Character Spotlight: Sophia Petrillo

by Beal

20080723_getty2Show: The Golden Girls

Character: Sophia Patrillo

Actor: Estelle Getty

Basically: Sophia is the sharp-tongued octogenarian of the group. Fresh out of the home (Shady Pines) she lives with her daughter Dorothy, and her two roommates Blanche and Rose. Her speech has no filter, a side effect of a previously suffered stroke and an acerbic wit. She’s a tough little Sicilian who has close ties with the mob, and can cast a curse on unsuspecting victims who have crossed her. She speaks of vendettas and hidden bodies like they’re recipes for sauce, which are her real secrets. She quick to give advice to the other “girls” because despite their senior status, she’s still twice as wise (which isn’t hard when we’re talking about Rose and Blanche). She’s tiny, with curly white hair and wouldn’t be caught dead without her wicker/bamboo purse clutched tightly, handles nestled comfortably in the crevice of her inner elbow. Getty was nominated seven times and won one Emmy for her portrayal of Sophia Petrillo.

Amore: Few characters on television strike the balance between bitingly sarcastic and sweet old lady like Sophia. She really is one in a million. Her constant lesson sharing, beginning with my favorite Sophia-ism “Picture it. . .Sicily. . .1923. . .” Or how about how she’s always onto some make money quick scheme? A quick mention of “Shady Pines, Ma” though, and she settles herself down and begins to behave. And although she constantly insults and ridicules Blanche and Rose she loves them as if they were her own daughters and hands out advice (and hard candies) like its, well, hard candies. And hardly an episode goes by where she and “Pussycat” don’t share a heartwarming mother/daughter moment that reminds us all, that behind that old, bitter and rude exterior is just a Pope-loving, funny woman with a heart of gold.

Favorite Moments:  Seriously, Sophia has the best lines in the show. Half of it is her delivery, but either way, she’s the kind of character that only has to open her mouth in order to make me laugh. For as much TV as I watch, I honestly don’t laugh out loud as frequently as one might expect, Sophia though, is one of those characters that elicits the kind of laughter that makes television completely worth watching. Let’s see, anytime Dorothy’s ex-husband Stan Zbornak enters the scene and Sophia is compelled to immediately insult him.(Stan: Hi, Sophia. You’re looking younger everyday. Sophia: Hi Stan, and that’s a beautiful toupee you’re wearing. Great, now we’re both liars.) How about the episode where Rose is dating the midget doctor and Blanche, usually one to keep contained keeps slipping up mention things like shrimp and what not upon his surprise arrival at their door. When Sophia enters, she is nothing but polite, until he leaves, at which point she needs reassuring that she hasn’t, in fact, had another stroke. Or when Sophia believes she’s had a heart attack, but it is only sad until the paramedics ask her what she’s had to eat that day, and it’s enough food to feed an army of stoners. I also love any episode when “Picture it” leads to a flashback to the Petrillo’s WWII era Brooklyn apartment and Sophia plays herself, but without the white wig and glasses on a chain while Dorothy is played by a Celine Dion look-alike. The point is, it’s never what Sophia does, but what she says that really cracks my shit up, and for that, we love her.

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