Bea Benaderet told Paul Henning he should cast his own daughter in Petticoat Junction
Bea Benaderet, keeping the nepo-baby rumors alive.
It's not unusual for creators to inject their own lived experiences into the shows they make. Carroll O'Conner cast his son, Hugh, as Officer Lonnie Jameson in his show, In The Heat of the Night. Here's Lucy featured Lucille Ball with her real-life children, Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz Jr. In addition to this, Linda Henning, known for playing Betty Jo in Petticoat Junction, was actually the daughter of series creator, Paul Henning. Henning even instilled his daughter's real-life love of animals into the character of Betty Jo.
Despite this, Henning actually didn't write the role specifically for Linda to play. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Linda elaborated, "He wrote the series for Bea Benaderet." At the time, Linda was already an actress, but her father feared that if he cast her in his own production, he would be accused of nepotism.
Linda explained that it was Bea Benaderet herself who ended up changing his mind on the matter. She said, "Bea went with him to see me in a play I was doing at a neighborhood playhouse. She said, 'Paul, why in the world won't you let your daughter try out for Betty Jo?'"
Paul, foreseeing the trending nepo-baby criticism years before it happened, still made Linda go through multiple screen tests before she was eventually given the role. Linda would go on to play Betty Jo throughout the entire duration of the show, even through multiple cast replacements, as well as the death of Bea Benaderet in 1968. Linda said of her death, "It was terrible. The last few shows we knew she was very ill."