When former Wednesday Journal employee and Oak Park-River Forest native, Kelly Schumann stepped onto the set of the sitcom Hot in Cleveland for the first time she was keenly aware of Betty White’s celebrity status.
“You hear stories of celebrities acting like celebrities,” said Schumann. “I had this expectation my access to her would be limited, but that was not the case at all. Betty was at every rehearsal, running lines and working on the blocking right alongside us. She was brilliant. Jokes just fell out of her mouth.”
Hot in Cleveland premiered in 2010 on TV Land and ran for six seasons. The show tells the story of three LA transplants who make the bold move to relocate to Ohio after their airplane is forced to make an emergency stop in Cleveland. Bamboozled by the Midwest way of life, the trio rents a home owned by Elka Ostrovsky portrayed by Betty White. The show also featured the late John Mahoney, another Oak Park resident, in a recurring role as a love interest to White’s character. Schumann portrayed Sally, a quirky midwestern mom and neighbor, on five episodes of the show.
“I have always been proud of my hometown and honestly had no idea that Betty White was from Oak Park,” said Schumann. “I was telling John Mahoney I grew up in Oak Park and he was the one who told me Betty was born there, too. So there the three of us were, having an Oak Park reunion on the set of Hot in Cleveland.”
Schumann, who went on to have a recurring role on the NBC sitcom Superstore, credits the cast of Hot in Cleveland with helping her navigate the world of sitcoms. Though White was in her 90’s when she was on the show, Schumann considered her to be “sharp as a tack” and a true professional. Like all the women on the show, White “did not take herself too seriously.”
“We made a decision about Betty White a long time ago. We decided she was deserving of the lion’s share of our collective adoration,” said Schumann. “I don’t know how it is possible, but she managed to exceed my high expectations. She brought kindness, respect and humility to everything she did.”