Out actor Rosie O'Donnell will have a recurring role in the new season of ABC Family's critically acclaimed lesbian family drama, The Fosters, according to a release from the network. The Fosters returns to the airwaves in January.
O'Donnell will take on the role of Rita Hendricks, a tough but compassionate woman working in the foster care system who builds a mentor relationship with one of the foster kids under Stef (Teri Polo) and Lena's (Sherri Saum)'s multiracial, blended family roof.
"I'm thrilled to be a part of this wonderful, heartwarming show," said O'Donnell, a mother of five, in a statement. "My kids and I never miss it."
O'Donnell made her initial adoration for the show known on her highly active Twitter account, which is where showrunners Peter Paige and Bradley Bredeweg (Queer as Folk) got the inspiration to write her into the show.
"When Rosie O'Donnell tweeted that she loved The Fosters, we knew we had to reach out and try to snap her up," explained the showrunners in a press release. "Having witnessed her support of foster children and blended families, we knew she would be a perfect fit for the show."
The show, executive produced by Jennifer Lopez, follows Stef, a police officer married to her vice principal wife, Lena, as they together raise Stef's biological son from a previous marriage, the couple's adopted twin teenagers, and a tenuous new foster daughter named Callie, a callous teenager with a troubled past, and her younger brother, Jude. The second half of the first season of The Fosters will start shooting in October, and air on ABC Family beginning in January 2014.