Rosie O’Donnell confirms her Now and Then character was supposed to be a lesbian

Rosie O'Donnell had her lesbian character made straight in Now and Then. (Getty)

Lesbian comedian Rosie O’Donnell has revealed how her Now and Then character’s sexuality was “made straight” by studio.

The 61-year-old talk show host played Dr Roberta Martin, the older version of Christina Ricci’s tomboy character, in the 1995 coming-of-age classic about female friendship. Despite giving the gynaecologist a boyfriend in the film, almost two decades on O’Donnell has spoken about how her character was originally a lesbian.

Speaking to actor Brooke Shields on her podcast, Now What?, O’Donnell explained: “In the film, I’m very close to Rita Wilson’s character [Roberta’s pregnant friend, Chrissy DeWitt].

“I’m delivering her baby, then I look up and I say to her, ‘I love you.’ You know, just friends, not as a lover.”

However, even such an innocent line was cut, as she recalled: “When they showed the film, the [studio, New Line Cinema] said, ‘Let’s take out that she’s gay.’ They took every little, tiny thing that I had done to build the character into an accurate gay woman, and made her straight.”

Rosie O'Donnell in Now and Then. (New Line Cinema)
Rosie O’Donnell (second left) in Now and Then. (New Line Cinema)

O’Donnell herself was not out as a lesbian at the time, or during most of her stint as host of her own talk show The Rosie O’Donnell Show which first aired in 1996.

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“I was like, ‘This can’t be really happening. Is this really happening?’ But you know, this was before Will & Grace. This was before Ellen [DeGeneres] was out,” she continued.

“It was very controversial to be gay, and my agent didn’t know if I should take the job, [asking]: ‘What if people find out that you’re gay?’ And I was like, ‘Come on, I’m an actress.'”

However, things changed in 2002 when she accepted a role on Will & Grace as a lesbian mum. O’Donnell came out during a speech at a charity benefit, where she announced: “I’m a dyke. I don’t know why people make such a big deal about the gay thing. People are confused, they’re shocked like this is a big revelation to somebody.”

Her talk show was cancelled a few months later, after six years.

O’Donnell recently launched a new podcast, Onward, which has already seen had such as Shields and Dylan Mulvaney. She explained it was to mark the “third chapter” of her life as she enters her sixties.

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