Rosie O’Donnell is discussing why she ignored requests to not play her A League of Their Own character as queer and the sudden exit of American Gigolo showrunner David Hollander, which she describes as “weird” and “unnerving.”
A new interview with Vanity Fair sees the comedian, talk show host and actor reflecting on the impact of A League of Their Own and the new LGBTQ+ inclusive Prime Video series of the same name from Abbi Jacobson and Will Graham. During the discussion, O’Donnell says that she played her character, third basewoman Doris Murphy, as gay — even if it wasn’t directly addressed in Penny Marshall’s 1992 movie.
“When we did the movie, there was that one scene [where] I’m on the bus: ‘I never felt like a real girl or even a girl, but now I see there’s a lot of us, we’re all okay.’ To me, that was her saying she found her tribe, right?” O’Donnell recalled. “There were gay women or athletic women or women like her, and my character, I thought, was in love with Mae and didn’t maybe know how to express it. But it was 1991 when we shot it, or 1990, and the times were different. You don’t realize until you’re sort of faced with the new show what it could have been.”
O’Donnell, who has spoken about her choice in the character’s portrayal before as well as the pushback she received, went on to reiterate a conversation she had with director Marshall that helped reinforce her decision to play Doris as a lesbian.
“When I did that scene, Penny said, ‘Rosie, don’t do it so gay.’ I was like, ‘Well, I’m just doing the words as they’re written.’ ‘Well, do it again, but don’t think of it so gay.’ ‘OK, Pen,’” she recounted of their conversation. “But I did it the same way each time because that was the way it was real to me.”
At another point in the interview, which O’Donnell did in the lead-up to the debut of the new Showtime series American Gigolo, she addressed the firing of former showrunner David Hollander. O’Donnell noted that she was “very happy to work with him” after seeing his work on Ray Donovan and considered it a “wonderful thing for me in my career to work with someone who was such a genius,” adding that much of the cast felt the same.
“Then he got let go, which was weird. The reason a lot of us did the show was really to work with him,” she said. “Then this happened sort of out of the blue. We were told one day that David was let go, and they didn’t really explain why. We just [had] a new team come in, and we had a couple weeks off while they tried to figure out what to do, and then we went back and finished it.”
Back in April, Hollander was abruptly fired from the Showtime series following a misconduct investigation. At the time, a network spokesperson told The Hollywood Reporter that he was “no longer on the drama series American Gigolo and Paramount Television Studios no longer has a producing relationship with him.”
O’Donnell described the arrival of new creative leadership in the middle of the series as a “very big shift in direction and energy” with Hollander’s absence leaving everybody confused because “nobody really understood what was happening.”
“But it’s always unnerving when the people in charge are no longer in charge and you have new people in the middle of doing something,” she added.
Despite that, O’Donnell says she was nothing but positive about the final project, telling the magazine that “they really did pull it together and make a show that I think everybody will enjoy. “
“There were lots of rumors on the set. I reached out to David just to make sure that he was OK, and to tell him that if he ever wanted to talk or go have a coffee, just to let me know. We’ve done that a couple times. I really admire his ability to put together beautifully deeply emotional characters, and I think a lot of us on the set were excited to work with him, so it was a very big shift in direction and energy.”