It’s logical that the dividing line between Bea and Maude is finer than the proverbial hair’s breadth. As she explained, the character of Maude was based on Bea Arthur.
“The show was made for me,” she said. “I wasn’t the subject of a search to play Maude. Norman Lear didn’t have a ready-made series or a pilot script that needed an actress to fill it.”
Bea and her husband, actor-director Gene Saks, came to Hollywood on business. During their stay, Lear prevailed on Bea to play a guest shot on “All in the Family,” portraying Edith Bunker’s politically liberal cousin.
Her characterization was so strong and effective, Lear decided immediately to spin “Maude” off on a series of her own.
“They kept the name Maude and the essentials of her personality,” Bea said. “Sometimes I wonder who came first, me or Maude.
“My relationship with Gene is something like that between Maude and Walter on the show. I’m the more aggressive of the two.
“But it’s like the German shepherd and the trainer. It’s ‘kill’ or ‘sit’ — the trainer is really in charge.”
Bea has now plunged into her sixth year as “Maude,” a prospect she looked forward to with fervor.
“I love doing the show,” she said in the strong voice her character usually reserves for browbeating Walter. “On the whole, I think we are a cut above the other series on the air.