Orange is the New Black star 'Big Boo' says her cameo on Friends was 'hardest working day of my life’
Lea DeLaria is known for many things. In the Nineties she was known as the lesbian comedian who was the first openly gay person to appear on a late-night talk show. To others she might be best known for her jazz music (she’s released five jazz albums). To regular viewers of Netflix, she is Big Boo in prison comedy drama Orange is the New Black.
But what not everyone remembers, is her brief but very funny appearance in The One with the Lesbian Wedding. It was 1996, midway through Friends’s second season. Ross’s ex-wife Carol married her girlfriend Susan in a ceremony attended by all the main characters, along with Rachel’s newly separated mother. Phoebe was going through her own issues, believing herself to be possessed by the spirit of an elderly woman who died on her massage table.
DeLaria’s cameo lasted less than a minute – when she took an opportunity to ask the lonely Phoebe for a drink – but she’s not forgotten that day.
“Of course I remember everything,” she said. “It was one of the hardest working days of my life because was the lesbian wedding... There were trailers everywhere, there were hundreds of extras, a lot of standing on your feet.
“By the time we got to [my] scene it was around midnight. It was one of the longest shooting days I’ve ever had.”
Being a celebrity in her own right and a well-known lesbian activist, DeLaria’s casting as one of the guests was deliberate. “They all knew why I was there,” she says of the cast. “They’d all seen my work and they were all really nice to me. I used to live just down the road from Jennifer Aniston at the time so it wasn’t the first time I’d spoken to her.”
At the time, the producers suspected some backlash to becoming the first US television show to feature a lesbian wedding, but in the end they received only four complaints.
“It felt very groundbreaking; everybody was talking about it,” says DeLaria. “Any jokes that were made were all at the expense of people who thought there was something wrong with being gay... Then just to top it all off they let my character pick Phoebe up at a lesbian wedding. It was awesome. She walks away with me! I got her!”
Speaking at the European press launch of Orange is the New Black, DeLaria confirms that her role of Big Boo is one that she holds dear – not least because it allows her to be a role model for others like her.
“You never see [women like me] on television,” she says. “I’ve been trying to see myself on television and I don’t think I’m any different from any other human being out there. I’m a television actor and I still never see me on television. I love that about my character, that there are millions of butch lesbians out there that are finally getting to see a real portrayal of who they are on TV.”
She also responds to all the fans who contact her online, admitting that it takes a long time. But she loves the fun side to Boo as well.
Having used a contraband screwdriver as a sex aid in the show, DeLaria has found herself with an unlikely personal symbol. “The funniest thing I’ve ever been asked to do is the screwdriver in season one,” she declares, “no two ways about it. I jumped up and down like a little girl when I read that. I was so excited. There’s not a comedic actor in the world who doesn’t want to be asked to turn a screwdriver into a dildo and orgasm on camera. Trust me.”
But, she’s also not one to miss an opportunity when it presents itself. “People come up to me and ask me to sign their screwdrivers all the time. I now sell them on my website. You can get Lea DeLaria screwdrivers with attachable parts that say external use only.”L