Nicole Kidman Reveals Who Encouraged Her Not to Give Up Lucille Ball Role Amid Casting Backlash

Nicole Kidman almost quit Being the Ricardos amid backlash over her casting as Lucille Ball. Now, she's speaking out about the person who encouraged her to stay on the project.

By Gabrielle Chung Dec 20, 2021 10:04 PMTags

Nicole Kidman isn't letting the critics get her down.

The 54-year-old actress faced backlash earlier this year when news broke that she'd been cast as Lucille Ball in Amazon Studios' Being the Ricardos, the new biopic about the iconic comedian and her husband Desi Arnaz. Internet critics said she neither looked nor sounded like Lucille, and it made the Oscar winner consider dropping out, she said in a new interview with Today

"I tried not to [listen to the criticism], but I'm a human being, so there's time when you go, 'Gosh, maybe I'm not the right person for this,'" she shared. She credits director and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin as her source of encouragement during the difficult time. "That's where having somebody like Aaron, who really said at the beginning, he was like, ‘I'm not wanting a perfect rendition or imitation of Lucy. No, no, no, no, no.'"

Instead, Aaron was looking for someone who could connect with Lucille's story, and Nicole said there's "a lot of it I can relate to" as one actress to another.

All of Nicole Kidman's Most Haunting Performances

"There's a scene in it where they say, ‘You're 39, and that's it. It's kind of over for you," she explained. "I know that feeling. I sort of had that. And it was like, OK. Where television suddenly opened a door for her, it opened a door for me. Around the same age, I was like, ‘Gosh, that's kind of ... I know that feeling really deeply."

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Also starring Javier Bardem, Being the Ricardos centers around the romantic and professional relationship between Lucille and Desi as they film their revered sitcom, I Love Lucy.

When the movie's cast was first announced, some questioned the decision to cast Nicole as Lucille—with Valerie Bertinelli tweeting that actress "Debra Messing was robbed" of the role.

Earlier in December, Nicole said during an appearance on Live With Kelly and Ryan that the backlash made her want to "sidestep" the project, but she was eventually talked out of it by Aaron and producer Todd Black.

"Thank god," she said of her decision to stay. "I was so grateful because I got to fall in love with [Lucille]."

For his part, Aaron has defended his choice to cast Nicole. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter in November, the filmmaker said that he was "not looking for a physical or vocal impersonation" of Lucille and Desi when casting the characters.

"This was going to be a kind of tour de force performance," he insisted. "And then when Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem and J.K. Simmons and Nina Arianda say they want to do your movie, your casting search is over." Simmons and Arianda play William Frawley and Vivian Vance, who starred as I Love Lucy's Fred and Ethel Mertz. 

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Another person in Nicole's corner? Lucille and Desi's daughter, Lucie Arnaz. She told The Palm Springs Life magazine in August that Nicole "did a spectacular job" portraying her mother.

"The two days that I watched, though, were both little flashbacks, so she was playing Lucy in the late '30s and mid-'40s. She wasn't Lucy of Lucy Ricardo fame yet, so it was a trifle different," she added. "And I know she meant it to be, so it could feel different. But boy, what she did was astounding. She's got such poise and class."