Carol Burnett Wants Vicki Lawrence on ‘Palm Royale’: ‘If There’s a Role She Could Sink Her Teeth Into’

Apple TV+’s “Palm Royale” is packed heels to highlights with legendary actresses, but Carol Burnett wants to add at least one more when they’re back for Season 2.

In an exclusive interview ahead of the 2024 IndieWire Honors — which took place on June 6 at Citizen News in Hollywood and saw the beloved comedienne winning the Vanguard Award for a lifetime of achievements in television — Burnett revealed that her old scene partner Vicki Lawrence not only watched but “loved” creator Abe Sylvia’s sparkling ‘60s satire about well-to-do Palm Beach.

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“I wish they could find something for [Vicki] on the show,” said Burnett, who guest starred as the larger-than-life Norma Dellacorte in “Palm Royale” Season 1. “I’m going to ask Abe if there’s a part that might come up because that would be fun to have Vicki on. That would really be something. And not just a mercy booking. That’s not what I mean. But if there’s a role that she could sink her teeth into, because she is a very good actress.”

Starring Kristen Wiig, Allison Janney, and Laura Dern among others, “Palm Royale” uses its dazzling cast of A-listers to revisit the days when Burnett and Lawrence would have been known as household names across America for “The Carol Burnett Show.” The unforgettable comedy duo was recognized for a wide array of sketches back then but remain best known today for “The Family,” a timelessly funny framework that birthed the iconic characters of Eunice Higgins (Burnett) and Thelma Harper (Lawrence).

“I loved Harvey Korman and I loved Tim Conway, but [Carol] and Vicki Lawrence together was just my obsession,” Dern, who also executive produces “Palm Royale,” told IndieWire in her dedication for Burnett’s Vanguard Award. The Academy Award winner added, “Eunice was probably my favorite. ‘The Family’ is the thing that would just at every age make me laugh endlessly.”

American commedienne and actress Vicki Lawrence (right), as Mrs. Thelma 'Mama' Harper, shouts at fellow commedienne and actress Carol Burnett (left), as Eunice Higgins, in the kitchen during an episode of the television comedy 'Mama's Family,' Los Angeles, California, 1984. (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)
(Left to right): Carol Burnett as Eunice Higgins and Vicki Lawrence as Mrs. Thelma ‘Mama’ HarperGetty Images

Casting someone with comedy chops as killer as Lawrence’s makes practical sense, and it also seems like the sort of smart Hollywood in-joke Sylvia in particular would have fun making. As previously told to IndieWire, the “Palm Royale” showrunner and his effervescent creative team have placed clever referential flourishes throughout the stunning series, be it a hyper specific visual homage or a subtle, winking moment from the script. Reuniting Vicki and Carol just extends that legacy.

Asked how the headwinds facing women in Hollywood have changed, Burnett described the landscape as “certainly a lot better” but argued that it could be “even more so” when it comes to allowing female creatives to take risks. To illustrate her point, Burnett recalled for IndieWire how she first discovered Lawrence, who at 18 was an unknown high school actress who got her role on “The Carol Burnett Show” thanks to a local contest.

Burnett told IndieWire, “I remember at one point when we were doing the first season, Vicki was just in a little bit of sketches here and there, and I remember one of the CBS vice presidents said to me during rehearsal, ‘Well, don’t you think she’s a little raw?’ And I said, ‘So are diamonds at first!’ Vicki learned her craft in front of 30 million people a week. She was like a sponge.”

THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW, from left, Vicki Lawrence, Carol Burnett, ca. 1967. ©CBS/courtesy Everett Collection
(Left to right): Vicki Lawrence and Carol Burnett©CBS/Courtesy Everett Collection

“I don’t think a network would let us do that today, they’d say we needed someone with more experience,” Burnett said. “The networks kind of want to have their say in it, and they don’t leave you alone. Although I do have to say Apple TV did leave us alone. They did. I think Abe will attest to that. They were very supportive — and I don’t recall getting any notes from any of the executives at Apple.”

If they do weigh in? Well, let’s just hope it’s to sponsor Vicki’s membership at The Palm Royale.

Read Carol Burnett’s IndieWire Honors profile as well as its dedication by Laura Dern.

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