After starring in the 1992 film, O'Donnell returns as a new character created just for the TV series.
After originating the role of Doris Murphy alongside Madonna’s Mae Mordabito in the 1992 film A League of Their Own, Rosie O’Donnell has returned to the famed women’s baseball franchise in a role created specifically for the Prime Video series.
Creators Will Graham and Abbi Jacobson, who also stars as Rockford Peaches catcher Carson, as well as the cast -- including D’Arcy Carden and Melanie Field, who play Mae and Doris prototypes, Greta and Jo, respectively -- open up to ET about the inspiration behind O’Donnell’s character, how her role played into a key moment in season 1 and what it was like having her on set.
“I mean, Rosie being in the show is huge,” says Roberta Colindrez, who plays Peaches pitcher Lupe, adding that “she was the most gracious, cool, generous co-star.”
[Warning: Some spoilers for season 1 of A League of Their Own]
With the series wanting to expand upon the film to include the untold queer stories of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL), Jacobson couldn’t help but acknowledge O’Donnell’s own impact on the LGBTQ storytelling landscape.
“We were trying not to do a lot of cameos on the show to really differentiate it from the film, but because we are telling a lot of these queer stories and Rosie is like, a huge part of queer history, of American history, it just felt so special to have her not only approve of the show but wanna be in it and really wanna play a character that’s so different from the one that she is in the film,” Jacobson says, revealing that O’Donnell stopped by the writers’ room early in the production on season 1.
Jacobson adds, “She came into the writers’ room and talked to everybody, and I know that was really special for all the writers.”
And it was during that visit when revealed to Graham that she wanted to be part of the series. “In that conversation, we kind of explained to her roughly what we were thinking about doing in the season and she sort of pitched us something that she would want to do,” he says.
As a result, O’Donnell was recast as Vi, an owner of a local gay speakeasy and a fan of the Rockford Peaches who crosses paths with Carson as well as some of her teammates before the police raid the establishment and arrest some of the women who appeared to be fraternizing with other women. She makes her appearance during season 1, episode six, “Stealing Home.”
Before things go south later in the episode, Vi gives Carson some advice about coaching the Peaches while also explaining that she’s been running the establishment for the past six years and is happily married to her wife. “We got married here. Not officially. But it was, by far, the best day of my life,” she reveals to Carson, before offering up a toast to Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz.
“It was really cool,” Carden says of having O’Donnell on set. “She’s so great and down to earth. And you know, she gets it. Like, she knows what the movie is and she knows what the movie means to us, so she’d let us ask her questions about the movie, she'd give us stories about the movie. Like, she wasn’t trying to be coy or cool or whatever. She really got it. Like, she could tell that we were giddy that she was there.”
In fact, when both Carden and Field saw O’Donnell on set, the guest star looked them over as Greta and Jo and gave them her nod of approval. “I remember she walked in the room and she was like, ‘Oh, it’s the me to me.’ And I was like, ‘This is the greatest compliment I’ve ever received in my life,’” Fields reveals. “It felt a lot to have her stamp of approval on it because she was such an iconic figure from the movie.”
Carden, who stresses that “we weren’t trying to play them” and that “the pairing of the two is a little kiss to the movie,” adds that it was still “the best, like the funniest, most Rosie thing.”
While O’Donnell’s time on season 1 is brief, and the police raid may make it unlikely that she’s around in the future, the cast does have hopes for future cameos from the original cast. And most of them vote that Madonna should be the next one to pass through.
“I’m gonna make some calls. I’m gonna get on the phone. I think she'll cave,” jokes Kate Berlant, who plays the naive Peaches teammate Shirley Cohen.
And, if Vi doesn’t land in jail, then maybe O’Donnell can return alongside her former co-star. “I have really enjoyed playing Jo to Darcy’s Greta. Our chemistry was very instant and very natural. I loved being on screen with her, and so, I was thinking about Rosie and Madonna. You know, they could make a little duo appearance,” Fields offers. “Maybe we could do a scene with them, and it will be the four of us.”
That said, “I don’t want to put the cart in front of the horse, but I think anyone would be incredible,” Jacobson says, opening the door to everyone from the original cast to appear on the series in season 2.
A League of Their Own is now streaming on Prime Video.