Carol Burnett was afraid of being typecast in the early 1970s
Carol Burnett was known for being a queen of comedy, and that was part of her problem.
By the early 1970s, most of the country knew who Carol Burnett was. She was that zany and hilarious comedian from The Carol Burnett Show. Burnett played dozens of characters and performed in sketches during the series' 11-season run.
She was joined on stage by a few familiar favorites: Harvey Korman, Vicki Lawrence, Tim Conway and more. Despite Burnett's success, she would still fall victim to typecasting, as most celebrities in distinct roles do.
Many of the roles Burnett was offered in the early '70s were similar to her character on The Carol Burnett Show.
Many people struggled to see Burnett in any kind of serious role, and that's because most of the world already knew her as one of America's most loveable goofballs.
In a 1972 interview with The Journal Times, Burnett said she was worried about how The Carol Burnett Show would affect any potential acting gigs. However, in the same year, she would get a chance to show us her serious side.
She branched out to play the role of Tillie in the 1972 film Pete 'n' Tillie. The film also starred Walter Matthau, one of Burnett's biggest acting inspirations at the time.
"It's a straight role, but the opening scene could be constructed as being a sketch," Burnett said. "In order to compensate so the audience doesn't get the wrong idea, I sat on myself and underplayed."
"I'm sure people expect me to come swinging in on a chandelier with my eyes crossed," Burnett said. "I had to go completely the other way so they'd know this wasn't just another sketch with Harvey Korman."
This role lacked the comedic elements that Burnett was used to, but it gave her a chance to step away from the goofball label. Pete 'n' Tillie was only Burnett's second feature film, the first one being called: Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed?
Although, according to the interview, Burnett said Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed? was so bad that she wouldn't have counted it as her first film.
Despite having trouble being typecast in Hollywood, Burnett proved she was much more than The Carol Burnett Show. Her goal was to have a role in one movie per year or else five or six specials a year. The hard part for Burnett would be finding a good script.
"I get scripts sent to me, but they are mostly extensions of what I do on my show," Burnett said. "Why should I get up at 5 a.m. to do the same thing I do now, getting up much later?"