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"It's like we say in St. Olaf, Christmas without fruitcake is like St. Sigmund's Day without the headless boy."

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Picture it...
— Sophia’s segue into a story

Sophia Petrillo (née Grisanti,[2] formerly Weinstock) is one of the four main characters on the 1985 NBC sitcom The Golden Girls, and its spin-offs, The Golden Palace and Empty Nest. The brazen, wisecracking mother of Dorothy Zbornak, Sophia moved in with her daughter and her roommates after her retirement home burns down. She became the unspoken matriarchal figure, bringing tall tales, wisecracks, delicious recipes, and a touch of motherly love to the Miami household. She is the widow of the late Salvadore Petrillo, and the mother of Dorothy Zbornak, Gloria Harker, and the late Phillip Petrillo.

Sophia appeared in all seven seasons of The Golden Girls and the sole season of The Golden Palace. She later guest-starred in two episodes in the first and fourth seasons of the Empty Nest spin-off before joining the main cast in the final two seasons. She also guest-starred in a Season 3 episode of the spin-off Nurses. Sophia was portrayed by veteran stage and screen actress, the late Estelle Getty.

Personality and Characteristics

Sophia tells a story

Sophia telling the girls a story

During the series' run, Sophia resembled the archetypal "old lady"; white-hair, small stature, wrinkles, and large-framed eyeglasses. She was shown to have a fondness for conservative, elderly clothing such as cardigans, knee-high stockings, and muumuu dresses. Sophia owned a tan bamboo handbag that became her personal trademark. She carried the purse everywhere; out in public, around the house, even in the bathroom.

Sophia is best known for her wisecracks, put-downs and brazen remarks, often commenting on Dorothy’s lack of love life, Blanche’s promiscuity, and Rose’s stupidity. However, despite her sharp criticism of her daughter and housemates, she loves and cares for them deeply; she even sees Rose and Blanche as surrogate daughters. The other women usually seek Sophia out for advice, which Sophia is all too willing to share, usually beginning with her catchphrase, "Picture it…" Like Rose’s stories, Sophia's parables often end with a moral from which advice can be gleaned. These stories usually also involved historical figures, with Sophia claiming to have had trysts with Pablo Picasso, Sigmund Freud, and Winston Churchill, among others. She also claims to have befriended many famous people including Golda Meir, Mama Celeste, Mussolini, and claimed in the episode "Miles To Go" that Robert Frost was always nipping at her nose, confusing him with Jack Frost.

Sophia also has a tendency to be overly dramatic, as evidence in various episodes. In "Family Affair", she donned her mourning dress, complete with hat and opaque veil, after the ladies found Dorothy's son Michael in bed with Rose's daughter Bridget. She announced that she was in mourning as Michael was dead to her, and only took off the veil until Michael apologized to her and Dorothy, as well as promising to call her every month.[3]

Due to Sophia's Sicilian descent, there were regular hints in the series that she and her family have some mafia connections; she has made reference to several vendettas. It is even hinted that Sophia herself has done mob work. In "The Case of the Libertine Belle", she stated that that no one in her family had "ever left a body to be found". In "Rose's Big Adventure", Sophia also claimed to have been present at the St. Valentine's Day Massacre to which she then took back stating, "Oh yeah, I was at the movies that day. All day." In "Valentine's Day", she did say she was present at a St. Valentine's Day Massacre, not the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.

Sicilian curse

Sophia casts a Sicilian curse on Leonard Barton; "Big Daddy" (1986)

Sophia strongly believes in ancient Sicilian custom and traditions, and in the power of a "Sicilian curse." The list of people she claims to have cast curses on include: Shelley Long, the Baltimore Colts, the New York Jets, Giuseppe Mangiacavallo (the boy who stood her up at the altar),[4] and Mr. Barton (the girls' next door neighbor who expressed disdain for Italians). She has threatened to cast a curse on Dorothy before she found that it was prohibited by another arcane custom, and on Stan Zbornak. In the final season, Sophia spent two episodes doing odd tasks in order to save Dorothy from an ancient curse from a Sicilian strega, or witch.

Similarly to her daughter Dorothy, Sophia is liberal in her beliefs and is suspected to be a Democrat. She supported same-sex marriage, and told Dorothy that if she had a gay child she would not love them any less.[5] In a Season 7 episode, Sophia complained about how there were no good Democratic candidates running in the Presidential election that year.

Sophia has a fervent hatred for the Shady Pines Retirement Home, regularly insisting that the home was cruel to its residents and had lackluster facilities and activities at best. Due to her hatred of the home, Sophia's compliance can be gained by threatening her with returning to the home. Dorothy constantly threatens her with the phrase "Shady Pines, Ma!", and frequently alludes to the home whenever Sophia is being difficult. In one instance, she blackmails Sophia into telling Rose the truth by threatening her with Shady Pines, but that backfires when Sophia says "it wasn't so bad.” Dorothy then tells her that they sold it to Germans, to which Sophia cooperates. When Sophia plans to move out and move into a convent with nuns, Dorothy wants to sit in and asks her mother if she minds. When Sophia says that she does mind, Dorothy says that there aren't any "Shady Pines" to sit under outside.

Sophia also appears to have a fear of doctors and hospitals due to the fact that her age could cause her to be sent back to the home. When Dorothy suggests that Sophia go to the hospital for a hernia, Sophia insists that this "scam" had Shady Pines written all over it.[6] Another time, Dorothy makes an appointment for Sophia to get her hearing checked and says either she go to the appointment or Dorothy would make her life miserable. Sophia says that those are the exact same words that Dorothy said when she put Sophia in Shady Pines, but cooperates before she can finish the sentence. She also has a dislike of psychiatrists, saying that they blame everything on mothers.[7]

Over the course of The Golden Palace, Sophia began to show signs of senile dementia, usually in comical situations. For instance, she was shown to be standing still and apparently unconscious while attempting to operate a vacuum cleaner -- and her bluntness was toned down to a certain extent. In reality, Estelle Getty would later be diagnosed with Lewy body dementia; however, her acting and ability to remember lines had improved compared to The Golden Girls, where she had struggled to remember her lines.

Biography

Picture It...Sicily, 1905

Sophia Grisanti was born on or around April 17th, 1905 in Sicily, Italy, to Don Angelo, Sr. and Eleanor Grisanti, and lived in a village in Sicily with her parents and her siblings; her brothers Angelo, Jr. and Vito, and her sisters Angela and Regina. In her younger years, Sophia apparently had always been short with auburn hair, but in "Blanche and the Younger Man", she says she was "a tall voluptuous blond with a butt like granite", though this statement was likely a by-product of her penchant for telling tall tales.[8]

Sophia's teenage years were a whirlwind of romance. Her first marriage was to a man named Guido Spirelli when she was fourteen, but she left him at the altar.[9] As a teenager, she was briefly engaged to a young man named Augustine Bagatelli, who was crazy about her as she was the only girl in the village that didn't want to become a nun, but their relationship came to an end when he went to fight in World War I.[10] She was interested in a man named Fabrizio Rubino, and the two were allegedly on the verge of a love affair when destiny intervened -- or rather, Fabrizio's wife Destiny Rubino, who dragged him off, smashed his skull in with a ravioli crank, and threw his body in the river. She also claims that she was once engaged to her brother, something largely dismissed as a joke in the episode it was mentioned in. Later in life, Sophia became engaged to Giuseppe Mangiacavallo, who jilted her at the altar.[4]

Before moving to America, Sophia married Salvadore Petrillo, though the exact nature of how they met and married varies based on the episode. In "Adult Education", she states that she met him when she bargained with someone in a dark alley in Sicily.[11] In "Diamond in The Rough", she says she won him in a contest, when she stood on a rock so they were the same height.[12]

Life in America

In the 1920s, Sal and Sophia moved to Brooklyn, New York, and bought an apartment on Clinton Avenue, where they lived for thirty years. During that time, Sal carved "Sal Loves Sophia" into the door of their bedroom closet.[13] When they first got married, Sal's mother came to stay with them for two months and slept between them the entire time.[14]

In 1929, Sophia, Sal, and Sophia's father were driving to Chicago on Valentine's Day, when their car broke down. They were able to get to a small mechanic's garage to fix it, with Sophia's father badmouthing Sal every chance he could. While Sophia's father went to use the bathroom, Sal surprised her with a box of chocolates and revealed he'd had the car break down on purpose. Unfortunately, their romantic moment was shattered by Sophia's father running away from men with machine guns -- as he had accidentally walked into the Valentine's Day Massacre. In order to get them out of the garage as fast as possible, Sal pushed the car out into the street.[15]

In 1931, Sal and Sophia got into a fight and Sal tried to leave her, but when he couldn't find a cab, Sophia treated him to veal parmesan. Her meal moved Sal to tears, and said the meal was like their relationship -- "The veal is (like) him, tough and stubborn. The tomato sauce is (like) me, hot and spicy. And the mozzarella is like their love: it stretches but it never breaks." -- and they stayed together. That night, they made love atop a pinochle table at McSoley's Bar, and conceived their first child, Dorothy.[16] Nine months later, Sophia gave birth to Dorothy after twenty-three hours[17] or several days[18] of labor. They later had a daughter named Gloria, and a son named Phil.

The Petrillos

A younger Sophia and Sal with baby Phil; "Clinton Avenue Memoirs" (1990)

While Sophia was pregnant with Phil, she put on forty pounds and was crying all the time. In that period, Sal almost cheated on her with another woman -- however, he decided that he preferred Sophia and abandoned the notion of having an affair. While Sophia never met the woman, she heard that she was "a short, scrawny, birdlike thing who never shut up".[19] In 1935, Sophia began to go into labor while Sal was away at work and ended up giving birth in the cab. Sophia ended up needing a C-section, which was performed by the cabby.[20]

During The Great Depression, both she and Sal held down jobs and always managed to feed their children, though their son had to wear hand-me-downs from their daughters for a while after he was born.[13] They were good friends with Max and Esther Weinstock, and at some point during the 1940s, Sal and Max opened a pizza-knish stand together and enjoyed quite a bit of profit.[21]

On Dorothy's first day of school, Sophia walked her to her kindergarten classroom, only for Dorothy to start crying for her when she left. Unknown to Dorothy at the time, Sophia snuck back onto the property to watch Dorothy in the classroom in case she needed her. She saw Dorothy being bullied by another student named Debbie Tanzi, and left after four hours believing Dorothy would never want to go back to school. However, to her pleasant surprise, Dorothy returned that afternoon saying she couldn't wait to go back, as she'd made friends with Debbie.[22]

In 1949, Sal revealed to Max during a night of gin rummy that he'd gambled away the profits from the stand. In order to save Sal and Sophia's marriage, Max told Sophia that he had gambled away the profits, and the enraged Sophia swore that she would never speak to Max again.[21] At some point after this, Sophia and Sal learned that Dorothy had become pregnant out of wedlock, and they insisted that Dorothy marry Stanley Zbornak, the boy responsible. Sophia's wedding gift to the couple was wedding china that she allegedly carried over from Sicily.

Golden Years

On Christmas Eve in 1955, Sophia, Salvadore, Sophia's sister Angela, and Angela's husband Carmine Vecchio attended Francesca Regusso's annual Christmas party. While Sophia was looking for a seltzer to wash down Francesca's manicotti with, Salvadore De Milo grabbed her from behind and began kissing her. Being a respectable married woman, Sophia shoved him away after copping a few good feels and ran to tell Angela what had happened. Unknown to the women, Vinny Jiamalla was drunk under the table and overheard everything, quickly blabbing to the rest of the party. Sophia pulled Angela into a closet and accused her of betraying her, while Angela did the same after allegedly seeing Sophia try to kiss Carmine -- when, in actuality, it had been the big-breasted Maria Fenestru wearing Sophia's shawl. The sisters had a big fight, each denied the accusations, and they refused to speak to one another for the next thirty years.[23]

In 1957, Sophia brought her mother Eleanor over to their apartment with intentions of convincing her to live with them in her final years. Eleanor then arrives with a younger Dorothy, but Eleanor is irate at the thought of coming to Sal's home because she suspects that Sal hates her. Sophia counters that it can’t be true, as they both want her to move in with them. Sal then confronts Eleanor about his sincerity, and the two come to an agreement despite Eleanor's reluctance to show affection.[24] Eleanor passed away some time after.

In 1964, Sophia's son Phil became engaged to a woman named Angela. Angela's father met with Sal and Sophia to discuss a dowry, and paid them two-million lire in exchange for Phil's hand in marriage. Sophia and Sal took the check, but the check bounced when they tried to cash it. Later at Phil's wedding, Sophia was shocked to see that Angela and her family not only allowed Phil to wear a wedding dress, but encouraged him to do so. This only deepened her shame of his crossdressing, but she would blame her hatred for Angela on the bounced check.

Some time after Sophia's mother passed, Sal passed away as well. His exact date of and age at death are unknown, but he may have died from an illness as Sophia mentioned he was in a hospital the night he died.[25] The night he died, Sophia went looking for Dorothy and found her in the maternity ward looking at the babies. Sophia saw a newborn that looked exactly like Sal, and thought that the baby had been born just as Sal died. Much to her surprise, the baby's last name was Rheingold -- which was the name of Sal's favorite beer.[25]

Shady Pines, Ma!

Some time after Sal died, Sophia suffered a stroke, the effects of which are said to be a partial explanation for Sophia's uncensored and brazen remarks. Dorothy subsequently arranged for Sophia to stay in the Shady Pines Retirement Home, though it's is implied that Dorothy's then-husband Stanley persuaded or even tricked Dorothy into sending her to the home.[26]

Sophia did not have many good things to say about Shady Pines, constantly alluding to poor and downright cruel treatment by the staff. While she went along with Dorothy to check out Blanche Devereaux's home, Sophia insisted that Many of Sophia's accusations would later turn out to be true after an investigation done in the 1990s. On September 4th, 1985, Shady Pines burned down after a heater fire, and Sophia seized her chance to leave and moved in with Dorothy and her roommates.[27]

Thank You For Being A Friend

In 1986, Sophia was reunited with her sister Angela, as Dorothy had flown her to Miami for Sophia's birthday. The two immediately rekindled their feud, but after Dorothy's intervention, they realized that they had been fighting over nothing for thirty years and reconciled.[28]

While living in Miami, Sophia had many boyfriends, but did not date any for a substantial amount of time. She remarried once more to Max Weinstock after Esther's death and Max's revelation that Sal was the one who gambled away the profits from the pizza-knish stand. Sophia and Max forgave each other after the latter reveals the truth, and the two quickly became close and got married. The newlyweds realize their romance would not work out, and they part ways as friends. However, they would remain legally married or have their marriage annulled, as divorce would have gone against her Catholic beliefs.[21]

In the episode "Foreign Exchange", a surprise visit from family friends Dominic and Philomena Bosco left Sophia wondering whether she was truly Dorothy's mother. The Boscos initially believed their daughter, Gina, may not be their biological daughter, and the hospital could have switched the babies by accident. As both Gina and Dorothy believe everything they worked through their lives up till this point in time may have been a lie, they decide to do a DNA test. Sophia begins to cry, terrified that she may have lived her whole life not knowing if Dorothy was truly her daughter. However, the results are positive, and everyone rejoices at the news that the babies were right where they belonged.[29]

1990s

Sophia and salvodor

Sophia imagines Sal in their old apartment; "Clinton Avenue Memoirs" (1990)

In the 1990s, Sophia's memory as starting to get worse, so she took a trip back to her old apartment to try and jog her memories. She believed that Sal had carved "Sal Loves Sophia" in the kitchen closet, but it was revealed that Sal had put their children's height chart on the kitchen door. While up in her old bedroom, the despondent Sophia imagined Sal coming down from Heaven to talk to her. Sal was disappointed that Sophia had been losing her fire, and admitted that he may not have found her attractive anymore. This caused Sophia to snap at him, promising that she would make him regret looking at another ghost. Sal applauded Sophia for finding her spunk again, and made her promise to keep her spirit -- not for his memory, but for her own life. As Sophia and Dorothy prepared to leave, Sophia found the love message that Sal had carved in the closet.[13]

Some time after, Sophia's son Phil died of a heart attack, and his widow Angela held the funeral in Miami.[30] Sophia hardly showed any emotion at the news of Phil's death. While at the funeral, she lied to the priest and told him that Phil was a rocket scientist with an IQ of 160. She didn't cry at the funeral, and effortlessly made jabs at Angela for the wake and the service.[30] A week later, Sophia revealed that the reason she never came to visit Phil was because Angela's father's dowry check bounced. However, through the counselling expertise of Rose, the truth gradually came out -- Sophia never visited because she was ashamed of Phil's crossdressing, and she resented Angela for not doing anything to stop it. Rose made a point to establish that Phil was a decent father and husband, and a good provider -- and that there was nothing wrong with Angela loving Phil for who he was. Sophia admitted that she did love Phil, but she always wondered what she did to make him the way he was. As Angela tells her that Phil was a good man, Sophia breaks down crying and exclaims "My baby is gone!".[30]

In 1991, Sophia was arrested for arson after a former Shady Pines resident, Maria Hartgrove, claimed on her deathbed that Sophia had started the fire that destroyed the home. Hartgrove claimed that on the night of the fire, Sophia and Maria were cooking s'mores in her room with an "illegal" hot plate, and the curtains caught fire while they were cooking, so they fled the room while the fire spread.[31] The hot plate was presumably lost in the fire, but these accusations were later proven to be false. Sophia later stated that Maria was always jealous of the fact that Sophia still had her own hair.[32]

In the series finale of The Golden Girls, Sophia, after initially deciding to follow the now-married Dorothy out of the house, turned back and decided to stay with Rose and Blanche, which set up the transition to The Golden Palace.[33]

The Golden Palace

When Rose, Blanche, and Sophia invested in a hotel, Sophia was installed as one of the two chefs, specializing in Italian cuisine while the hotel's previous chef, Chuy Castillos, handled Mexican food. Over the course of the show, Sophia began to show signs of senile dementia, usually in comical situations -- for instance, she is shown to be standing still and apparently unconscious while attempting to operate a vacuum cleaner -- and her bluntness was toned down to a certain extent. In reality, Estelle Getty would later be diagnosed with Lewy body dementia herself; however, in The Golden Palace, her acting and ability to remember lines had improved compared to The Golden Girls, during which she had struggled to remember her lines.

In the episode "One Angry Stan", Sophia was the only one to witness Stan after he had faked his death to avoid tax troubles. The fact that no one else saw Stan in these encounters, as he ducks out of sight whenever someone else enters the room, and the fact that Sophia's is becoming increasingly senility, it's unclear whether or not Stan was really alive or if Sophia was hallucinating.[34]

Empty Nest

After the events of The Golden Palace, Sophia returned joined the cast of Empty Nest for its last two seasons, after previously making guest appearances in Season 1 and Season 4. After the departure of Kristy McNichol and Lisa Rieffel from the show, Sophia was added to the show as a way to fill the void that was left, if albeit as a background character. She would occasionally mention Dorothy, but nothing about Rose or Blanche, and none of the The Golden Girls cast members appeared during Sophia’s time on Empty Nest.

Sophia pops up at Harry’s door, and having missed the old neighborhood, decides to move back into Shady Pines. Due to Estelle Getty's declining health, Sophia occasionally strolls into the Weston house, firing off one-liners and offering words of wisdom to the family. Playing mother and grandmother to the Westons, she offers her worldly advice to Harry and Carol whenever they are in need of help and often serves as Scotty’s babysitter. She often rushes back to Shady Pines for the latest social activity, which is usually something outrageous like a wheelchair demolition derby or a safe-sex seminar. Adding to the shock value trend, Sophia is seen in an array of costumes throughout the final two seasons. She becomes Laverne’s biker boyfriend’s new riding partner, strolling in clad in black leather, and attends a Shady Pines square dance with Harry dressed as a cowgirl.

There are a couple episodes that revolve around Sophia and don’t just have her servicing the larger plotline. When Laverne begins volunteering at Shady Pines, Sophia’s boyfriend hits on her. Sophia sees them together and assumes Laverne is trying to steal her man, which prompts her to put a curse on the nurse. In another episode, Sophia gets fed up with the strict rules of the Shady Pines manager and moves in with Harry. Her constant mothering and garlic fetish drive Harry to the verge of insanity, but he can’t bear to tell Sophia to leave.

Family

   
   
   
   
   
   
Mr. Petrillo †
   
   
Mrs. Petrillo †
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
Don Angelo
Grisanti, Sr.
   
   
Eleanor
   
   
Uncle
Nunzio
   
   
Aunt
Teresa
   
   
Aunt
Renata
   
   
Uncle
Bruno
   
   
Uncle
Vito
   
   
Uncle
Gino †
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
Salvadore
Petrillo
   
   
   
   
   
   
Sophia
Petrillo
   
   
Regina
Grisanti
   
   
Angela
Vecchio
   
   
Carmine
Vecchio
   
   
Angelo
Grisanti, Jr.
   
   
Philomena
Grisanti
   
   
Uncle
Mario
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
Stanley
Zbornak
   
   
   
   
   
   
Dorothy
Zbornak
   
   
   
   
Gloria Harker
   
   
Mr. Harker
   
   
   
   
Phillip
Petrillo
   
   
Angela
Petrillo
   
   
Cousin
Apollonia
   
   
Cousin
Graziella
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
Dennis
Griffiths
   
   
Kate
Griffiths
   
   
Michael
Zbornak
   
   
Lorraine
Wagner
   
   
Katherine
Harker
   
   
Jim
Harker
   
   
Harvey
Petrillo
   
   
Five sons
   
   
Four
daughters
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
Robby Zbornak


Career

Though she is mostly retired, Sophia has carried a few jobs throughout the series Oftentimes, her age and attitude have gotten her to either quit the job or be dismissed from it.

In The Golden Palace, Sophia became the co-chef of The Golden Palace Hotel, specializing in Italian cuisine.

  • Activities Director: Sophia was once the activities director of the Cyprus Grove Retirement Home. However, the job was just a title, as Dorothy had asked the home to watch over Sophia while Dorothy was working.[35]
  • Caterer: For a time, Sophia and her roommates ran a wedding planning business called Miami Moms Catering. However, they ended up losing out on a sizable amount of money after their first client decided to elope with her fiancé.[36]
  • Co-Owner of Max & Sophia's Pizza-Knish Stand: After marrying Max Weinstock, Sophia and Ma opened up a new pizza-knish stand on the Miami boardwalk to make money for a new place to live. The stand ended up burning down after Dorothy left a lit cigarette behind the dumpster, but the couple decided not to rebuild the stand as they were only doing it to recapture the memories they had of Sal.[37]
  • Greeter: Sophia was a greeter at Pesco Pete's Chow Wagon. She organized a revolt with two other elderly employees against the "tyrannical" manager's attitude.[38]
  • Sandwich Vendor: Sophia once partnered with Rose to sell sandwiches at a construction site. Sophia's attitude led to them butting heads with another vendor named Johnny No-Thumbs, but the rivalry was quickly solved with a letter from Sophia's Uncle Vito. However, Sophia and Rose ended up quitting the sandwich business because the profits weren't what they expected.[39]
  • Waiter: Sophia was once a waiter at Captain Jack's Seafood Shanty.[40]

Health

Before the events of the series, Sophia suffered from a stroke.

Casting and Development

Estelle Getty played in several stage plays as well as made her very first Hollywood appearance in 1982 in the movie Tootsie. Getty was 61 when she landed the biggest role of her lifetime. Her audition was done in front of all of the producers, and series creators Susan Harris and Paul Junger Witt. Initally, Susan Harris wanted to portray Sophia Petrillo as "a big, fat, Italian mama with a bun". However, Getty mentioned that she could just about do any character she would like, and as said by Estelle herself, "I would play Sophia my way. I would play her New York Brooklyn."[41]

Estelle performed flawlessly in the audition; reportedly, the line that sealed the deal was "I'm older than dirt!" in the most Brooklyn Italian accent possible. Director Tony Thomas mentioned just after Estelle's audition, "We read a lot of people for Sophia. Estelle came in to see me, and it was actually frightening. You don't expect to hear the words jump off the page that way. It was like, 'Oh, my God! This is everything we wanted! I told them if you don't like her, have her do it again. Don't let her out of the room until you're satisfied, because she is the one."[41]

Despite Thomas's firm decision that Getty was "the one", the other producers were initially hesitant to cast her. Though Getty was already sixty-one, they were concerned that she would be too young for the role as Sophia was supposed to be eighty. Getty went on to audition a total of four times before she was finally cast, later saying she'd never had to audition for a role that many times.[41]

Quotes

It was a retirement home, and you know what they did? They set off the fire alarm, in a retirement home. Who can rush? Half the people have walkers, the other half can't get out of their chairs. But they've got bells going off like crazy! You know what that does to hearts that only beat a few times a week? It's not pretty!
— Sophia describing what happened at Shady Pines; "The Engagement" (1985)
I heard a noise. I thought it was robbers, so I hid my jewels. Now I can’t remember where.
— Sophia being woken up in the middle of the night; "The Engagement" (1985)
Dorothy, anger is a lot like a piece of shredded wheat caught under your dentures. If you leave it there, you get a blister, and you gotta eat Jell-O all week. If you get rid of it, the sore heals, and you feel better.
— Sophia giving Dorothy advice; "Guess Who's Coming to the Wedding" (1985)
Please, I'm 81 years old! I may not remember what it feels like, but I sure as hell remember what it looks like!
— Sophia finds her grandson and Rose's daughter in bed together; "Family Affair" (1986)
You've nothing to fear but fear itself. (eats a chip) And, of course, the Bogeyman.
— Sophia trying to reassure Rose


Appearances

The Golden Girls (1985-1992)


The Golden Palace (1992-1993)


Empty Nest (1988-1995)


Template:EMSeason2Appearances

Template:EMSeason6Appearances

Template:EMSeason7Appearances

Nurses (1991-1994)

Template:NursesSeason3Appearances

Trivia

  • Out of the original four ladies, Sophia has had the most appearances in The Golden Girls' extended universe, appearing in a total of 258 episodes.
  • Despite being born and raised in Sicily, Sophia has no accent left to show that she grew up speaking the Sicilian language. Instead, she sports a thick Brooklyn accent with a fast-speaking pace, which often contributed to the humor in her one-liners.
  • Sophia once attempted to switch the Shady Pines threat onto Dorothy, but she sees around it and says "That's where I take you."
  • Sophia's maiden name was never established in the main series or its spinoffs, but it is likely to be Grisanti, as this was the surname given to her mother.
  • By the end of the series, Sophia was the only Golden Girl to have never been involved with adultery. The other three ladies had all unwittingly assisted men that they dated in cheating on their wives, and Dorothy's and Blanche's husbands had cheated on them at least once.
  • Every morning, at 7 A.M Sophia pees. Unfortunately, she doesn't wake up until 8 A.M.
  • As revealed in "The Operation", once a month Sophia and the girls from The Cloud Society sit on a few benches, drink a few bottles of Sherry, and discuss the shape of clouds. She remarked that she once thought she saw Pat Sajak riding side-saddle on a dolphin.[42]
  • In 2018, the gaming app New Yahtzee with Buddies Dice honored Petrillo with a dice master character "Sothreea Petrollo," recreating Sophia's image in the shape of dice.

Site Navigation

V - E - H
The Golden Girls characters
Main Cast Blanche DevereauxDorothy ZbornakRose NylundSophia Petrillo
Recurring Cast Miles WebberSalvadore PetrilloStanley Zbornak
Family members Alma LindstromAngelo Grisanti, Jr.Angela PetrilloAngela VecchioAurora DevereauxBridget NylundBrother MartinCharmaine HollingsworthCharles Nylund, Sr.Clayton HollingsworthCurtis HollingsworthDon Angelo Grisanti, Sr.Elizabeth HollingsworthGloria HarkerGunter LindstromHolly LindstromDavid BlackmoreJamie DevereauxJanet BlackmoreJim HarkerKate GriffithsLucas HollingsworthLucy WarrenMichael ZbornakPhillip PetrilloRebecca DevereauxTheodore HollingsworthVirginia Warren

Template:GoldenPalaceCast


V - E - H
Empty Nest characters
Main Cast Barbara WestonCarol WestonCharley DietzDreyfuss
Harry WestonLaverne ToddMaxine DouglasSophia Petrillo
Recurring Cast Ben BraxtonDorisEmily WestonFred DietzJeffrey MillsteinKevin MillenLurlene MossMatt KaneMiss BinghamMr. GarrisonNick ToddPatrick ArcolaScotty WestonUrsula Dietz

References

  1. The Golden Girls, Season 6, Episode 2, "Once, In St. Olaf". Apter, Harold (writer) & Diamond, Matthew (director) (September 29th, 1990)
  2. The Golden Girls S03Ep25, "Mother's Day.", IMDB; https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0589784/trivia/?ref_=tt_trv_trv
  3. The Golden Girls, Season 2, Episode 7, "Family Affair". Hervey, Winifred (writer) & Hughes, Terry (director) (November 22nd, 1986)
  4. 4.0 4.1 The Golden Girls, Season 5, Episode 23, "The Mangiacavallo Curse Makes a Lousy Wedding Present". Lasker, Philip Jayson (writer) and Hughes, Terry (director) (March 31st, 1990)
  5. The Golden Girls, Season 2, Episode 5, "Isn't It Romantic". Duteil, Jeffery (writer) & Hughes, Terry (director) (November 8th, 1986)
  6. The Golden Girls, Season 6, Episode 2, "Once, In St. Olaf". Apter, Harold (writer) & Diamond, Matthew (director) (September 29th, 1990)
  7. The Golden Girls, Season 1, Episode 8, "Break-In". Berg, James and Zimmerman, Stan (writers) & Drake, Jim (director) (November 16th, 1985)
  8. The Golden Girls, Season 1, Episode 9, "Blanche and the Younger Man". Berg, James and Zimmerman, Stan (writers) & Drake, Jim (director) (November 16th, 1985)
  9. Ro$e Love$ Mile$
  10. The Golden Girls, Season 1, Episode 7, "The Competition". Fanaro, Barry and Nathan, Mort (writers) & Drake, Jim (director) (November 2nd, 1985)
  11. The Golden Girls, Season 1, Episode 20, “Adult Education”. Berg, James and Zimmerman, Stan (writers) & Shea, Jack (director) (February 22nd, 1986)
  12. The Golden Girls, Season 2, Episode 22, “Diamond in the Rough”. Fischer, Jan and Weldner, William (writers) & Hughes, Terry (director) (March 21st, 1987)
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 The Golden Girls, Season 5, Episode 16, "Clinton Avenue Memoirs". Gamble, Tracy and Vaczy, Richard (writers) & Drake, Jim (director) (February 3rd, 1990)
  14. The Golden Girls, Season 5, Episode 17, “Like the Beep Beep Beep of the Tom-Tom”. Lasker, Phillip Jayson (writer) & Hughes, Terry (director) (February 10th, 1990)
  15. The Golden Girls, Season 4, Episode 15, “Valentine's Day”. Fanaro, Barry; Grossman, Terry; Nathan, Mort and Speer, Kathy (writers) & Hughes, Terry (director) (February 11th, 1989)
  16. The Golden Girls, Season 3, Episode 5, "Nothing to Fear But Fear Itself". Lloyd, Christopher (writer) & Hughes, Terry (director) (October 24th, 1987)
  17. The Golden Girls, Season 1, Episode 18, “The Operation”. Hervey, Winifred (writer) & Hughes, Terry (director) (February 8th, 1986)
  18. The Golden Girls, Season 6, Episode 1, “Blanche Delivers”. Parent, Gail and Vallely, Jim (writers) & Diamond, Matthew (director) (September 22nd, 1990)
  19. The Golden Girls, Season 5, Episode 18, "An Illegitimate Concern". Cherry, Marc and Wooten, Jamie (writers) & Hughes, Terry (director) (February 12th, 1990)
  20. The Golden Girls, Season 5, Episode 16, "Clinton Avenue Memoirs". Gamble, Tracy and Vaczy, Richard (writers) & Drake, Jim (director) (February 3rd, 1990)
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 The Golden Girls, Season 4, Episode 6, "Sophia's Wedding (Part 1)". Weiss, Martin and Bruce, Robert (writers) & Hughes, Terry (director) (November 19th, 1990)
  22. The Golden Girls, Season 4, Episode 24, “Foreign Exchange”. Helberg, Harriet B. and Helberg, Sandy (writers) & Hughes, Terry (director). (May 6th, 1989)
  23. The Golden Girls, Season 2, Episode 12, "The Sisters". Lloyd, Christopher (writer) & Hughes, Terry (director) (January 3rd, 1987)
  24. The Golden Girls, Season 3, Episode 25, "Mother's Day". Speer, Kathy and Grossman, Terry (writers) & Hughes, Terry (director) (May 7th, 1988)
  25. 25.0 25.1 The Golden Girls, Season 7, Episode 24, “Home Again, Rose, Part 2”. Vallely, Jim (writer) & Beyt, Peter D. (director) (May 2nd, 1992)
  26. The Golden Girls, Season 1, Episode 11, "The Return of Dorothy's Ex". Grossman, Terry and Speer, Kathy (writers) & Drake, Jim (director) (November 30th, 1985)
  27. The Golden Girls, Season 1, Episode 1, "The Engagement". Harris, Susan (writer) & Sandrich, Jay (director) (September 14th, 1985)
  28. The Golden Girls, Season 2, Episode 12, "The Sisters". Lloyd, Christopher (writer) & Hughes, Terry (director) (January 3rd, 1987)
  29. The Golden Girls, Season 4, Episode 24, "Foreign Exchange". Helberg, Harriet B. and Helberg, Sandy (writer) & Hughes, Terry (director) (May 6th, 1989)
  30. 30.0 30.1 30.2 The Golden Girls, Season 6, Episodes 12, "Ebbtide's Revenge". Sotkin, Marc (writer) & Diamond, Matthew (director) (December 15th, 1990)
  31. The Golden Girls, Season 6, Episodes 24, “Never Yell Fire in a Crowded Retirement Home, Part 1”. Parent, Gail (writer)  & Diamond, Matthew (director) (April 27th, 1991)
  32. The Golden Girls, Season 6, Episode 25, “Never Yell Fire in a Crowded Retirement Home, Part 2”. Vallely, Jim (writer)  & Diamond, Matthew (director) (April 27th, 1991)
  33. The Golden Girls, Season 7, Episodes 25 and 26, "One Flew Out of the Cuckoo's Nest (Parts I & II)". Hurwitz, Mitchell; Seigel, Don and Perzigian, Jerry (writers) & Passaris, Lex (director) ( May 9th, 1992)
  34. The Golden Palace, Season 1, Episode 23, "One Angry Stan". Davidoff, Michael and Gold, Andrew and Harris, Susan, (writers) & Passaris, Lex (director) (April 30th, 1993)
  35. The Golden Girls, Season 6, Episode 18, “Older and Wiser”. Gamble, Tracy and Vaczy, Richard (writers) & Diamond, Matthew (director) (February 16th, 1991)
  36. The Golden Girls, Season 3, Episode 2, "One for the Money". Fanaro, Barry; Grossman, Terry; Hervey, Winifred; Nathan, Mort and Speer, Kathy (writers) & Hughes, Terry (director) (September 26th, 1987)
  37. The Golden Girls, Season 4, Episode 7, "Sophia's Wedding, Part 2".  Fanaro, Barry and Nathan, Mort (writers) & Hughes, Terry (director) (November 26th, 1988)
  38. The Golden Girls, Season 3, Episode 14, “Blanche's Little Girl”. Speer, Kathy and Grossman, Terry (writers) & Hughes, Terry (director) (January 9th, 1988)
  39. The Golden Girls, Season 2, Episode 3, "Take Him, He's Mine". Fanaro, Barry and Nathan, Mort (writers) & Hughes, Terry (director) (October 4th, 1986)
  40. The Golden Girls, Season 2, Episode 14, “The Actor”. Fanaro, Barry and Nathan, Mort (writers) & Hughes, Terry (director) (January 17th, 1987)
  41. 41.0 41.1 41.2 Colucci, Jim. Golden Girls Forever: An Unauthorized Look Behind the Lanai. Harper Collins Publishers Design, 2016.
  42. The Golden Girls, Season 1, Episode 18, “The Operation”. Hervey, Winifred (writer) & Hughes, Terry (director) (February 8th, 1986)
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