A GoPride Interview

Geri Jewell

Geri Jewell interview with ChicagoPride.com

Wed. April 27, 2011  by Windy City Times

Geri Jewell
Comedian and actress Geri Jewell will forever be in our hearts as the first person with a disability to have a regular role on a prime-time TV series, portraying Geri on Facts of Life. Jewell, who has cerebral palsy, has a new memoir, I'm Walking as Straight as I Can. In it, she describes barely surviving birth, having a bad manager, rising back to fame on the HBO series Deadwood and coming out as a lesbian. Jerry spoke to Geri right before the debut of the new book.

WCT: (Windy City Times) Hi, Geri. I have been reading your new book.

GJ: (Geri Jewell) How far are you into it?

WCT: I am currently towards the very end.

GJ: Wow! You read fast.

WCT: Are you excited for the book to come out?

GJ: Yes, I am very. I have put my heart and soul into that book.

WCT: When did you start writing?

GJ: You know what? I have been a writer for as long as I can remember. Even when I was in college and wanted to do stand-up comedy my mom said, "You are an excellent writer. Why don't you write instead?" [Laughs] I have always had a flare for writing. This was such an accomplishment for me. It was a dream come true.

WCT: What do you hope to accomplish with the book?

GJ: My intent was to present myself in a full scope, humanistic vision. Because I have been so misunderstood over the years. I have carried so much over the years inside of me. I wanted to share my life as it really was instead of being this inspirational icon. I am a human being with weaknesses and strengths. This is what I have been through and was hoping that by telling my story that I would inspire others and make them keep going no matter what. Are you enjoying reading it?

WCT: I am. I like the behind the scenes of it. Also, I relate to the part where you were bullied because I was picked on for being gay.

GJ: Well, I understand that. It still happens today.

WCT: Do you still talk to any of the girls from Facts of Life?

GJ: I just got back in touch with Mindy Cohn but not have spoken with the others in years. I think that will come about though. Like I said in the book, I have total respect for each and every one of them.

WCT: Did you see Mindy's movie, [the gay-themed film] Violet Tendencies?

GJ: Yes, I did. I thought she did a wonderful job.

WCT: So you haven't gotten Lisa Whelchel's thoughts on your coming out?

GJ: No, I have not. I have that feeling that I will run into her soon.

WCT: You mention in the book that you don't agree with her religious views.

GJ: Yeah, but that has nothing to do with not loving her or respecting her beliefs. I believe differently. That is her choice and I respect that choice a hundred percent.

WCT: How do you feel about Heather McDonald from Chelsea Handler's show doing impersonations of you?

GJ: I have no problem with it. Being mimicked is a form of flattery and she does so many people so it is not malicious. It is her. That is what she does. I have to say that she does me very well. She does cerebral palsy better than I do and I have it!

WCT: You love celebrities. Was there a special one that you met? You mention Carol Burnett throughout the book.

GJ: She was a big one for me. I have met many celebrities over the years. There are some that I am not impressed with. I would have to say good ones were Carol Burnett, Liza Minelli and Steve Allen. David Cassidy was especially kind to me. Yes, there are many celebrities that I am fans of and respect as human beings.

WCT: Are you currently single?

GJ: Yes, I am.

WCT: How was your family with you coming out of the closet?

GJ: My parents are no longer living but I am sure they would have supported me. My siblings support me. They love me regardless. I have always had a supportive family. If people read my book then they understand that.

WCT: Definitely. You mention your very survival depended on them. You performed in HBO's Deadwood not too long ago. Are there other shows you want to do?

GJ: Well, of course but I have been getting ready for the book tour so that is where my primary focus has been for quite a while. I am looking forward to it and seeing how the book does. I want feedback to see if people enjoy the read and as much as I enjoyed writing it.

WCT: Are you coming to Chicago with the book tour?

GJ: I am hoping to but I don't know positively that will be one of the stops right now.

WCT: Your bright smile has always shown bright and I have been a fan since I was learning the Facts of Life.

GJ: Thank you, Jerry. That means a lot to me! Have a beautiful day!

For more information about Geri and the book, visit www.gerijewell.com

Interview by Jerry Nunn for the Windy City Times

Interviewed by Windy City Times