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Kathleen Turner Says She Wouldn't Take That Trans Friends Role Today

Kathleen Turner Says She Wouldn't Take That Trans 'Friends' Role Today

Kathleen Turner Says She Wouldn't Take That Trans 'Friends' Role Today

She played Chandler's parent on the iconic show.

rachelkiley

Friends has a legacy that continues to this day, no matter how much some people prefer to deny it. But while it will always be a touchstone show for a generation, there’s no denying that it totally missed the mark when it came to certain issues regarding transphobia, homophobia, and racism.

And possibly the most egregious of all these offenses was how the show handled the storyline of Helena Handbasket, played by Kathleen Turner, who now says she absolutely wouldn’t take the role today.

On a recent episode of Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen, a caller asked Turner “how much did she love playing Chandler’s father on Friends,” a role Cohen is quick to refer to as “groundbreaking.”

Turner pivots the conversation, pointing out immediately: “Of course I wouldn’t do it now, because there would be real people able to do it.”

She adds that she took the role because it was unlike any she had done before, to which Cohen replies that it was an “iconic part and it was really out of its time.”

“I think he still calls me ‘dad,’” Turner points out, addressing one of the issues with how the narrative treated the character.

Helena was a cabaret performer in Vegas, and was often referred to in the show as Chandler’s father -- a source of constant embarassment for Chandler and the butt of far too many transphobic jokes. During the run of Friends, it wasn’t entirely clear if Helena was supposed to be a gay man in drag or a trans woman, due largely to the show’s poor understanding of the trans community.

But Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman confirmed recently that Helena was, in fact, a trans character, and that she regrets how her storyline was handled.

“I think we didn’t have the knowledge about transgender people back then, so I’m not sure if we used the appropriate terms,” she told USA Today. “I don’t know if I would have known those terms back then. I think that’s the biggest one.”

You can check out the interview segment below:

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Rachel Kiley

Rachel Kiley is presumably a writer and definitely not a terminator. She can usually be found crying over queerbaiting in the Pitch Perfect franchise or on Twitter, if not both.

Rachel Kiley is presumably a writer and definitely not a terminator. She can usually be found crying over queerbaiting in the Pitch Perfect franchise or on Twitter, if not both.