Out: Green Week on NBC.
In: preachy AIDS activism on the peacock network's "ER."
Reports Los Angeles Times writer Greg Braxton in the the January 2 paper (emphasis mine):
Gloria Reuben raised more than a few eyebrows in 2000 when she went from the front lines of NBC's acclaimed "ER" to the back line of Tina Turner's rock 'n' roll tour. Now she's starting the new year by stepping forward into her past.
Reuben, who won accolades for her groundbreaking portrayal of Jeanie Boulet, a physician's assistant grappling with an HIV diagnosis, returns to the role Thursday night. She called the experience, which is being billed as a one-time appearance, both emotional and exhilarating.
Easing into the advanced stages of the Boulet character was a breeze, Reuben said. "It really felt kind of great to step back into the shoes of Jeanie. There's no better thing for an actor to ask for than to have the opportunity to step back in time and yet have new dimensions to play."
There's also a personal synergy at play: Her return coincides with Reuben's continued work as an AIDS activist. In the last few years, Reuben has spoken at World AIDS Days. This year, she produced a Showtime project, "Positive Voices: Women and HIV," in which she interviewed several women who are living with or working with HIV/AIDS, and she costarred in HBO's "Life Support," which starred Queen Latifah as a woman with the virus.
When Boulet's character departed "ER," she was still adjusting to her HIV status. The new episode finds her as a divorced mother, running two AIDS clinics. When her son injures himself in a fall in gym class, Boulet winds up back in the ER, instantly clashing with Dr. Gregory Pratt (Mekhi Phifer), whom she doesn't trust. She eventually learns devastating news about her child.
Reuben's return was sparked by a recent conversation with "ER" executive producer John Wells. "We were catching up on things, and I was talking about my HIV activism in the last few years," she said. "We realized we had really done some great stuff on the show in terms of bringing this to the forefront of people's lives. In recent years, that issue seems to have slipped off the radar, so it's great to get back into it again."
Producer Christopher Chu- lack [sic] said that Reuben's comeback was "pleasantly odd. I can't think of another situation where you're around after 10 years and you get to revisit something. It was just so great to see her and see how she has matured. The character has matured like she has."
"ER" is hardly new at dropping liberal politics into its storylines. For example, it has taken swipes at the Iraq war and U.S. congressmen who are allegedly racist for failing to care enough about violence in Sudan.