Rosie O’Donnell, who played Doris Murphy in the 1992 film A League of Their Own against Madonna’s Mae Mordabito, comes back for the Prime Video series in a new role.
In an exclusive interview with Entertainment Tonight, series creators Will Graham and Abbi Jacobson, who also plays Rockford Peaches catcher Carson, and cast members D’Arcy Carden and Melanie Field, who play Mae and Doris prototypes Greta and Jo, respectively, discuss O’Donnell’s character’s inspiration, how her role contributed to a pivotal moment in the first season, and what it was like working with her on the set.
Roberta Colindrez, who plays Peaches pitcher Lupe, says, “I mean, Rosie being in the show is tremendous,” and adds, “she was the most lovely, cool, generous co-star.”
[Caution: Season 1 of A League of Their Own spoilers ahead]
Given the show’s desire to go beyond the film and portray the untold gay experiences of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL), Jacobson couldn’t help but recognize O’Donnell’s own impact on the LGBTQ narrative environment.
“We were trying not to do a lot of cameos on the show to really differentiate it from the film,” says Jacobson, revealing that O’Donnell stopped by the writers’ room early in the process to approve of the show and to express interest in appearing as a character “that is so different from the one that she plays in the film.”
That was particularly amazing for all the writers, Jacobson says, since “she came into the writers’ room and talked to everybody.”
She told Graham she wanted to be in the show when she went to see him. They had a conversation in which “we kind of described to her basically what we were thinking of doing in the season and she sort of pitched us something that she would want to do,” he says.
O’Donnell was subsequently cast as Vi, the proprietor of a local homosexual speakeasy and a fan of the Rockford Peaches, who runs with Carson and a few of her colleagues just before the police raid the business and arrest several of the ladies for apparent fraternizing with other women. In the sixth episode of the first season, “Stealing Home,” she first appears.
Vi offers Carson some coaching advise for the Peaches and reveals that she has been running the restaurant for the past six years while also being happily married to her husband. This is where we had our wedding. Officially, no. Before raising a glass to Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, she tells Carson, “But it was, by far, the happiest day of my life.”
Carden thinks it was “very great” to have O’Donnell on set. She’s fantastic and really approachable. You can tell she understands the situation. She was able to answer our questions and provide us with insight into the film since she had seen it and understands its significance to us. She wasn’t attempting any sort of subtlety or coolness. That girl is brilliant; she really understood. In a sense, she could sense our excitement at her presence.
In reality, when Carden and Field played Greta and Jo in front of O’Donnell on set, the guest star approved of them. When she first entered, she said something to the effect of, “Oh, it’s the me to me.” Fields says, “I thought to myself, ‘This is the highest praise I’ve ever been paid.’ Having such a significant character in the film endorse it meant a lot to me.
In spite of Carden’s disclaimer that “we weren’t trying to play them” and that “the combination of the two is a little kiss to the movie,” he calls it “the best, like the funniest, most Rosie thing.”
Although O’Donnell’s appearance on Season 1 is brief and her continued presence on the show after the police raid is questionable at best, the cast remains hopeful that she will return at some point. And the majority of them have decided that Madonna should be the next one to go.
In other words, “I’m going to make some calls. I need to make a phone call right now. In a comedic turn, Shirley Cohen, played by Kate Berlant, predicts that the naive Peaches teammate will eventually give in.
And if Vi doesn’t end up in jail, O’Donnell could be able to make a comeback with her old co-star. The role of Jo to Darcy’s Greta has been a lot of fun for me. The connection between us was immediate and organic. I was remembering my time with Rosie and Madonna on television and how much fun it was to work with her. What if they made a brief appearance together?” Fields suggests. We might as well do a scene with them, and then there’ll be four of us.”
However, “I don’t want to put the cart before the horse,” as Jacobson puts it, “but I think anyone would be amazing.” This might mean that the entire first season cast could return for the second.
Prime Video has released A League of Their Own for instant viewing.
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