Interview with Lea DeLaria: “They know I’ll do anything for a laugh.” – OITNB, Being the First Out Gay Comic on TV, and the LGBT Acronym

Lea DeLaria spoke to PrideSource in an article last week (May 27, 2016) that illuminated a lot about DeLaria’s career, her decisions as a butch lesbian and actor, as well as her opinion toward the LGBT acronym.

DeLaria told staff writer Chris Azzopardi that she spent much of her early career portraying the stereotypical butch lesbian. However, she put her foot down after she realized that all of the roles she was being offered were recapitulations of the same roles:

“I just said, ‘This is it. I can’t do this anymore unless someone is going to give me a real character.’ Like the chick I played on Californication! If you’re going to give me a real character, I’m going to knock it out of the park for you. If you’re just gonna make it the same ol’ stereotypical bullshit butch, I’m not interested.”

DeLaria says that playing Big Boo is refreshing because she represents the struggle that butch lesbians still face today. As opposed to the flat characters that she once portrayed out of the need for some work, Boo is dynamic–she is more than what other butch lesbians on television had been in previous decades.

In fact, DeLaria’s appearance on the Arsenio Hall show in the ’90s almost didn’t air because FOX executives were not sure whether it would be appropriate to air a butch lesbian who used the words “dyke” and “fag” so openly. Moreover, she was worried that her nine-minute bit wouldn’t go over well. It did, but if it hadn’t, perhaps we would have seen a lot less butch lesbian women in comedy and on TV.

DeLaria noted that she dislikes the term LGBT. She prefers “queer” because the term includes a much wider range of individuals that are not necessarily encompassed by the LGBT or LGBTQIA acronyms. She even jokes that the acronym is never ending–“LGBTQQTY-whatever-LMNOP”–and “tends to stress our differences.” She cites Prop 8 and DOMA as being two of the most important times when individuals of all identities came together to make a difference. One word might unify the group in a much needed effort to avoid “infighting,” or discrimination within queer groups.

Ultimately, DeLaria feels that Orange is groundbreaking because of the way it portrays women of all races, sexualities, and body types. Moreover, she notes that this show portrays the united struggle of individuals in the prison system.

Click here to read the full interview.


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