Friends guest star Kathleen Turner ‘doesn’t regret’ playing Chandler’s trans parent, apparently

Kathleen Turner

Award-winning actor Kathleen Turner recently revealed she had no regrets about appearing in the sitcom Friends as Chandler’s transgender parent Charles, who performed as the drag queen Helena Handbasket.

Turner said that while she “probably” wouldn’t accept the role if she was offered it today, she doesn’t regret having done it.

“It never crossed my mind that I was taking a role from someone,” she told The Guardian.

When asked what her response would be if she was offered the role today, Turner added: “Probably not. But I certainly don’t regret having taken it. It was a challenge!”

In the same interview, the actor, who is a cisgender woman, also revealed that there was no discussion around the negative impact of casting a cisgender actor to play a transgender character during the casting process for Friends.

“There was “no question of casting a trans person or a drag queen – it was never considered,” Turner added.

You may like to watch

A photo shows actor Kathleen Turner wearing a black dress and smiling at the camera during a press event at the Women's Media Awards
Kathleen Turner said there was “no question of casting a trans person or a drag queen”. (Getty Images for The Women’s Media Center/Cindy Ord)

Known by the deadname Charles, or “Helena Handbasket” in her drag show Viva Las Gaygas, Chandler’s parent (played by Kathleen Turner) was the butt of numerous jokes in the show in relation to her gender identity and sexuality.

The character was later confirmed to be a transgender woman by the creator of Friends, Marta Kauffman, who admitted that misgendering her throughout the show was a “mistake”.

Speaking about the character’s continued misgendering during an interview on the BBC World Service, Kauffman, who co-created the show with David Crane, said: “We kept referring to her as ‘Chandler’s father’, even though Chandler’s father was trans.

“Pronouns were not yet something that I understood. So we didn’t refer to that character as ‘she’. That was a mistake.”

Friends ran for ten seasons and more than 230 episodes between 1994 and 2004.

It’s safe to say that, while still a beloved sitcom, the show has not entirely aged well. Many of the jokes are outdated and dehumanising towards LGBTQ+ viewers (such as Helena Handbasket’s treatment), as well as a distinct lack of diversity among its six principal characters.