“I wanted to get away from those tough, hard-bitten, masculine sounding jokes.”
Vivian Vance, who played the characters of Ethel Mertz and Viv Bagley in Lucille Ball’s television shows, was a key member of the cast. Ethel Mertz was a more prominent character, but Vance preferred her role as Viv Bagley because it felt more like an expression of herself. In an interview, she said she had to beg the writers to keep her character feminine when developing Viv. She also mentioned that the new role allowed her to wear nicer clothes and break away from the Ethel image, which had caused her mental hardship.
At the start of the new show, she was uncertain how viewers would react to the absence of Desi Arnaz and William Frawley’s characters, but she knew that with her and Lucille Ball’s talents, it wouldn’t be a challenge to grab their attention. Vance wished for fans and viewers to stop calling her Ethel, as she was grateful for the role but felt that it didn’t fully represent her as a person. Playing Viv Bagley allowed her to show a softer side of herself.