The character of Rhoda, Mary’s neighbor and eventual best friend, was originally described as “a self-made loser—overweight, not good with hair and make-up, and self-deprecating.” Of all the actresses who tested for the role, Valerie Harper was the producers' hands-down favorite. But there was one problem: she was beautiful. The producers asked her to “frump herself up a bit” for her second reading, but she still looked too pretty. So, just like the characters of Ted Baxter and Murray Slaughter, the producers rethought the character to suit the actor. They decided that even if she was attractive, they’d make Rhoda the type of woman who didn’t think she was and who regularly put herself down.