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Rosie O’Donnell returns to TV in ‘America’

Ryan Pearson Associated Press

Rosie O’Donnell says she doesn’t have much time these days to view “The View.”

“I don’t watch it too much,” O’Donnell said. “I don’t really watch too much daytime, having four kids and being kind of overwhelmed by that.”

O’Donnell – who left the daytime talk show in 2007 after a single tumultuous season – returns to TV tonight with a Lifetime movie about the foster-care system called “America.”

She had been a foster parent to two children, including a girl named Rosie for 1 1/2 years, when an intern in 2002 handed her the book by E.R. Frank that inspired the movie.

O’Donnell, who co-wrote the script and is executive producer, plays a therapist for a boy aging out of foster care. She discovered her 17-year-old co-star, Philip Johnson, while eating at a Detroit diner just days before production was to begin.

“He was at a table with two uncles, three sisters and a dad. And I would watch him listen to each conversation,” O’Donnell said.

“I was staring at them so much, finally one of the uncles said ‘Isn’t that Roseanne Barr?’ And I said ‘Close enough!’ ”

O’Donnell is raising four children with Kelli Carpenter, who she married five years ago in a San Francisco ceremony that courts later invalidated. They range in age from 13-year-old Parker to 6-year-old Vivi.

In the wake of California voters banning same-sex marriage, O’Donnell said she expects the gay-rights movement to move beyond individual states.

“We keep walking forward,” she said. “Civil rights don’t happen overnight. I think it’s going to happen, and it’s going to happen soon. It will be national.”

“When you think really how long the gay-rights movement has been around, it’s not that long,” she added. “It’s tremendous progress. When my career began, no one would even insinuate anyone was gay. People wouldn’t even bring it up. It was never mentioned. It was almost a taboo subject.

“When I was (first) on TV, it was before ‘Will & Grace,’ it was before Ellen came out. And not one person ever asked me. Times have changed just in my lifetime.

“To walk down the street in Manhattan and see 20-year-old guys holding hands or young, cute lesbians. … I think, ‘Wow.’ There has been tremendous progress made. Just in my lifetime. And I’m almost 47.”

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