Kathleen Turner Would Not Play Chandler’s Dad on “Friends” Today

Co-creator Marta Kauffman confirmed the character was trans.

She wouldn't be there for you.

Kathleen Turner says in a new interview that she would turn down the role of Chandler’s dad on Friends if offered it today.

The beloved NBC sitcom originally ran 10 seasons from 1994 to 2004. Many jokes were made about Chandler’s (Matthew Perry) strained relationship with his transgender parent, Helena Handbasket, a Las Vegas cabaret performer played by Turner. In the 2001 episode “The One With Chandler’s Dad,” Chandler fails to recognize Helena's gender identity, deadnaming her “Charles.”

"Of course I wouldn’t do it now because there would be real people able to do it," Turner told host Andy Cohen this week on Watch What Happens Live, presumably referring to trans actors. Cohen called the character "quite groundbreaking."


The 65-year-old actor explains that a Friends co-creator offered her the part after seeing her perform as Tallulah Bankhead in San Francisco. "And I thought, 'Okay... a woman playing a man playing a woman. I haven’t done that.' So I said yes."

Turner told Gay Times last year that Friends hasn't "aged well," adding that she accepted the role "because there weren’t many drag/trans people on television at the time."

Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman confirmed in 2016 that while the character was described on the show as gay or a drag queen, Helena was transgender.

Earlier this year USA Today asked Kauffman how the show might change if she were making it today.

"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 said, acknowledging the storyline involving Chandler's father. "I don’t know if I would have known those terms back then. I think that’s the biggest one."

In the 2001 episode "The One With the Rumor," guest star Brad Pitt’s character reveals he had maliciously started a rumor in high school that Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) was born a "hermaphrodite." Kauffman admitted, "I might have not done the hermaphrodite stuff today if I had that to do over in the one with Brad Pitt," adding that, viewed through a 2019 lens, "it really is a period piece."


In recent years, particularly when the syndicated series began streaming on Netflix, Friends has been criticized for its lack of diversity and its insensitivity toward the LGBTQ community.

While Friends notably featured a same-sex wedding for Ross’ (David Schwimmer) lesbian ex-wife and her partner in 1996, homophobic jokes were often made at their expense, as well as at maybe-gay Chandler and his bromance with roommate Joey (Matt LeBlanc). Other questionable storylines included Ross' intolerant responses to his son playing with Barbies and a sensitive male nanny.

Kauffman, who co-created Friends with gay writer-producer David Crane, most recently co-created Grace and Frankie for Netflix.

Watch Turner on WWHL below.

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