In 1992, the late, great Hollywood legend Penny Marshall directed a film titled A League of Their Own. It starred Geena Davis, Lori Petty, Madonna, Tom Hanks, and Rosie O’Donnell. It became a commercial and critical success – but more importantly, it became a movie adored by the queer community.
Fast-forward to 2022 and it is a different time. We’ve been through and still are in a pandemic. The world has seen a racial reckoning, a push for queer rights and a #MeToo movement for women’s empowerment that continues to resonate stronger and stronger with every passing year. A League of Their Own co-creator and star Abbi Jacobson (Broad City) made sure that even though the show is set in the ‘40s, it speaks to the 21st century – specifically the queer community.
“The movie has a huge queer following and no one in the film is overtly queer and so we really wanted to lean into those stories that we felt were overlooked – that includes a lot of queer characters,” Jacobson, who co-created the Prime Video series with Will Graham, told GLAAD’s Anthony Allen Ramos during a recent interview. “Queer people did not just begin at Stonewall. We’ve existed forever and it’s really important to show that.”
In the original, there was absolutely no queer representation among the characters. The movie was very queer-coded, but there wasn’t any blatant on-screen romances, sex, kisses or anything in between. On top of that, the original League of Their Own feature lacked racial diversity with its main characters. The only time we saw racial diversity is a in one short scene when an unknown Black woman dressed in her Sunday best throws the baseball back to the players during a game.
The new iteration of A League of Their Own introduces us to Max played by actress Chanté Adams (Roxanne Roxanne, A Journal for Jordan). Like Jacobson pointed out, the series is an opportunity to shine light on stories that were overlooked. Adams said that it was an incredible honor to show the world these stories – particularly of the Black women during the time.
“I always pride myself with choosing projects intentionally that show Black women as complex and emotionally diverse individuals and this is exactly what this project does,” said Adams. “Also this allows me to introduce three women to the world: Toni Stone, Connie Morgan and Mamie Johnson, who played in the negro leagues. [The series] allows us to shed light on their stories because those three women are who inspired Max Chapman and inspired the character.”
In the original film, Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell play best friends and D’Arcy Carden (The Good Place) and Melanie Field’s (The Alienist, You) characters parallel that dynamic between Madge and O’Donnell, who appears in the series as well. In fact, when Field was introduced to O’Donnell for the first time, she told Field she was playing her character.
Like Jacobson and Adams, Field and Carden are excited to bring this new more inclusive iteration of the original to the masses and bolster queer and intersectional representation. More than that, it examines how it was to be a queer woman in the 1940s.
“It’s just amazing to be able to inhabit these characters and and bring these stories of these women that came before us to the queer community representation,” said Field. “I came out in 2000 and I was terrified. I was living in New York City in Greenwich Village at musical theater school and I still was scared to walk down the street holding my girlfriend’s hand – just because where I came from and everything.”
Field said that for the show, she put herself in the shoes of these women who were living in the 1940s. In a cultural context, it was a time when the men were off to war and women had the opportunity to do a lot of things they were able to do before. During this time of women playing baseball, it is without question there were queer women within the league – they just couldn’t live their truth out loud because, well, it was the 1940s.
“They love this thing that makes them feel confident and free and like the stakes were so high for them,” said Field. “Their dreams we’re hingeing on being able to do this; to not get into trouble; and not get caught or arrested. It was wild to me how much I related to them, even though I was going through that so many decades later.”
Carden said that they had the opportunity to speak to 95-year-old Maybelle Blair, one of the original players from the real-life All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, who recently publicly came out. Blair told the actors all about her stories, experiences and Carden said she was excited to “make her proud.”
Field chimed in and said it was great to see Blair flourish and go through the process of making the show. “[She went] from nervous to talk to us about the gay stuff to coming out publicly for the first time,” said Field. “She’s just been a perfect example of the freedom that can come from this.”
”It’s pretty special,” added Carden.
For Roberta Colindrez (Vida), who plays Lupe and was interviewed alongside co-stars Priscilla Delgado (Julieta) and Kelly McCormack (Letterkenny), she remembers watching the original A League of Their Own as a child and being blown away by a movie that celebrated and empowered women athletes. Now, as a star on the series, she hopes someone else can take away a similar feeling.
“I hope people walk away feeling like we really told the story of a lot of different kinds of people, not only the people on the team, but people in the ‘40s – people in and around the league and how important, special and unique their own experiences were,” said Colindrez.
Prime Video will premiere all eight episodes of A League of Their Own on August 12. The series also stars Gbemisola Ikumelo, Saidah Arrika Ekulona, Kate Berlant, Molly Ephraim, Dale Dickey, Nick Offerman, Kendall Johnson, Alex Désert, and Aaron Jennings.