Kathleen Turner reveals how she ended up playing Chandler's dad on 'Friends'
For an actress known for her ravishing good looks and sultry voice, it was quite random to see Kathleen Turner's cameo on the popular 1990's sitcom Friends as Chandler Bing's father, Charles. Turner herself recently said it was "one of the silliest things" she's ever done, all while revealing how she actually landed the role.
Of course, unless you're unfamiliar with the show, you'll know that Chandler's dad came out as transgender and became the star of a burlesque show called Viva Las Gaygas, under the name of Helena Handbasket. Her portrayal of the character was excellent, albeit quite different to her earlier stuff...
Turner was the voice of Jessica Rabbit and starred alongside Michael Douglas, Danny Devito and Nicolas Cage in over four decades of work in the biz – winning two Golden Globes and an Academy Award nomination along the way – but it was her appearance in three episodes of Friends that many people remember her for.
The 63-year-old appeared on Britain's Sunday Brunch morning show to discuss her new show in West End. But naturally, the conversation was steered by hosts Tim Lovejoy and Simon Rimmer towards her guest appearance on Friends.
"It really is one of the silliest things I've ever done," she told them of her three-episode stint on the sitcom. She explained that one of the creators of the show noticed her after she was performing as Tallulah Bankhead – another female actress (of the silver screen) known for her husky voice and sharp wit.
"I was touring a one-woman show based on Tallulah Bankhead, and David Crane, who is one of the creators of Friends, came up to see the show and he came back and he asked me if I would consider playing Chandler's father," Turner recalled. It was her love of trying new things that persuaded her to take on the role.
"And I thought, 'Well, a woman playing a man playing a woman... I haven't done that yet. Why not?'"
The hosts then asked if the rumours are true that Matthew Perry (who played Chandler) still calls Turner "Dad", she responded with the delightful news that "Yes, he does". Bless!
The trio then began chatting about how the industry has changed with the introduction of streaming services, to which Turner said that actually, "a lot of [her old projects] are having a resurgence" thanks to the new ways to watch films and TV shows. Friends was added to the UK Netflix catalogue earlier this year, which saw many millennials watching the popular US sitcom for the first time.
Turner responded that she thinks Friends hasn't "aged well" over the years though. Many viewers agree, saying the jokes are outdated with some going so far to say the show is transphobic, homophobic and sexist.
"I don't think it's aged well," Turner said. "It was a 30-minute sitcom. It became a phenomenon, but no one ever took it seriously as a social comment."
She highlighted the fact that the role of Charles Bing would have been better suited to a transgender or drag actor. "They approached me with it, [and they said] ‘would you like to be the first woman playing a man playing a woman?’" she recalled. "I said yes, because there weren’t many drag/trans people on television at the time."
Well, she did a fabulous job of it in the end, so kudos to her.