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The GoPride.com Interview

Geri Jewell

by Windy City Times
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


 
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