I’d also love to talk to you about your work on Roseanne. The character you played was one of the first openly gay characters on television. And this is something that I think about a lot in terms of representation of queer identity and how, even today, there aren’t a lot of shows that last very long with major characters that are openly gay. Have you thought about how your character influenced the representation on television now?
I think the thing that is most important about Roseanne was that she took people, everyday people, and put you into their lives and situations as a person would be. You know what I mean? People who are gay don’t spend all day thinking about being gay.
They’ve got to go to work, they’ve got families, and now a lot of them have children and marriages. The only people who really think about being gay are the people who feel victimized by it. That wasn’t the approach that Roseanne took, nor was it the collaborative idea. It was fun and crazy and a little bit titillating. And, you know, the whole point was that [Nancy] had run from her brief marriage to Arnie on the show and he drove her crazy, until she decided she’d rather be gay. It was to challenge and to open people up, but it wasn’t this sort of beat-you-over-the-head-with-it, you know, “We’re gay and this is how gay people live!” She was part of the fabric of the little town, as were the gay men on the show. Roseanne just took it and made it another layer to life in America.
Do you think that that’s changed in the last few decades, in terms of gay characters like that in film and television? That now there has to be an agenda attached to create the character?
Yeah, I just haven’t seen anything really that’s blown my mind. I think that’s what I love about my own work is that it’s a here-I-am, it’s a matter-of-fact thing. When I talk about my girlfriend, my partner, it’s not precious or “we’ve suffered and we fought for this.” No, we have a rocking life. We’re pro-butch, fabulous, groovy, it’s all happening. You know what I mean? It’s all in your approach to life. It’s just how you look at it. It’s the prism that you look at life through. And a lot of people play the victim card, frankly, in the gay community. It’s just an easy way to get attention and try to exploit it.