Rosie O'Donnell has a new show on OWN and just announced her engagement to girlfriend Michelle Rounds, but the TV personality is still the caustic, hilarious and honest Rosie we've come to know. O'Donnell sat down with The Huffington Post to talk about "The Rosie Show," her new love life and and how her kids are doing these days.
"The Rosie Show" isn't a regular talk show. What makes it so different?
We don't really have pre-interviews. When you have a guest on another show, usually the guest tells them whatever stories they have and the host sets them up to tell their stories. We give general areas like, "We're going to talk about divorce or dieting. Is there any area you don't want to discuss?" Initially, some of the producers here were like, "What's going to happen?" And I told them, "What's going to happen is we're maybe going to have a minute of dullness. Like what happens at dinner. Not every minute is entertaining." You have a conversation and at the end you come away with a sense of who that person is, and that's what we're trying to do. We're trying to just have an hour of fun, light entertainment without hurting anybody.
On your first show, "The Rosie O'Donnell Show," did you get sick of actors just promoting their projects?
Yeah, the actor will tell the two stories they know and they'll tell it on [other shows], and by the time you get them on the show you've heard them already, so it was hard to pretend that it's new information. It got very hard for me toward the end of the show to pretend that I was interested or that the stories were new. I didn't want to do any pretending, and that's the great part about this show.
I read a review criticizing you for talking about different subjects like sex or cancer and I thought, "Well, she's a person with more than one dimension."
I know exactly what you're talking about. In the beginning, I was dubbed the "Queen of Nice" and everyone thought I was so nice, but I started in stand-up -- an art form based on rage and anger. Then I went on "The View" and I was "Rosie the Controversial Hothead." Well, you know, it depends on the situation that you're in and the show you're on, but everyone has many slices of who they are in the pie that makes up their humanity. So yes, sometimes I'm going to talk about being a mom or menopause or Occupy Wall Street or "Dancing with the Stars." [The show] runs the gamut.
Did you feel more confined as the "Queen of Nice" or "Hotheaded Rosie"?
I think probably Queen of Nice. I remember performing at Caesar's Palace at the beginning of my show and literally halfway through my hour of stand-up I could hear people getting up and leaving, saying, "She's not that lady from TV." People buy into you as one image; they pigeonhole you for the narrative in their brain, who you represent in the culture or to them. Often that doesn't have to do with who you are as a human being.
I think I was kind of fortunate that my first real brush with fame was playing Madonna's best friend in "A League of Their Own" -- to go out for dinner with Madonna and see what kind of reaction she elicited in people. Fans sleeping outside her apartment or people coming up to her and telling her they liked her better blonde or she didn't look as hot as they thought she would ... I remember saying to her, "How can you live like this?" It helped me understand how crazy it can become.
How are your kids doing?
They're really good. They're big, which is odd. The little ones are here in Chicago with me, because Kelly's house in New York didn't have electricity. Their school has no electricity. We got an email saying that school was open but please dress them in layers. I was like, "No, I don't think we'll be doing that."
Where's the school, "Little House on the Prairie"?
It's a Waldorf school. They learn knitting and yoga. They'll have a real successful career in basket weaving.
You know its God's joke on you that your son, Parker, is in military school.
Believe me, I know. How do you really piss off your left wing, anti-war mother? You don't get a tattoo and get some girl pregnant. You serve the nation. I'm very proud of him. By age 8 or 9, I was sure what I was going to do with my life and he's been the same way since he was little. He can tell you every battle. He knew what he needed and I finally allowed it.
What shows are you into at the moment?
"Long Island Medium." I was laughing so hard I nearly peed the bed. Every woman I went to high school with is like that. And "Dance Moms." I don't think you can get better than "Dance Moms." "Staple the wig to her head, I don't care!" I mean, come on.
Your new girlfriend [now fiancée!] Michelle Rounds is quite the looker.
She's lovely inside and out. Vivi [my youngest child] said, "You guys are the perfect match." The biggest difference with her than with anyone else I've ever been with is how much fun we have together.