The series featured four main characters throughout its run, with many other characters recurring throughout all seven seasons.
- Bea Arthur as Dorothy Zbornak
- Betty White as Rose Nylund
- Rue McClanahan as Blanche Devereaux
- Estelle Getty as Sophia Petrillo
Supporting and guest cast
The following actors and actresses played recurring characters:
- Herbert Edelman as Stanley Zbornak, Dorothy's cheating, freeloading ex-husband who appeared in 26 episodes.
- Harold Gould as Miles Webber (Nicholas Carbonne), Rose's professor boyfriend who appeared in 14 episodes. Gould also guest starred in the show's third episode in its first season as Arnie Peterson, Rose's first serious boyfriend after her husband Charlie's death.
- Debra Engle as Blanche's daughter Rebecca Devereaux, who has a baby girl by artificial insemination and appeared in three episodes, seasons 5-7. Shawn Schepps played Rebecca in season 3, when Rebecca returns from a modeling career in Paris, overweight and engaged to a verbally abusive man.
- Monte Markham as Blanche's brother Clayton Hollingsworth in two episodes, first when he comes out and later to introduce his fiancé
- Sheree North as Virginia Hollingsworth, Blanche's sister who appeared in two episodes, first in season one then again in season five.
- Sid Melton as Salvadore "Sal" Petrillo, Sophia's late husband, usually seen in dreams or flashback sequences who appeared in eight episodes. He also appeared as Don the Fool, a waiter at a medieval restaurant in season six.
- Nancy Walker as Angela Rachel Vecchio, Dorothy's aunt and Sophia's sister, with whom Sophia constantly fought and appears in two episodes.
- Bill Dana as Sophia's brother and Dorothy's uncle Angelo Grisanti who appeared in seven episodes. Dana also appeared as Sophia's father in a season four episode.
- Doris Belack as Gloria O'Connor-Petrillo, Dorothy's younger sister who in season 1, is married to a wealthy man in California and wants Sophia to move in with her. She later lost all of her money and returns in season 7 for a 2-part episode played by Dena Dietrich and upsets Dorothy as she becomes romantically involved with Dorothy's ex-husband, Stan.
- Scott Jacoby as Dorothy's aimless musician son Michael Zbornak who appeared in three episodes.
- Lynnie Greene, credited as Lynn Greene; she portrayed a younger Dorothy in flashbacks in four episodes.
- Richard Mulligan appeared in three episodes as the pediatrician Harry Weston.
- Steve Landesberg played Stan’s psychiatrist, Dr. Richard Halperin, appearing in three episodes in season 7.
The show also drew many well-known or then up-and-coming actors and actresses for single guest starring roles, such as Don Ameche, Christopher Daniel Barnes, Ken Berry, Lloyd Bochner, Sonny Bono, Eddie Bracken, Joseph Campanella, Virginia Capers, Rosalind Cash, George Clooney, Polly Holliday, Robert Culp, Ruby Dee, the Del Rubio triplets, Jeane Dixon, Anne Francis, Johnny Gilbert, Jack Gilford, Alice Ghostley, Peter Graves, Merv Griffin, George Grizzard, Gary Grubbs, Pat Harrington, Bob Hope, Julio Iglesias, Freddie Jackson, Tony Jay, Billy Jayne, Gordon Jump, Paula Kelly, Alan King, David Leisure, Jenny Lewis, Hal Linden, Mario Lopez, Kevin McCarthy, Edie McClurg, Marian Mercer, Martin Mull, Leslie Nielsen, Jeanette Nolan, Jerry Orbach, Leland Orser, Tony Plana, Peggy Pope, Joe Regalbuto, Burt Reynolds, Debbie Reynolds, Donnelly Rhodes, Richard Riehle, Alex Rocco, Cesar Romero, Mickey Rooney, Harry Shearer, Reid Shelton, McLean Stevenson, Inga Swenson, Jeffrey Tambor, Meshach Taylor, Jay Thomas, Alex Trebek, Dick Van Dyke, Tom Villard, Lyle Waggoner, David Wayne and Fred Willard. Director Quentin Tarantino appeared as an Elvis impersonator in one episode.
Creator and Writer
Series creator Susan Harris wrote or co-wrote many episodes, especially early in the series' run.