|First appearance||"The Engagement"
(The Golden Girls)
September 14, 1985
|Last appearance||"The Chicken and the Egg"
(The Golden Palace)
May 14, 1993
|Occupation||Owner of the Golden Palace
Production assistant at WSF-TV Station
Volunteer at a hospital in Miami, Florida
Waitress at the Fountain Rock Diner
Counselor at a grief center in Miami, Florida
|Family||Brother Martin (biological father)
Ingrid Kerklavoner (biological mother; deceased,)
Gunther Lindstrom (adoptive father; deceased, age 85)
Alma Lindstrom (née Gorkleknabygen) (adoptive mother)
Holly Lindstrom (adoptive sister)
Lily Lindstrom Magnusson (sister)
Sven Lindstrom (cousin)
Rose Nylund (née Lindstrom) is a fictional character featured on the popular 1980s situation comedy The Golden Girls, and its spin-off The Golden Palace. She was portrayed by Betty White for 8 years, totaling 208 episodes. Rose was originally supposed to be played by Rue McClanahan and Blanche Devereaux, one of Rose's roommates, was to be played by Betty White. However, Jay Sandrich, the director of the show, suggested that Betty and Rue switch parts. He felt that Betty would be a better fit for Rose because she had already played Sue Ann Nivens in the television show The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which is similar to the character of Blanche Devereaux.
Rose was born 1927 in St. Olaf, Minnesota to a monk named Brother Martin and a 19-year-old girl named Ingrid Kerklavoner, who died giving birth to Rose. Brother Martin claimed to have not known about Rose's existence until after she had been given up for adoption. During that same episode, Rose explains that she was adopted by the Lindstroms at an early age after she was left on a doorstep in a basket with some hickory-smoked cheese and some crackers. It was stated that she was valedictorian in her high school graduation (fourth out of nineteen, and was chosen valedictorian because she drew the longest straw), she attended St. Paul Business School, Rockport Community College, and St. Gustaf University, but also that she had never graduated from high school (due to a case of mono). Nevertheless, she was voted "most likely to get stuck in a tuba" by one of her graduating classes. Her parents did not allow her to date until she was a high school senior, and between then and her wedding day, she had fifty-six boyfriends. Charlie Nylund and Rose fell in love and later married. She and Charlie had a very active sex life—to the extent that she didn't even know there was a show named I Love Lucy—and a long and happy marriage. Over the course of the series, Rose names five children: Brigit, Jenella, Kiersten, Adam, and Charlie Jr. Rose also had two granddaughters by Kiersten - Charlie (named for Kiersten's father) and another unnamed, mentioned in the episode where Rose had her heart attack. Of her children, only Brigit and Kiersten appeared on the show (although Kiersten was played by two different actresses).
Rose lost Charlie when he had a heart attack in 1980 while he and Rose were making love and this gave Rose a fear of sexual intimacy for several years thereafter. Years later, another boyfriend of Rose's died in a similar fashion. Charlie and Rose's marriage length is unclear. However, they met when (she was seven and he was eight) Charlie sold Rose an insurance policy on her red wagon, which was eventually trampled by a group of hogs (her policy did not cover acts of swine - but Charlie paid for a new wagon anyway). Although it was mentioned in the 1985 pilot episode that Charlie had been dead for 15 years, in the first season episode "Job Hunting", Rose says that she had been a housewife for 32 years when Charlie died in 1980. In the late-first season episode "Job Hunting," Dorothy states that Rose is 55 years old in 1985, which would put her birth year in 1930. This would make her 55 when the series begins and 62 when the final season of The Golden Palace goes off the air in 1993.
Charlie is the only spouse of the four women on The Golden Girls the audience never sees. Even with Blanche, we see her late husband George in a dream, and in an episode where George's brother comes to visit and looks exactly like George. We see Sal Petrillo in Sophia's Brooklyn flashbacks, and Stan Zbornak is a recurring character. But we never get a glimpse of Rose's Charlie leaving him the most mysterious of the Golden Girls husbands. In an episode of The Golden Palace, a man said to bear an incredibly strong resemblance to Charlie makes an appearance, in which the look-alike is played by Eddie Albert.
Rose was laid off from her job at the grief counseling center in season 1, and briefly worked as a waitress at the Fountain Roc Coffee Shop (most likely created by combining names from the famous Miami Beach hotels Fountainbleu and Eden Roc) before being rehired at the counseling center shortly after. Later on in the series, Rose suffers financial difficulties when her late husband's employer files for bankruptcy and her pension is cut off. She suffers from age discrimination in her attempts to get a new job, but her luck changes when she gets a position as assistant to TV consumer reporter Enrique Más. Rose finally finds a significant romance with college professor Miles Webber, though their relationship is put through a serious strain when it is revealed that Miles is actually a former mobster accountant named Nicholas Carbone, and a participant in the witness protection program. His former employer, "The Cheese Man," begins dating Rose in order to get information on Miles's whereabouts. Eventually The Cheese Man is apprehended, Rose and Miles resume their lives together, and all goes well for the next year or so. In season 7, Rose and Miles consider marriage, but ultimately decide against rushing into anything. Their relationship later ends permanently during an episode of the spin-off show The Golden Palace when Rose discovers that Miles loves and subsequently marries another woman.
According to Rose, St. Olaf is a Norwegian farming settlement in northern Minnesota, known on local license plates as "Big Statue Country". During the show's seven-year run, St. Olaf was only seen twice in flashbacks and once when the girls visited during an episode in which Rose was nominated for St Olaf's Woman of the Year award.
One of St. Olaf's chief attractions is a giant black hole, which the townspeople enjoyed standing around and looking at - which prompted Dorothy to refer to St. Olaf sarcastically as the real "entertainment capital of the world." St. Olafians also celebrate various oddly themed festivals. St. Olaf appears to be a bilingual town with a significant amount of unique vocabulary (that may be specific to the area and not appearing in standard Norwegian). One of the unique attractions of St. Olaf is Mt. Losenbauden, which features the faces of losing presidential candidates, complete with Adlai Stevenson twice.
St. Olaf, it is suggested by Rose's stories and all but declared by Anna in a Mother's Day episode, is full of idiots. "I don't mean to say that everyone there is an idiot, but it just seemed that, per capita, they have more than their share." Anna happily replies when Rose tells her that her children figured out that it would be cheaper for Rose to visit the family than it would for the family to visit Rose: "They figured that out, and they live in St. Olaf? You must be very proud!"
Although all four women volunteered their time, Rose was arguably the most involved in charity work. She drove a bookmobile, was a candy striper at a hospital, and helped organize a charity talent show, among other things. She listed cheese making, stamp collecting and Viking history as hobbies on her resume, as well. She also volunteered as a girl scout troop leader. Rose was a perennial runner up for a Volunteer of the Year award, even coming in second one year to a woman who was already dead.
Rose is simple minded and something of a pushover who rarely stands up for herself. On one occasion her blind sister Lily tried to guilt Rose into moving to Chicago to take care of her. At Dorothy's urging, Rose said no to Lily which forced her (Lily) to learn how to care for herself. In The Golden Palace, Rose has a much more resilient will and becomes a much stronger personality after Dorothy's departure from the group (as Dorothy notes during her lone appearance on The Golden Palace—"Seems Like Old Times"—when she states "When did she become the strong one?!").
Dorothy and Rose often clashed on-air, with Rose being generally upbeat and Dorothy reflecting a more terse, down-to-earth worldview. This reflected real-life tension between Bea Arthur and Betty White, who had similar personalities to their characters in real life.
Rose is the fool of the group, and has been the center of a few running gags. The most common being that she would ask a really stupid question, the others would look at her oddly, and then say something sarcastic (most noticeably Dorothy and Sophia), such as on the episode Transplant from Season 1, where Blanche's sister Virginia comes to visit. Blanche, tired of her sister always wanting something of hers is shocked when Virginia reveals she is dying and needs a kidney transplant. When Blanche tells the girls that Virginia wants her kidney, Rose asks "Why does she need a kidney?" Dorothy explodes "To feed the cat, Rose!". In another episode, Dorothy and Blanche were talking about the film Dirty Dancing, with Dorothy saying how "well" they dance in that movie. Rose, in the meantime, who was not in the conversation asked "what movie?", and Dorothy snapped at Rose and sarcastically says, "Lawrence of Arabia, Rose!" This came back to bite them when on a couple of episodes where the roof was leaking, Rose walks out of her room carrying two buckets in her hands and Dorothy asks if the ceiling in her room is leaking too, and Rose says "No, Dorothy, I just finished milking the cow I keep in my closet!" She then says "Gee, with only 3 hours of sleep I can be as bitchy as you!", and on another episode (where her sister Holly comes to visit, much to the dismay of Rose) Rose says she's a flautist. Dorothy asks Rose if she plays a flute, and Rose comes back and says, "No, Dorothy, she plays a 'flaut'. It's a big instrument that looks like a tuba, and has hair at the bottom of it. Of course she plays a flute!". At one extremely rare point where Dorothy and Blanche had gotten into an argument, neither of them cares that the dog that Rose takes in off the street is sick and needs immediate veterinary care; after their argument, both Dorothy and Blanche leave the kitchen. Then Rose, with the dog in her hand, says, "Don't explain, Rose. I used to live with a couple of bitches myself." (imitating the puppy, as if he was speaking).
Rose's hair color is something debated from time to time. She claims it's her natural color, but several characters have said it was cheap hair dye. Once, while Rose was talking about how she never lied, Dorothy asked her what her natural hair color was. She left the room. On one occasion, Sophia remarks that she is known as a dumb blonde. In another episode while Blanche was discussing her hair's "natural hue" Rows (as she spelled it out for an acquaintance once in an episode later in the series) had mentioned "To be perfectly honest -I use a touch of peroxide". This confession of course came out of the blue irrelevantly (in this particular episode) and was immediately followed by an irritated Dorothy who shouted "OH, SHUT UP ROSE"!
Rose suffered a number of major health problems during the series. In season 2, she had an esophageal spasm that caused a near-death experience. In season 4, Rose came clean about a decades-long addiction to prescription painkillers. Rose also endured an HIV scare in season 5, when she was alerted that a blood transfusion she had received during a cholecystectomy six years before may have been tainted with the virus. In season 7, Rose suffered a major heart attack and had to have a triple bypass surgery.
Outside The Golden Girls, Rose appears on three episodes of Empty Nest - "Strange Bedfellows", "Rambo of Neiman Marcus" and "Dr. Weston and Mr. Hyde". She also appears on the Nurses episode "Begone with the Wind".