Kathleen Turner Revealed How She Was Approached About Playing Chandler Bing’s Dad on ‘Friends’

Katheleen Turner has appeared in a variety of movies and television shows. The one role often forgotten by fans is Turner’s guest appearance on Friends. In three episodes, the Body Heat star appeared in Friends as Chandler Bing’s parent, Helena Handbasket/Charles Bing. In recent weeks, Marta Kauffman has discussed her regret in misgendering the character. Kauffman isn’t the first one to talk about it, though. In 2018, Turner addressed the role and how poorly the show had aged. She even shared how the production team approached her about the guest spot. 

Kathleen Turner said ‘Friends’ did not age well 

Kathleen Turner has the same complaints about Friends that many fans now have. The famed actor sat down for an interview with Gay Times and openly discussed how poorly the show had aged, especially regarding LGBTQ representation. 

Kathleen Turner visits SiriusXM Studios on November 12, 2019
Kathleen Turner | Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images

Turner said that the show quickly went from a sitcom to a phenomenon. Still, she insisted that fans never looked at it for social commentary. Things have changed. New fans of the series have pointed to the blatant homophobia, a lack of proper representation, and a lack of racial diversity as series issues with the show. 

The famed actor revealed exactly how she was asked to take on the guest role 

Turner never auditioned for the role of Helena Handbasket. She told Gay Times that she was approached about appearing on the show. The team behind Friends pitched the part to her as an opportunity to be the “first woman, playing a man playing a woman.” 

Turner first appeared as Helena in 2001. All three of the episodes Turner appeared in occurred during the show’s seventh season. The episodes were part of the lead-up to Chandler and Monica’s wedding and how Chandler would deal with having his parents at the event. 

The character of Helena was referenced several times during the show’s 10-season run. Chandler often referenced his parents’ divorce as highly traumatic. Chandler’s mother, Nora Bing, appeared in several episodes, too. Morgan Fairchild played the part. 

Marta Kauffman issued an apology for misgendering Chandler’s parent

For years after Friends aired its finale, there was a bit of ambiguity about who Helena was supposed to be. If you go by the way Helena was spoken about during the show, you’d believe she was a gay man who worked as a drag queen. Turner appeared to be pitched the same idea, and fans largely accepted that explanation when the storyline first played out.  

Marta Kauffman attends the Los Angeles Special FYC Event For Netflix's "Grace And Frankie"
Marta Kauffman | Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

Kauffman has since apologized for misgendering Chandler’s parent and has cleared up the debate. Helena was not a drag queen. Instead, she was transgender. During an interview on The Conversation, Kauffman said, “Pronouns were not yet something that I understood. So we didn’t refer to that character as ‘she.’ That was a mistake,” 

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