Rosie on her new NBC show, The View and missing out as MSNBC's first gay liberal
That tidbit was just one scoop revealed by O'Donnell during a press call last week with TV critics to preview her upcoming variety show Rosie Live! Scheduled for 8 p.m. Wednesday, the show features appearances from Liza Minnelli, Kathy Griffin, Alec Baldwin, Gloria Estefan and more, hearkening back to old-school '70s-era variety shows such as the Carol Burnett Show and Sonny & Cher.
O'Donnell was open and playful during a teleconference with reporters, admitting that she struck a deal with MSNBC shortly after leaving The View last year that was never realized and that she may have gotten her current variety show on NBC because the mother of entertainment head Ben Silverman is a fan. Her comments have since sparked a serious back and forth with her former colleagues on The View. Here's where it all started:
Question: What do you think of The View these days?
Every time I would turn it on I would have mild panic and have to turn it off. So truly I haven’t really watched it. When something does make the YouTube rounds or, you know, hits the Huffington Post or something, I usually watch the clip.
But, you know, having been there and having seen what goes on behind the curtain is a different experience to watch it than the average viewer. And, you know, there are parts of it, you know, like when you go to Thanksgiving and Nana just wants everybody to get along. And even if, you know, mom and dad are on the verge of divorce and one of the kids is a drug addict, and all she wants is for everyone to be happy during Thanksgiving, you know?
And so usually that’s what you do. And in some ways, I found that that was what happened on that show.
No matter what, you know, Barbara wants everyone to believe and think and act as if everybody gets along and is, you know, really good friends and happy, and hangs out together.
And, you know, it’s just not the reality. I’m not saying that they loathe each other. But, you know, the fact is there wasn’t a lot of camaraderie off camera there. You know, people don’t get together and have dinner once a month, the View ladies. They don’t.
And that’s not saying that you can’t work with people and have a relationship that (clearly) is somewhat contemptuous. But what happened -- I think it’s contentious. I don’t think it’s contemptuous.
But, you know, for me what happened on the show was a personal argument with a friend that was publicly displayed. You know, it was a personal -- what happened there was personal, not political and it was viewed for everyone.
And I didn’t want to be paid to fight. You know, when I started and took that job, I made the decision that it was with the intent of speaking for the millions of mothers whose voices were not represented on television.
You know, here I was every day at my kids’ school listening to mothers total bereft about the war, about what was happening politically in our country, about the lack of civil rights, about the direction America was moving in.
And no one was saying it. And if you look back now, the things that I said on that show two years ago have all kind of come to pass.
You know, I was talking about torture at Guantanamo way before anyone else was and I was called un-American and, you know, a Communist, and a Troop hater.
And, you know, to bring up the fact that there are thousands and thousands of wounded Americans -- horrifically wounded and not getting the services that they needed or deserved. And that we went into this war under false pretenses and it was in violation of the U.N.
And, you know, everything that I said, it’s kind of now people are like wow, you know.
So I don’t know . . . I was happy that I did the show at the time because I think those things needed to be said. But I also was done when I was done, you know.
What happened to your MSNBC deal?
Rosie O'Donnell: Well when I was on The View, after -- when I decided not to go back for the second season of The View, I had a meeting with Jeff Zucker and the people at NBC. And we had come to a deal for me to be on MSNBC which at the time -- you know, this was before The View fight but when I had actually decided not to come back -- it seemed as though the right thing.
And because it was an election year, I felt it was important for a voice like mine to be heard, especially a woman’s voice. . . . There was an opening on MSNBC and they asked if I was interested. And I said yes.
And the fact is it never really came to fruition. And the reasons why are even unclear to me. It turned out to be a blessing, I think, because I don’t know that arguing in -- about politics is really the best use of my talent.
And I also think that Rachel Maddow is unbelievably wonderful and perfect at that job, and qualified and talented, and able to talk to Pat Buchanan without screaming at him.
So, you know, in the end it turned out to be a blessing. But I was -- you know, we had a deal.
It was about to be announced and then NBC changed their minds. So this was totally separate, had nothing to do with that deal. This was -- I had a meeting with Ben Silverman. He said what is it you want to do?
And this is the same show I’ve been pitching since 2002, a nighttime live variety show - Carol Burnett meets Ed Sullivan, Sonny and Cher, Donny and Marie, all rolled into one live from a Broadway theater exploiting the talents of Broadway.
And that was the pitch for six years, and Ben Silverman heard it and said yes. So, you know, he deserves all the credit should it be a big hit and all the blame should it crash and burn.
Can you do a politics-free variety show?
Rosie O'Donnell: I mean, you know, there’s going to be fun and dance. And, you know, and that’s what I started -- I didn’t grow up thinking, boy I hope I can grow up and do political satire.
I mean if you remember my stand-up act, I talk about my life. I talk about what’s going on in my family and, you know, it only became that with the job I took on The View.
So, you know, I think maybe your perception of my career arc maybe was skewed by that show or by the controversy that it created.
But, you know, it was a conversation I think that needed to be had and it started the ball rolling in many ways for that show to be taken seriously as a political show.
I had to fight very long and hard at the beginning of that program to get them to address politics in any capacity. You know, the war would be happening and we’d lose 20 troops in one day and they’d want to talk about lipstick shades.
So, you know, the fact that they’re now having all of these wonderful political discussions -- and when I mean wonderful, just that the topic is discussed not necessarily, you know, how it’s delivered -- I think is great.
It’s great for women. It’s great for that show. And in some ways, it was great for me.
Well, you know, I am in support of civil rights for all Americans and they should be equal across the board.
And, you know, the most disheartening thing about Florida to me has always been the fact that gay foster parents are not allowed to adopt the children that they raise. And Florida rates in the bottom 10 percent of all states in terms of child welfare.
And the fact that there are willing, able, capable, loving adults who want to take these children that have no homes into their homes, give them a stable and loving life, and are not allowed to legally is really a sin against humanity, against the world, against anyone’s belief in God.
And that’s, to me, the most overwhelmingly sad part about Florida and what their rights and laws have been, you know. The argument about marriage, I understand that the word is a hot button issue for people.
I believe that all of the same rights with a different word could possibly be a solution that would appease everyone, at least in the interim, you know. If we didn’t have to call the word "marriage," if it was, you know, unioned or familied.
And I’ve talked to many gay rights activists who have explained to me very passionately that that’s still not equal.
And I’m like well, I do understand but what I’m more concerned about are the rights for the children in those families, the rights for the spouses to go into the emergency room and to get care and equal treatment, and equal taxation.
And, you know, I’m not as hung up on the word as some people are. And I know that that’s not, perhaps, the status quo in the gay community. But I do understand why that word makes the, you know, hair rise up on the back of some people’s necks.
And, you know, although the fact that more than 50 percent of heterosexual marriages end in divorce, I don’t know how reverential we should be about the term to begin with.
But should every American have the right to be married to anyone they choose who is above legal age? Yes they should.
What will your duet with Liza be like?
It’s going to be a song you haven’t heard her sing in about 30 years and it’s a song that I grew up singing very loud on the shag rug in my living room, pretending to, you know, be her friend and dance with her.
And now the dream is coming true 30 years later. So, you know, she’s showbiz royalty to me. She is the epitome of old time glamor, showbiz variety, triple threat, multitasking talent.
And she was the first person I thought of and we’ll be doing the opening number together.
Did The View help or hurt your career?
Well, you know, when my show ended on May 22, 2002, I felt in many ways I had career achievement completed. You know, it doesn’t get much better than that. I was in, you know, three No. 1 movies three summers in a row.
I had all these Emmy awards and this amazing, successful TV show, and people I never had thought I would be able to talk to came and sat down next to me. And it was almost like a dream.
And I left because it was like being at the all-you-can-eat buffet. And at some point, you know, you got to get out of the buffet and go back to living your life because it was like gross excess.
And I lost my ability to go to a Broadway show just to enjoy the Broadway show. And when you’re working that kind of busy, frenzied schedule it doesn’t give you enough time to sort of enjoy life and ingest it as every artist needs to do in order to come up with the next genre of their expressive, you know, nature.
So I didn’t -- don’t do anything -- you know, since May 2002 I haven’t made a decision because of a career move . . . If nothing ever happened again, it would be perfect . . . It would be more than I ever dreamed of.
When Barbara Walters came and watched the documentary I did for HBO about our family vacations and was so moved by it, and asked me would I possibly come and do that show, and I said for you, Barbara I will do anything.
And I will only do it for one year because my goal in life was not to argue for a living and I knew that it would be a one-year job. And then I would see how much I liked being back kind of in the spotlight or back in the big waves of fame and of notoriety in America, how that would affect my family, how it would affect me, and whether or not I found it enjoyable.
And, you know, so I did it for a year and I thought it was really great right up until the day it kind of went off the track, you know.
And when your own team is not going to support you, you know, when you’re on a football team and your own guy tackles you, you know, it’s time to take off the uniform. And that’s what happened for me.
And, you know, I don’t regret doing it in any way. I think that it was an amazing experience and, you know, I think we kicked it up a notch on that show. And, you know, that show is relevant in the pop culture in a way that it hadn’t been, I think, before.