Once an actress has gone sapphic on-screen, it's tough to go back. And now that Swoosie Kurtz has stepped into the now-familiar -- and comfortable -- shoes of playing lesbian for a third time with her turn as her friend Blythe Danner's longtime girlfriend in Showtime's breakout hit Nurse Jackie, Kurtz is pretty much an honorary lesbian.
A Broadway veteran in acclaimed plays such as Fifth of July and T he House of Blue Leaves, Kurtz, now 64, made television history in 1981 starring opposite Tony Randall in Love, Sidney, which boasted television's first openly gay main character -- that is, until advertisers got wind of it and pulled out, forcing the network to de-gay the show.
Recently, Kurtz has donned an eye patch to portray a bitter but lovable washed-up synchronized swimmer in Pushing Daisies, played a sadistic judge on Law & Order: SVU, and nabbed a recurring role on Heroes. But it's Kurtz's gay roles that have really caught the attention of her lesbian fans.
From her memorable portrayal of an undercover lesbian infiltrating the right-to-life movement in 1996's Citizen Ruth to playing a teacher who kissed -- and attempted to seduce -- Teri Hatcher's Susan on Desperate Housewives, Kurtz has the sapphic thing nailed. But playing Coop's (Peter Facinelli) lesbian mom opposite Danner on Nurse Jackie offers Kurtz a shot at a recurring gay role -- that is, with a little help and enthusiasm from the fans.
Advocate.com chatted with Kurtz about how she became the go-to gal for playing lesbian in Hollywood, making television history in Love, Sidney, and how she's always wanted to kiss Danner on-screen.
Advocate.com:It's casting genius that you're playing a lesbian on Nurse Jackie, with the amazing Blythe Danner, no less. How many times have you gone sapphic on-screen at this point?Swoosie Kurtz: I don't know. I was trying to figure it out when I was offered Desperate Housewives because my agent called and he said, "I don't know how to tell you this. We're going to call this Swoosie Kurtz, the Lesbian Years, Volume II or something." Let's see, there was Citizen Ruth, there was Desperate Housewives ...
And I read that you are playing a lesbian character in the Quentin Crisp biopic An Englishman in New York.I saw that too, Tracy, and I don't know where that came from. She was a real person. I read a book about her, but I don't remember reading that. [ Laughs ] Maybe it was something to do with the way I played it.
Perhaps they thought if Swoosie Kurtz is playing the role, then she must be a lesbian.[ Laughs ] I know! But as far as I know that was not a part of the character.
Even without that character, by my count that makes three times you've played lesbian, at least.We're up to three, and who knows about some of the other characters. The judge that I just played on Law & Order: SVU ... who knows?