On Monday, February 7, we spoke to Rosie O'Donnell who is promoting her upcoming appearance on Who Do You Think You Are?, a television series that traces the ancestry of a different celebrity guest each episode. The series is executive produced by Lisa Kudrow, whom fans will remember for her role on the long-running sitcom, Friends. Who Do You Think You Are? is adapted from the BBC series of the same name, and the American version has recently returned to the airwaves for a second season, which will consist of eight episodes. The full list of guests to be profiled this season are: Vanessa WIlliams, Tim McGraw, Rosie O'Donnell, Steve Buscemi, Kim Cattrall, Ashley Judd, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Lionel Richie.
USTOWNHALL SPEAKS TO ROSIE O'DONNELL:
USTH: Before we talk about your episode of Who Do You Think You Are?, I'm curious about whether any of your children have been bitten by the acting bug, and if so, what advice would you give them?
ROSIE O'DONNELL: None of my kids have been bitten by the acting bug. Although, I tried to be a stage mother and force them; it didn't work. None of them are really into it.
USTH: Regarding the research that was done into your ancestry for Who Do You Think You Are?,do you feel that you learned all that you needed to about your mother's family, or are there any more unanswered questions that you will be researching on your own?
ROSIE O'DONNELL: I would like to know more about who [my mother] was as an adult woman. We found out a lot about her childhood. I think research-wise we've done everything that we could.
But, I've been lately trying to find people who knew her, who went to school with her, who knew her in college or in secretarial school, and try to find out who she was as a grown woman. That's just for my own kind of personal journey of meeting and introducing myself to the woman that my mother was, instead of the child version of the mommy.
And as far as the show goes, I think that they uncovered every stone. You know, there was nothing left to find out, and it is a show about ancestors, so we went back. I did find out stuff about my grandfather, who I never knew, and didn't anything about his family, and so it was pretty surprising stuff that I found out.
But as far as my mother goes, [I want] to find out more about her as a person. I don't think it's necessarily ancestral research. It's more going to find her friends, and seeing if they'll have lunch with me.
USTH: You've always put yourself out there as a fan of celebrities and TV and movies. So, I'm curious to know, which celebrity would you be interested to see profiled on Who Do You Think You Are? and why?
ROSIE O'DONNELL: I'd say Natasha Lyonne. I got to know her about two years ago doing Love, Loss, and What I Wore, Nora Ephron's Broadway show. I really did not know anything about her. I had not seen any of her movies, [but] since getting to know her, I find her to be one of the smartest women I've ever met. She's only 31 years old.
She has an amazing story about her grandparents being in the Holocaust and what that was like for them. Her grandmother and her sister both survived Auschwitz – her grandmother and her grandmother's sister. And so, Natasha was raised by a child of a Holocaust survivor and the ramifications of that. And I think it's a pretty fascinating story and I would love to be able to see her tale told on that show.
USTH: You've always said that you stepped away from acting because you wanted to raise your kids properly and spend a lot of time with them. But now that your kids are older, do you envision yourself getting back into the acting business full-time whether it be a weekly sitcom or doing more movies? Are there any acting projects coming up from you in the near future that we should know about?
ROSIE O'DONNELL: Well, I would love to, but acting roles for women who are 50 and older are hard to come by, and they're hard to come by for Kathy Bates and Meryl Streep and Susan Sarandon. So, I don't have any illusions about the desire for me to run back and get these huge parts that are simply waiting. There really aren't any parts like that.
And I am going back on television on the Oprah Winfrey Network starting in September doing a talk show very similar to the one that she had, moreso than the one that I used to have, where we'll do single topics and one hour delving into social issues and Broadway shows and some celebrities and books and movies and documentaries. But it won't be four or five celebrities an hour bringing them through promoting something.
It will be much more single topic oriented. So, I don't know. I think that when I get to be in my 60's there will probably be a lot of roles for me as the grandmother or older mother of the Geraldine Page kind of Trip to Bountiful sort of roles. And that's what I think I'm waiting for.
So until then, if they need me for anything they'll call. I'm there, but if not, I'm going to be doing TV for the Oprah Winfrey Network.
USTH: Our thanks to Rosie O'Donnell for speaking with us today. Who Do You Think You Are? airs Friday nights at 8pm Eastern on NBC, and Ms. O'Donnell's episode will air February 18, 2011.