|Betty White and Emily Osment|
in Freeform's Young & Hungry
The show's writers had laid out this Valentine's Day-themed episode, where after a misunderstanding Gabi has to return a ring she has just learned was not intended for her. But as originally scripted, before Gabi can get to the ring, a mouse would nab it first.
But, as the show's creator David Holden notes, the network's executives found the mouse bit a bit forced, "and for lack of a better word, cheesy." And so David and another of the show's writer/producers, Caryn Lucas, took a walk around the CBS Radford studio lot to brainstorm.
With Young & Hungry being directed by Andy Cadiff, who had worked with Betty White all through Hot in Cleveland, the Young writers already knew they wanted to find a way to lure Betty onto their set. So when David and Caryn decided the plot would instead involve a neighbor in her apartment, "Caryn turned to me and said, 'What if the neighbor is Betty?'," David remembers.
The two rushed back to their offices and pitched the idea to the rest of the staff; ultimately, writer Rachel Sweet, who had spent years on Hot in Cleveland, was elected to write dialogue for Betty's new character: the five-times-married widow, Bernice Wilson.
Betty filmed her scenes for tonight's episode in December -- not in front of the live audience, but pre-taped, mostly because her scenes would be shot on "swing sets" which are located off to the side of the soundstage, out of the audience's view. Her scenes completed, Betty had had such a great time that she indicated that day that she'd like to return.
And so, later this season, look for a romantic episode where Mrs. Wilson and Gabi take a danger-fraught road trip to Vegas. As Gabi (Emily Osment) suffers through, at 25, her "quarter-life crisis," Bernice, turning 95 on the same day, has a preoccupation of her own: to meet up with a man she kissed 20 years ago, and with whom she made a pact to meet as they turned 95. Ultimately, Betty was thrilled not only to come back to Young & Hungry in a bigger plotline revolving around her character, but also to be playing opposite her real-life close friend Carl Reiner, aka Bernice's long-lost beau, Bernie.
As David explains, the writers came up with the idea of the age-based pact when they realized that the episode would be taping on the day of Betty's actual 95th birthday: January 17, 2017. After the scenes were shot, the Young & Hungry stages turned into a birthday party for Betty, with a select number of humans, including Carl and also her former Mary Tyler Moore Show and Hot in Cleveland co-star Georgia Engel, and a preponderance of animals. Throughout the evening, Betty talked with her guests while nonchalantly cradling a porcupine, or armadillo, or a lynx which, David admits, "I was afraid was going to claw her face off."
Betty's second episode, opposite Carl, will air in May -- and it will probably not be her last; Young & Hungry's writers intend to bring back Bernice, whose relationship at ninetysomething is a nice counterpoint to Gabi and Josh's. Now that the show has gotten the "back order" of episodes to comprise the remainder of its fifth season, David explains that while the first ten episodes will be about Gabi and Josh (Jonathan Sadowski) realizing they were meant to be together, "the back ten will be about exploring what that entails." And as Bernie and Bernice explore their own burgeoning love, the two women will be able to compare notes about what it means to move in with a guy. "The younger with the older," David says, "is such a great dynamic."