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Who Do You Think You Are? Interviewby Pattye Grippo    

Rosie O'Donnell

This is a transcript of an interview with Rosie O'Donnell on February 7, 2011 about the show Who Do You Think You Are?.

Question:
You've been out the television spotlight for a little bit, so why did you decide to do this as well as your show on OWN that's coming up? Why decide to do it all now?

Rosie O'Donnell:
Well, this show is interesting because I had watched it and thought to myself, "Wow, those people are so brave," and I didn't really know very much about my family history at all. And so, Lisa and I are friendly and she asked me if I would do it and I said as long as we did my mom's side. I would really be curious because I knew nothing about her life. She died in '73 and it was never really spoken about in any way. She was an only child.

So, I called my brother Eddie and said to him, "Would this interest you because if you're willing to do it, I'd like to do it with you." And I thought it would really help our relationship. You know, my mom's death is something that was never discussed, and still isn't discussed even though, you know, we're nearing 50, and I thought it was a way to bridge that gap. And I also love the show and I think it's very interesting, so that's the reason I decided to do Who Do You Think You Are.

And the reason I decided to do a show for the Oprah Winfrey Network is because Oprah Winfrey asked me.

Question:
What was the most revealing thing you found out about your family background, and were there any expectations before you decided to do the search? And as a follow-up, are you looking forward to the re-launch of the Rosie O'Donnell Show?

Rosie O'Donnell:
Well, the most shocking thing I found out about my family was just the amount of suffering that endured. You know, when I spoke to the producers before we started they said, "What would be like the most devastating thing for you? What's something you don't want to find out?" I said, "I guess I don't want to find out that they lived a life like Angela's Ashes, the Frank McCourt book." And they just sort of nodded and said - you know, didn't say anything. And I came to find out it was very similar, if not even harder than the life than Frank McCourt lived, so that was really shocking to me, I think.

The other question was am I excited about doing the other show? I think it was. And I'm thrilled to be going back to do a new Rosie show for the Oprah Winfrey Network. And you know Oprah Winfrey is an epic talent and for her to ask me was a huge honor, and I can't wait to start.

Question:
When learning about your ancestry how did that kind of change how you see your family, and did you share that with your children?

Rosie O'Donnell:
Well, I really never knew anything about my mother's side of the family and so I decided to take this journey with my brother Ed, and I think that was very healing for our relationship. And when I came home and was able to share with my kids some of the stuff that I knew, I think it gave me a way to reframe my own life.

You know, sometimes if you don't know the history of your family and the struggles that brought them, you know, to the United States and what they had to endure, you take your own reality and put the frame around it as, you know, the most difficult thing that anyone can survive when you come to find out that your life was pretty blessed comparatively.

So, I think it definitely changed the view of my own history, my own childhood, and it also, I think, helped explain to my children, you know, where their grandmother was from and what she was about. They have never, you know, met her, needless to say, because she died when I was 10, and they often ask questions about her and it was nice to be able to fill in some of those blanks.

Question:
Between all the things that you're involved in, are you going to be on the road again for a tour at some point in the future?

Rosie O'Donnell:
Well, there's talk of James Lapine directing Annie on Broadway in 2012, and I have let it be known rather loudly that I would like to play Miss Hannigan. So, if they go on tour and I would definitely do whatever they need to do in order to get that show up on Broadway. And sometime in the future I would love to be able to sort of standup again. I toured with Cyndi Lauper for a couple summers opening for her and playing the drums and doing standup, and it was really so thrilling and so much fun. And I enjoy live performance probably the most out of all forms of entertainment. So, I'm sure in some capacity I'll be doing that again.

Question:
As I understand it, your father immigrated to America from Ireland when he was a child. Did your father instill traditions in your family, or your mother either, and you found yourself discovering some things that you went, "Oh, that's why we did things that way." Did any of those discoveries happen during the show?

Rosie O'Donnell:
Well, we didn't do my father's side at all. We did only my mother's side, and my mother was an only child and we really didn't speak about her after she died. You know, a traditional kind of Irish Catholic way to deal with tragedy or emotions was to ignore that they existed. So, all we did was my mom's side and it was pretty startling to find out what we did. But, I know both my mother and father were very invested in their Irish heritage; although, I didn't really know any information about how my mother's family came here and what they had to endure in order to get to the United States. It was pretty overwhelming to find out and really changed the way I viewed myself, my own life, and my connection to Ireland.

Question:
Where did you have to travel for your research or did they do all the research for you, and then just bring you in at the middle or were you involved from the beginning?

Rosie O'Donnell:
Well, you give them what you have, you know, about your family. And with my mother I gave them some photos and told them the basics that I knew, which was not very much. And they had my brother Ed, who's the oldest in our family of five children, they spoke to him as well about what he remembered and what he knew and then they did all the research.

And you know we would go to a country and they would say, "This is what we're looking for," and then I'd have to go to the archives building, then I'd meet with an archivist, and we'd sit down and go through the microfilm and try to find pieces and clues along the way. So, they knew where we were going, but I didn't know and it was pretty amazing to have it revealed like peeling layers of an onion.

e went to two different countries, and one of them I was surprised we went to at all. And - but we did end up in Ireland, as you might guess from the name O'Donnell. And it was pretty overwhelming to find out some things about the country of Ireland that happened there in the country regarding the, you know, people who were suffering during the potato famine and what they had to endure. I didn't really know anything about it and it was quite overwhelming.

Question:
You said you decided to go with your mother's side of the story. I assume you already know a bit about your dad's side, how did the two compare?

Rosie O'Donnell:
You know, I didn't really know that much about my dad's side. I just knew nothing about my mother's side at all. So, you know, there are stories because my father's one of many children and his mother was still alive, and so I was in my 20's. And so, we had sort of heard the tales of my father's family, but we heard nothing about my mom since she died in '73 and was an only child, so it was a complete mystery to me what we would.

And what we did find was rather shocking, and parts of the Irish history that I didn't even know existed. And, you know, it changed definitely the way I view myself, my own childhood, my own history, and I have a kind of reverence for what it took to get our family to the United States to begin with that I really was unaware of.

Question:
They've been replaying A League of Their Own on cable recently, and I remember that during that time that you and Madonna had had become friends because you had both lost your mothers at an early age. And I remember reading an article at the time that you wished you could know your mother more, meet her more, and know more about her. Has going through this experience helped that? Do you feel like you know your mother more, and do you feel closer to her?

Rosie O'Donnell:
Totally. I mean, nobody mentioned my mother after she died in 1973. It was like, you know, Lord Voldemort, you couldn't say the name. You know, nobody said mom in that house or mommy or mother from 1973 on. And so, I always wanted to know who she was and what she felt like, and to have her and see her through a woman's eyes as opposed to a child looking up at their mom, and this really helped me do that.

I met some people who knew her when she was a child, some cousins of mine that I didn't know I had, and they - you know, the stories of her life and her father, who I knew nothing about, my grandfather, who died before I was born and what her life was like in Jersey City. It was - you know, really got to me emotionally and filled in some empty holes that I had that I wanted, you know, filled. And I'm really happy that I did it. It did make me feel closer to her and more understanding of what her life was like in its totality.

Question:
You mentioned that it takes a lot to go through this journey and you said before that you felt the people that you saw on previous seasons had been brave for doing so. What do you hope viewers will learn or take away from watching you on this journey about you, and what will they learn about themselves?

Rosie O'Donnell:
Well, they'll learn I needed a haircut, because that's one thing I saw when I saw the rough cut. Boy, I could have used a trim. And I don't know, I think they'll see how rewarding it is to do the search for themselves, and I hope that it inspires people to go to Ancestry.com and - or any of the Web sites that do it and look up their family, because I didn't know that it would have the kind of emotional resonance that it did. I didn't know that it would really change my world view or change the way I saw myself in the world now.

I almost feel as though I'm carrying all of the stories of my mother's family that brought her to this country and brought me here as a result. So, I hope that people look into their ancestry. I never thought it would change anything about me. I thought it would almost be boring and, I don't know, I did not expect the emotional impact that the show had on my life.

Question:
Is there any advice you have for people who are coping with the loss of a loved one to cancer?

Rosie O'Donnell:
Well, it's funny because people, you know, will come over to me and tell me that their mom died and, you know, they were your age when she died, and the devastation is just as raw and real. You know, I think no matter what age, when you lose your mom, it's your mommy. I mean, I remember my friend Jeannie, her mother was in her 70's and her grandmother in her 90's, and when her grandmother died she was, you know calling mommy, mommy you know?

That's the bottom line is that everybody has that kind of natural base primal wound connections, and if it's severed it becomes a wound, right, the mother-child connection? And when you do something like this show it does help kind of heal it a little bit. But, you know, I've found that the most helpful thing I could tell anyone to do who's lost their mother is to get the Hope Edelman book, Motherless Daughters: The Legacy of Loss.

And when she wrote that book in '95 she had written me and asked if I would do an interview. And I remembered thinking it was going to be, you know, a violin story, violin background music, you know, poor, poor celebrities whose mothers died when they were young. And had I known what the book was really going to be, I would have participated and I would have begun my healing so much earlier.

I had to wait until the book was out and published, and then I bought the book and I bought the workbook, and it was probably the most healing thing that ever happened, in terms of losing a mother and to have all these collected stories of women who had survived it, and the feelings that are so similar and learning that you're not alone. That's what I would advise to anyone who lost their mom.

Question:
With genealogy homosexuality isn't really a part of what you might seek, but did you find anything about that when you looked back into the past?

Rosie O'Donnell:
No, I didn't. I thought I would find maybe something like that about my grandmother because she didn't get married until she was very old, and there were all these photos and her and other women on the beach in the 20's. And I remember saying to my brother, "Eddie, wouldn't that be funny to find out like if Nana was gay?" But no, there were no gays. We didn't find any gays.

Although, you know, I don't know how recorded it would have been in the census of the 1800's, right, so who knows if one of my, you know, distant relatives. But, we found mostly, you know, Irish Catholic people who got married and had lots of children, but there was no homosexuality that we discovered in any way.

Question:
About your show on Oprah Winfrey's Network - how will it differ from the previous show that you've done?

Rosie O'Donnell:
It'll be much more like her show than it was like - than it is like my old one. So, it's not going to be a bunch of guests coming in to promote a movie. It's going to be a single topic, one hour, similar to hers. Although, you know, nobody can come close to doing what she actually did. That will be the format that we're copy.

Question:
Would you ever consider doing more children's shows or projects?

Rosie O'Donnell:
In a minute. I would love it. When I see a kid's movie, and I see them all because I have so many kids, I always think, "God, I would love to be in that." So, any kids' movie I would do in a heartbeat.

Question:
In the trailer for this episode you say the journey opened your heart in a way that you didn't expect, and I was wondering if you could tell me what you meant by that?

Rosie O'Donnell:
Well, I really never knew anything about my mother. She died in 1983 and then no one in my family ever spoke about her again, and it was very much was Irish people did, not talk about their feelings or emotions. So, when Lisa asked me to do the show I said, "Could we do my mom's side?" And then, I asked my brother Eddie, who's two years old than I am, if he wanted to join me, and figured that it would be a way to get each other talking about my mother, which we really had never done until this show.

So, I knew it would be emotionally heart-wrenching because, you know, that's sort of like we put it all in the dungeon and we locked the door, but the dungeon still exists inside of our soul. And in order to do this show, you know, we had to unlock it and get a crowbar and open it up, and go into those spaces inside of you that you keep locked away. And it was hard and it was painful and it was ultimately very healing. And whenever that happens you open yourself up to expanding your soul for ccepting more love and light when you get away from the dark parts, and I think that's what the show did for me.

Question:
I know you said you like the show and I was wondering what you could say about why you think people like the show, what you think they'll like about your episode in particular on that's Who Do You Think You Are?

Rosie O'Donnell:
Yeah, I think the show's fascinating to watch. I mean, when I watched Susan and Sarandon and Sarah Jessica and Matthew and Lisa, I was like, "Wow, imagine finding out something like that about your own life," and I really didn't think there was anything to find. And so, when I was speaking to Lisa about doing it I said, "You know, I don't know that there's even a story." She said, "Well, we'll look and if there is we'll film it, and if there isn't we'll tell you." And so, I said I'd like to do my mother's side because I knew nothing about her, and just to find out facts about how she lived, who she was as a child, to meet some people who are my second cousins that I didn't even know existed who knew my mother as a child.

It was, you know, very eye-opening and heartwarming, and it gave me a piece of my mom that I never had access to before, so I'm really glad that I did it. And I think that people watching it will take away the knowledge that they can do this for themselves by going online. That they can research their own family history and find out what it took for generations of their own people to get them to where they are today. And you know I feel grateful and I feel thankful that they asked me to do the show, because I think it provided a lot of closure and healing about my mother.

Question:
Do you feel you learned all that you needed to about your mother's family or are there any more unanswered questions that you will be researching on your own? And also, have any of your children been bitten by the acting bug, and if so what advice would you give them?

Rosie O'Donnell:
None of my kids have been bitten by the acting bug; although, I tried to be a stage mother and force them; it didn't work. None of them are really into it. So, the first part of the question, I would like to know more about who she was as an adult woman. We found out a lot about her childhood. I think research-wise we've done everything that we could.

But, you know, I've been lately trying to find people who knew here, who went to school with her, who knew her in college, who - or in secretarial school, and try to find out who she was as a grown woman. You know, that's just for my own kind of personal journey of meeting and introducing myself to the woman that my mother was, instead of the child version of the mommy.

And as far as the show goes, I think that they uncovered every stone. You know, there was nothing left to find out and it is a show about ancestors, so we went back. I did find out stuff about my grandfather, who I never knew, and didn't anything about his family, and so it was pretty surprising stuff that I found out. But as far as my mother goes, you know, to find out more about here as a person, I don't think it's necessarily ancestral research. It's more, you know, going to find her friends and seeing if they'll have lunch with me.

Question:
After participating in the show, do you feel that learning about your roots shapes the individual that you'll become?

Rosie O'Donnell:
Well, I don't know necessarily that you'll become, but that you are. You know what I mean? I found out all this stuff about tremendous sort of heartache and loss and survival and, you know, I had always thought, well, my life was pretty hard, right? I had kind of a difficult childhood and my mom had died. And I though that - this was really hard. And then I heard of the lives of my ancestors, of my grandparents and their parents and I thought I had it pretty easy and I didn't even realize it.

So it really reframed the whole way that I viewed my childhood and my life after seeing it comparatively to other people in my bloodline. And I think it does it does - you do see kind of similarities. You do see kind of the affect of trauma on each generation. You know, like, as we went back each time, each step, I remember thinking, saying to them, it's not going to get more depressing is it? It's not going to get sadder? And it sort of did, you know?

And yet they endured and they survived and they went through it, you know? I don't know, it was pretty amazing to me and I think it's important for everyone who has any interest to go and research their family and see just how much their lives are similar to or can relate to where you are now in your own.

Question:
Were you interested in learning about your mom's side of the family before or was it just watching Who Do You Think You Are that opened you up to the possibility of that?

Rosie O'Donnell:
I have a cousin on my father's side who researched all of my father's history and I was never interested at all. And I remember he would send me email, oh, you want to see this? I was like, no. Like I didn't have any interest and then I saw the show and I was like, wow, look at that. That's kind of fascinating.

And when Lisa called me I said, you know, I would like to find out about my mother. I didn't really know very much about my mother at all and it would really, I think, be very helpful for me emotionally to find out about her because she was an only child and she died in '73 and no one really spoke her name in our house after that.

So they said that they would research it and let me know and they said there was definitely a story. And I asked if I could bring my brother with me because I'm one of five children but my oldest brother is the one who thought of, you know, knew my mom the longest and had the most memories and the most kind of factual information about our family history. And I knew that if he and I did it together it would maybe open the doors of communication so that we could talk more openly about my mom and not have it be such a forbidden subject which it really has been for the last 30 something years.

Question:
Do you ever get back to Long Island and do you ever get to do standup?

Rosie O'Donnell:
I do standup sometimes. I walk by a comedy club in New York and go in and sometimes they say, hey, you want to do ten minutes? And I get up there and try and I remember how hard it is and how it's like being a boxer and you need to be in shape. You just can't sort of walk into the ring and expect to not get knocked out. So, I would eventually like to do standup again, have another HBO special. But it takes the kind of dedication and nightly performance ethic that right now is not possible for me.

But I do get back to Long Island and visit friends. I don't have any family there anymore besides my brother Ed so I do go to see him out in Sayville and he's the one who actually did the show, Who Do You Think You Are with me. And it was a great experience. But I don't really do any clubs out on Long Island but I certainly did when I was starting.

Question:
Did you ever hesitate about sharing too much about your personal life with the public by doing this?

Rosie O'Donnell:
I did and I think that's why I chose my mothers side. I think that, you know, there's stuff on my father's side that's kind of tragic and personal and he's got a lot of siblings and they're still in various states of distress and I didn't want to go there on that side.

So, you know, I did worry. I did say to them, what if something comes up that I don't want shared? And they said, you know, we would be willing to discuss it and take it out and if it's something that really is to hard for you...So they were very, very helpful. And it's not like a scandal driven show. They're not trying to find some sort of horrible truth about a celebrity's past. They're just trying to show people that going through your ancestry can really see healing and miraculous and kind of amazing for your own life today. But I did worry initially and was comforted by the fact that Lisa and her team didn't seem to have any hidden agenda.

Question:
What sort of documents and resources did you end up using to trace your mother's family?

Rosie O'Donnell:
Well, everything from photographs to work records to the census to baptismal certificates and newspaper articles. It was a pretty intensive research project I have to say and I was very impressed with the staff that they have their, what they were able to find, things that I couldn't believe that they found.

And if they had not been there to guide me with these professional genealogists I don't know that I would have been able to do it myself. But I found out a lot of things and specific details. Not just like, oh, your great grandmother died, how she died and what happened and who was with her and who survived and who didn't. And it was pretty intense and pretty surprising for me to know that that many details still exist.

Question:
Okay. You said you wanted to know more about your mother as an adult women. Have you thought of what sort of resources you would use to do that or if you would hire some sort of investigator to fill in those gaps for you?

Rosie O'Donnell:
Yes, I'm working with a playwright, Dick Scanlan, doing a show about my mother to do a one woman show. And he's been pretty good at finding some people that she went to Katharine Gibbs Secretarial School with and some friends that she had when she was younger. And so I've been able to sit down and talk with some of them and that's been really interesting to try to see her through adult eyes as opposed to children's, a child's, eyes.

And I think it's been helpful. You know, it's weird for me to be 49 years old, a decade more than she lived. In March I'll be 49 and she died at 39 in March. So, you know, it's very odd to me to have lived ten more years than she got to. And get to do things that she never did like raising teenagers which she never had to go through and in some ways she's lucky. But, to get to experience all that now and not have a mother to call and talk to about it and then to just think of how sad it was that she never got to live to see it or to do it.

Question:
You said that in your family your mothers name was never really spoken again after she passed away. How would you describe how it changed things for you to speak her name and has it changed the dynamic within your own family?

Rosie O'Donnell:
Well yes. I mean, currently in my family it's like three against two, right? You know, I have a sister and brother who sort of talk to each other and then me and my two brothers. So it's three on one side and two on the other. And the three of us we're talking about whether or not we should tell the two that this show is about to air because there's not a lot of communication at the moment.

And I was like, you know, what, no. I mean, I think they see TV. It's not like they live in a cave and if they want to know about it they'll call and if they're upset about it they'll call and, yet, in some ways I think it'll be a gift for them too because nobody spoke about my mother to this day. Like the five of us are all adults, we're almost 50, all of us are right around the same age, you know, Irish Catholic right in a row, all the kids. And until this show my brother and I had never had a conversation about my mother like we did during this filming.

And in some ways it was odd because the camera was on and we were rolling and he actually used the word mommy which was so - it was like I had a physical reaction in my body. He was like well that's mommy...I was like...Because no one every said that word, ever. It was like my mother died and we went to Ireland and then all her cloths were removed, all her stuff was removed and no one every mentioned her name again.

It was as if she disappeared or was deleted. And it was a very difficult thing, I think, for everyone in the family. And I think now that we're able to talk about it and this show I think will do a lot to have the subject be something that's not so much like Lord Voldemort, you know, you just can't say her name.

Question:
You have a real humanitarian spirit. Discovering the information you did about your mom, how much of that do you think, actually came from her?

Rosie O'Donnell:
A lot. You know, a lot of the stuff I found about her and I remember as a child she would always take all the cloths and pack them up for St. Vincent de Paul and go donate all the cloths. And I remember seeing kids who were poor in our neighborhood wearing some of our old stuff or, you know - just this and giving back was a big part of her life and who she was. And I think that that was learned from her or I got the gene from her because she did a lot of that in her life so social justice meant a lot. And I think that getting to find out more about her has been a gift and the show really helped me to do that.

Question:
Can you give us some more details about the one women show that you're planning about your mom? What stage of production are you in and how soon is it going to be staged?

Rosie O'Donnell:
Well, Michael Mayer's set to direct and Tom Holtz is producing and Dick Scanlan is writing and we've been working on it for over three years. And we have no idea when we're going to do it. We just had a reading a few months ago and we need to work on it some more. But these things take a very long time to do and I'm hoping one day in the next year or so we'll be able to do our first public backers reading and see how that goes. But that's an amazing team of people. Dick Scanlan wrote Thoroughly Modern Millie. And Michael Mayer, Tony Award winner and Tom Holtz is Tom Holtz who's phenomenal. And so I think I'm in good hands. And hopefully someday soon we'll get to put it up on the board.

Question:
Which celebrity would you be interested to see profiled on Who Do You Think You Are and why?

Rosie O'Donnell:
I'd say Natasha Lyonne. And I got to know her about two years ago doing Love, Loss, and What I Wore, Nora Ephron's Broadway show. And I really did not know anything about her. I had not seen any of her movies and since getting to know her I find her to be one of the smartest women I've ever met. She's only 31 years old.

She has an amazing story about her grandparents being in the holocaust and what that was like for them. Her grandmother and her sister both survived Auschwitz, her grandmother and her grandmothers sister. And so Natasha was raised by a child of a holocaust survivor and the ramifications of that. And I think it's a pretty fascinating story and I would love to be able to see her tale told on that show.

Question:
Obviously the show has a positive message and recently you said that you watched MTV's Teen Mom with your 13-year-old daughter. Are there any shows in your house that are banned?

Rosie O'Donnell:
Well, mostly all shows except we tell them what they're allowed to watch and what they're not allowed to watch. So like for example, Skins, would never be appropriate for anybody in my household. Also, you know, my daughter - we started watching 16 and Pregnant and I thought that was an amazing show because it really - they said every single episode how all the girls wish they had waited, how all the boys flaked out, what it did to their social life, to their educational life, to their...Everything.

And so I thought that was a wonderful show and then it sort of spun off into Teen Mom, right? And then you could see the actual reality not only of giving birth to the baby and the first few weeks but what was it like a year and a half later with an 18-year-old or a 16-year-old girl trying to have a life.

And so I felt like I do think it's really horrible that the teen mothers are getting to be superstars but that's more a statement of our current media culture than it is about the show. The show itself I think is educational and informative. Some of the people that they profile obviously have harder lives and lower intellects and maybe some economic disadvantages like Amber. It doesn't seem as though she had, let's say, the kind of opportunity that Farrah has had in her life.

And, you know, this is all great topics I think. These are all fascinating subjects to bring up with your children and to have them understand there are many ways to be in the world, many choices that you make everyday and these are the consequences of these kinds of choices. So, you know, I don't know. I know it's a very controversial show and I said that on the red carpet and it became a big story but I don't really think too much about it. But that's what I do think when I do.

Question:
What are the chances that you'll go back to doing the Kids Choice Awards? And if you've been watching the previous years, what do you think about the previous hosts?

Rosie O'Donnell:
You know, I did it for about eight or nine years and that's a pretty long run. And I think that I'm now way too old. Kids don't know who I am or like, you know, below 13. Like, kids go to the mall and if there's a bunch of kids like 11 they don't have any idea. My son is 11 and his friends say, what does your mom do?

So I think you need to be part of the pop culture, really in there in order to host that show so I think that my time for doing that is probably over. Who's been hosting it recently, I don't really remember off hand. I think Adam Sandler - did he do it? Or, I'm not really sure. But, there's the Kids Choice and the Teens Choice. You know, and I think the Kids Choice Awards are really fun and they need to stay fun and stay in the kind of mindset of the demographic of the network.

So they don't need to sort of age the show up and get sexy hot performers. I think it's great to have that channel be so in-tune with what is healthy entertainment for kids in specific age groups. And I love my affiliation with Nickelodeon. I think it's a great program and I don't really particularly know who the host has been lately but I think they usually do a good job at choosing.

Question:
It sounds like you do have a deep schism in your family between your brothers. Do you think it could be a peace offering to show your mom's story and say here's the story of mom if you want to see it? Do you think that would make a difference or not really?

Rosie O'Donnell:
You know, here's the thing. If you don't have parents it's really hard for children to stay together and connected when there was sort of trauma and dysfunction in the childhood. Usually, you know, I found it's the mother saying, you're all coming to Thanksgiving now shut up. And if you don't have someone doing that, right, it's hard to see five kids together who have five different perspectives of similar events that they all share.

So it's like you own a timeshare on your past and not everyone agrees with who should get the timeshare what week and what furniture should go in it and how you should deal with it. So it's been a difficult thing. And also when one person becomes absurdly famous it throws off the rhythm and the dynamics.

I really have hope that some day the five of us are able to sit down together and go, this is really absurd. We should all get over whatever it is we need to get over and move on. I think usually it takes a funeral and I always send out little notes that say, we don't want to make this better after somebody's gone. There's five of us and we survived and we're all here and let's see what we can do.

But, you know, sometimes for some people the past is so painful that anyone who reminds them of it needs to be banished. And you can't take it personally. You just have to say, okay, then you need right now space and I'm going to give you the space that you need but I'm here if you want or need me. You know, that's all you can do.

Question:
In doing this family history journey did you come across another ancestor maybe somebody you weren't aware of who really spoke to you or just captivated you?

Rosie O'Donnell:
Yeah. There was a story of a photo that hung in our house my entire life in the den. And whenever we would ask my grandmother who is that picture she would never say. She would never sort of - no one ever knew who this was but this photo was up there our whole life. And it was like a photo from the late 1800's and that sort of kind of Victorian almost look. And we found out who that woman was and what her story was and how she was related to us. And it is a fairly miraculous tale and pretty shocking as well.

And no one ever told it in our family and I don't know why because my grandmother obviously had to know who the person was but did not want to bring it up. And it just hung there and it was a person who died a pretty tragic death and, I don't know, I was very shocked to find out the story of the mystery women in our house.

Question:
You've always said that you sort of stepped away from acting because you wanted to raise your kids properly and spend a lot of time with them. But now that your kids are older do you envision yourself getting back into the acting business full-time, whether it be a weekly sitcom or doing more movies. And, are there any acting projects coming up from you in the near future that we should know about?

Rosie O'Donnell:
Well, I would love to but, you know, acting roles for women who are 50 and older are hard to come by and they're hard to come by for Kathy Bates and Meryl Streep and Susan Sarandon. So I don't have any illusions about the desire for me to run back and get these huge parts that are simply waiting. There really aren't any parts like that.

And I am going back on television on the Oprah Winfrey Network starting in September doing a talk show very similar to the one that she had more so than the one that I used to have where we'll do single topics and one hour delving into social issues and Broadway shows and some celebrities and books and movies and documentaries. But it won't be four or five celebrities an hour bringing them through promoting something.

It will be much more single topic oriented. So, I don't know. I think that when I get to be in my 60's there will probably be a lot of roles for me as the grandmother or older mother of the Geraldine Page kind of Trip to Bountiful sort of roles. And that's what I think I'm waiting for. So until then if they need me for anything they call, I'm there but if not I'm going to be doing TV for the Oprah Winfrey Network.

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