do much more than act in a sitcom.”

Betty White — the last surviving member of the cast — originally auditioned for the role of Rue’s character, Blanche, but ended up getting Rose instead. However, there weren’t any hard feelings because the 98-year-old did a great job playing the fluffy-haired beauty.

The Golden Girls
Touchstone Tv/Whitt-Thomas-Harris Prod/Kobal/Shutterstock

Betty “was the glue that held it all together,” The Golden Girls creator Susan Harris also tells Closer. “You’ll never meet a more outgoing, friendly, lovely woman than Betty. She was always so up and cheerful.”

For the Proposal star, the best thing about doing the show was working with Rue and her two other costars Estelle Getty and Bea Arthur. “I can’t believe I’m the only one left because I was the oldest,” she once said. “It was always great fun shooting each episode. [I] truly miss everyone involved.”

The Golden Girls ran for seven seasons before its final episode aired in May 1992. Although NBC would have gladly given the sitcom another season, Bea knew it was time for her to move on. “Over six years, the ideas had started to run out,” the late actress’ son Matthew Saks tells Closer. “She was not unhappy, but she was getting up there in age and there were other things she wanted to do, like relax.”

When the show ended, all four ladies walked away with Emmys for their time spent on the sitcom. Bea went on to act in a number of great shows like Malcolm in the Middle and Futurama. Rue and Estelle also continued to take on more projects until their final days in Hollywood.

“We all had such fun together!” Betty once said. “You can’t work that closely together and not become a family.”

For more on The Golden Girls, pick up the latest issue of Closer Weekly, on newsstands now — and be sure to sign up for our newsletter for more exclusive news!

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