A welcome relief from that drama was provided by DeBuono’s appearances in J.D. Disalvatore‘s Gay Propaganda, a series of shorts which queered classic Hollywood films. DeBuono appeared in the spoofs of Goodfellas and From Here to Eternity.
She was also scheduled to appear in a takeoff of Rocky, to be directed by Lee Friedlander (Girl Play), but Friedlander got a job with a major studio to work on Wasabi Tuna (starring Anna Nicole Smith), and the queer Rocky clip never was made.
Friedlander remembered DeBuono four years later when she was casting Out at the Wedding. By that time, DeBuono had stopped acting, earned a master’s degree in clinical psychology and had her own private therapy practice. Friedlander was able to track her down and encouraged her to audition for the part of Risa, the rent-a-dyke hired by Andrea Marcellus’ character, Alex, who is pretending to be gay (read our review for the full details).
"Apparently when [Friedlander] read the script, she kept seeing me in that role," DeBuono said. "I was hesitant because I didn’t want to get derailed from what I was doing. She emailed me the script, and I let it sit on the desktop of my computer for two weeks. I didn’t want to look at it."
Fortunately Friedlander was persistent. DeBuono read the script at her urging, loved it, and wanted to play Risa.
The bar scene in Out at the Wedding is particularly amusing. Risa meets Alex at a lesbian bar so that Alex can drink in the atmosphere and become more convincing as a dyke. Alex tries to dyke up her wardrobe, and the look on DeBuono’s face as Risa when she spots Alex is priceless.
"Andrea is wearing my boots in that scene," DeBuono said, laughing. "They were like, ‘We need some dyke clothes; Cathy, do you have any boots?’"
DeBuono participated in some of the promo work for the film, including a screening at San Francisco’s Frameline this past June. "It was at the Castro Theatre, which was packed, and the audience really got it. They got all the jokes and enjoyed themselves. We had such fun making it, so it was fun to sit in a room full of people enjoying it."
This month you can see DeBuono on Exes & Ohs, the new comedy series from creator Michelle Paradise (The Ten Rules), who also stars in the series. DeBuono’s character, Becca, is dating Marnie Alton’s Sam, one of the main group of five friends. (Exes & Ohs also stars Heather Matarazzo, Angela Featherstone and Megan Cavanagh.)
And DeBuono has more projects on the horizon, too. This fall she’ll be shooting two films: Tremble & Spark, Kelly Burkhardt’s Philadelphia-based film noir short which co-stars Jessica Graham, and AfterEllen.com writer Ellen Seidler‘s next film with Megan Siler, And Then Came Lola, along with Ashleigh Sumner and Jill Bennett.
She is also co-creating a show with some business partners. "It’s coming together in a way that is very exciting for me and my partners," she said.
When she left acting several years ago, DeBuono noted, these kinds of gay-themed roles were not as common, but now that they are more plentiful, she’s glad to be back in the game.
The experience of working on Exes & Ohs was quite a contrast from the mainstream series DeBuono has worked on, such as Chicago Hope and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Those shows had bigger budgets and fancier soundstages, but she is grateful to be part of a project that more closely reflects her own experience.
"Exes & Ohs is culturally specific, and it was specific to my culture, which made it different and wonderful to be a part of," she said. "And I do love that Michelle Paradise, a woman and a lesbian, created it against all odds and saw it through. I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to be part of the manifestation of that."