“Fame is a road full of land mines, and every four feet you risk getting blown up,” professed Rosie O’Donnell. She was speaking about Miley Cyrus and her widely-criticized performance at this year’s MTV's Video Music Awards, but also describing her own battle scars as an outspoken celebrity. The actress and comedian is ecstatic to be going back to television, taking a role in executive producer Jennifer Lopez's ABC Family hit "The Fosters" beginning in January. Having had a bit of a breather to tend to her health -- she suffered a heart attack last October -- she’s also as opinionated as ever, weighing in on gun violence, a boycott of the Olympics in Russia, Britney Spears and Cyrus, Pope Francis, gay marriage and Boy George’s new makeover.
“My 10-year-old daughter Vivi loves the show,” O’Donnell said in an interview with me on SiriusXM Progress, regarding “The Fosters,” which focuses on a multiethnic lesbian couple with both biological and foster children. (Scroll down to listen to the interview segment) “She’s a big fan of that whole network, ABC Family. And consequently I’ve been watching nearly all the shows on there. But once I saw that one, I was really touched by it and I realized that [actor] Peter Paige, who I know from when I did ‘Queer as Folk,’ is [an] executive producer. So I tweeted about it and texted him congratulations. And, the lovely, lovely guy that he is, he said, ‘Would you be willing to do a recurring arc on the show?’ And I said, ‘Totally.’ So, I’m very excited.”
O’Donnell, married to Michele Rounds, with whom she adopted a baby this past January, said she was surprisingly moved by the Supreme Court’s striking down of the Defense of Marriage Act [DOMA] in June.
“When that happened, I was so moved and I was shocked that I was so moved,” she said. “I was sort of expecting it, but I was still shocked. I have to say, I’m married to a woman who is nine years younger than me, and since we’ve been together, when we go out, she grabs my hand. And normally I’m okay with it but there are some times, like if we’re at a fancy restaurant, or if it seems very ‘non-gay eclectic arty,’ I did a little bit of ‘Oh, okay, wow,’ and have to talk myself through it. But since DOMA was struck down, I felt very differently about it. I felt like, I am now legally recognized by the country, allowed to be in a gay relationship. I am allowed to hold hands. So it’s really changed things for me in a way that I didn’t expect.”
On a boycott of the Sochi Olympics in Russia over Russia’s anti-gay crackdown: “I have really mixed feelings about it. Part of me feels yes, we should boycott it. And part of me feels trepidation about all those athletes, some of whom are gay, who have spent their entire lives waiting for this moment that only comes once every four years. Would it be better if America went there and everyone wore a rainbow flag on their arms? I don’t know. It’s a very tough decision. You know, when I hear those stories about what’s going on in Russia, you know, we have to remind ourselves of the amount of gay bashing that happens in our country. Although ours is not sanctioned by the president -- you know, Putin seems to be very pro-gay-bashing -- it still occurs in our country at a rate that is shameful.”
On Pope Francis and the recent interview in which he said the Catholic Church is too “obsessed” with gay marriage and abortion: “This is the best pope of my lifetime, I can tell you that for damn sure. I was raised Catholic and this guy seems to really have taken the teachings of Christ to his heart. He’s leading as a pious human being. And I think that’s a pretty phenomenal thing, considering the history of all of the pontiffs. It’s really been amazing. I enjoy him. He’s the first pope that made me go, ‘Wait, wait. Maybe there’s something there. I should think again about this, perhaps.’”
Regarding Fox News’s coverage of the Washington, D.C. Navy Yard mass shooting this week: “They were talking about mental illness. It’s funny how all of these conservative Republicans are suddenly so concerned about the mentally ill. Not that they’re doing anything legislatively in order to help the mentally ill. Not that they’re going to fund programs or, you know, get different housing -- nobody wants to help, they just want to blame on someone else. There have been 19 shootings since Obama took office -- 19. That’s shocking and it’s embarrassing. As a nation and a culture we need to do something.”
On Boy George’s new makeover and music: “He looks fantastic. He was still using [drugs] when he was doing that [Broadway] musical [‘Taboo’] with me, which made it very difficult to work with him. It was very troubling. And afterwards, when he got arrested, I remember thinking, ‘I hope this straightens him out.’ Boy did it. He has never looked better. He’s completely sober. He’s a vegan. And that new song, I think, is beautiful. I think he’s so talented. I watched him sit down and write a song on a napkin, and then that song ended up being the closing number of the musical ‘Taboo.’ I watched him write it in 15 minutes. He’s epically talented and really, innately, a kind-hearted guy that just got lost in terms of the drugs and the fame and what it does to you, especially when you’re as young as he was when it hit. So, I think he looks wonderful and I think you should expect great things from him.”
On Miley Cyrus’ controversial performance and Britney Spears’ return and troubled past: “I think fame is the ultimate drug and it’s something that is very difficult to understand unless you’ve experienced it. And it’s the kind of thing that most people in our culture lately aspire to in some kind of strange way, yet don’t know the reality of. And so when I see Britney or Amanda Bynes, I know there was mental illness at play in their situations. It was kind of obvious to me. But with Miley Cyrus, I think she’s very young, and she’s got a ways to go, and she wants to deny that whole Disney thing. But you know, there are ways to be sexy and provocative [which] are less crude and more artistic and hopefully as she grows as a woman and as an artist, she’ll be able to understand that. When you look at someone like Madonna or Gaga or Rihanna, they kind of use their sensuality and sexuality interwoven with their music and their artistry and it’s not so blatant and tacky.”
“I thought poor Robin Thicke was like, ‘What the hell did I do?’ It wasn’t even something like, ‘Wow.’ It was like, ‘This is a really bad piece.’ I hope she grows up and has somebody guiding her. It doesn’t seem her parents have much influence in her life anymore. And I can tell you from my limited experience -- and it was never as a singer and sex symbol -- it’s a hard road to navigate. Fame is a road full of land mines, and every four feet, you risk getting blown up. It’s something I don’t look back on fondly. It’s tough, especially when you’re as young as they are.”
Regarding projects inspired by the heart attack she suffered last year: “I am doing another documentary with Sheila Nevins from HBO about women and heart attacks. I had a heart attack a year ago. And many women do not understand the symptoms and the signs and the fact that more women die of this than men die of it, and how the signs of this for women are so different.”