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During its original nine-season run on ABC, Roseanne was known almost as much for the star’s on-set antics as the show’s on-screen laughs. But the cast also had plenty of fun during production, and the cast — reunited to promote ABC’s revival, which premieres tonight — reminisced about some of the crazier times during a panel discussion at the Paley Center for Media in New York City.
Sara Gilbert, who was 12 when the Roseanne pilot was filmed, recalled not feeling the love for Sal Barone, the original actor who played Darlene’s brother, DJ. “We had a different DJ in the pilot, and the first DJ and I did not get along very well. There was fighting, and it was kind of a problem.” Then Barr jumped in to elaborate. “I’ll tell this part: Sara was beating the hell out of him, and called the welfare and they came in to protect him. So we were like, ‘Well we just got to let him go.’” The experience led Gilbert to be a little more welcoming to the new DJ, played by Michael Fishman. “When they hired Michael,” she said, “I just remember thinking, ‘Oh, I better get along with this kid otherwise they’re going to get rid of me.’”
Though Barr said she usually had no trouble keeping a straight face around her costars, the actress recounted two times she did break character — and laughed so hard she wet her pants. The first was during the season 3 episode “Valentine’s Day,” when Darlene, whose crush is over for a visit, desperately tries to get her mom to leave the room. Watch:
Barr said the combination of Gilbert’s hilarious head toss and her own line, “What’s that, Lassie? You say Timmy fell down a mine shaft?” was simply too much for her to handle. “I peed my pants on the Lassie one,” she admitted. Barr’s second moment of comedic incontinence came during another scene with Gilbert, in which Roseanne and Darlene were racing to answer the kitchen phone. “I turned the corner and I’m fighting to get the phone first… and we crashed into each other,” said Gilbert. “She fell on the floor and then we started laughing, and I think you might even have peed your pants.” Indeed, Barr said she did experience a bladder failure after the kitchen collision — one that resulted in a brief production halt. “The wardrobe woman comes out and she goes, ‘We don’t have a second pair of pants.’ So they had to go out and rinse the pants and dry ’em with a hairdryer, and we just had to wait for like an hour.”
Michael Fishman, who was 7 years old when Roseanne began, was not a fan of DJ Conner’s signature bowl cut — and he told the audience about the day Barr decided to do something about it. “I had that bowl haircut for a really long time. Roseanne wouldn’t let me cut my hair, and then one day I walk in and she goes, ‘What is wrong with your hair?’ I’m like, ‘You won’t let me cut it!’ She goes, ‘Oh, here’ and just buzzed my head. Then she goes, ‘You kind of look like George Clooney now.’ I was so happy.” And that wasn’t the only time Barr provided an on-set makeover. Lecy Goranson, the show’s original Becky, shared this memory: “I wanted to get a short haircut, and I’m brooding in hair and makeup, ‘The producers won’t let me .’ And Roseanne goes, ‘Okay!’ and grabs my ponytail, grabs the scissors, and cuts off my ponytail! I turn around and she has a sharp object and my hair. Twenty years of analysis later, I can tell you that I was kind of glad that she did it.”
Roseanne returns to the air tonight at 8 p.m. on ABC.
- By Kristen Baldwin
The Conners will look a little different when the Roseanne spinoff premieres next month — and we’re not referring to the absence of the franchise’s titular matriarch. Mindy Project vet Xosha Roquemore, who portrayed DJ’s wife Geena in last season’s Roseanne revival, will not be returning for the ABC offshoot. The role will now be played by relative newcomer Maya Lynne Robinson, who is coming on board as a series regular.
ABC announced the recast late Friday via the following tweet. “The little girl that DJ was reluctant to kiss is all grown up. Welcome to The Conners .”
The character of Geena holds a pivotal place in Roseanne canon. In the sitcom’s original run, she was the girl DJ refused to kiss because she was African-American. In Season 10, we learn that DJ ultimately married Geena and the pair had a daughter, Mary. Because Geena was serving overseas, we only saw the character (as played by Roquemore) once via Skype. It remains unclear what precipitated the recast.
“We’re thrilled to welcome the incredibly talented Maya Lynne Robinson to the cast this season,” said showrunner and executive producer Bruce Helford in a statement. “Her character 2nd Lieutenant Geena Conner, whom a younger DJ was reluctant to kiss in his school play, comes full circle as his wife and Mary’s mother, bringing back a little piece of Conner history. Yet, while Geena is no stranger to the family, viewers old and new will enjoy seeing how her ‘military-style’ discipline meshes with the Conners’ more laid-back attitude.”
The Conners is set to premiere on ABC on Tuesday, Oct. 16 at 8/7c.
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Michael Fishman is prouder than ever to be a part of the “Roseanne” family.
The actor, who plays D.J. Conner on the hit ABC revival, says the show’s cast members hope its new season, which aired its final episode Tuesday night, helped viewers feel better about their lives — and find common ground with each other.
The “Roseanne” cast.ABC
“As things come to a close on season 10, our hope is we brought families together, made you laugh, made your struggles feel normal, and that, at the end of this season, the family is right where it should be,” Fishman, 36, wrote in a candid blog post for Entertainment Weekly.
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Thanks for joining us this season! All-new episodes of #Roseanne return this fall! pic.twitter.com/Y6ZP9nr2rF
— Roseanne on ABC (@RoseanneOnABC) May 23, 2018
Fishman, whose character is now in an interracial marriage and has a black child, praised the series for showcasing people from all walks of life.
“Our set, which has always lead the way in acceptance and diversity, is still far more inclusive than many others,” he wrote. “We push for bravery, have conversations that make people uncomfortable, learn new things, and strive constantly to improve from each other.”
Michael Fishman as young D.J. Conner and as he looks today. The actor says the new season of “Roseanne” is much more than a throwback.Getty Images, Gatty Images
“Roseanne” first premiered in 1988 and for nine seasons the groundbreaking comedy created laughs around the blue-collar Conner family’s personal and financial struggles. The show also dealt with LGBT rights, racism and other issues during its original run.
Season 10 also didn’t shy away from complex topics, taking on the country’s heated political climate, unemployment, gender issues, opiate addiction and immigration.
The Emmy-winning show’s willingness to explore tough subjects is something that makes Fishman and his co-stars proud. It’s also made the Conners a stronger, more vibrant family, he says.
“While many people will consider our show a throwback, what strikes me most is how the actions all those years ago have rippled through time, leading us to today,” wrote Fishman.
‘Roseanne’ stars Lecy Goranson and Michael Fishman reveal favorite episodes
March 30, 201807:25
Roseanne’s TV son: Filming ‘The Conners’ without Barr ‘odd’
NEW YORK (AP) — “The Conners” star Michael Fishman says dealing with the cancellation of the “Roseanne” reboot was heartbreaking but describes the return of the cast in the revamped show without Roseanne Barr as a gift.
Fishman was among “The Conners” stars who came out for the premiere of the show on Tuesday night at the Paley Center — the same night it made its debut on ABC.
Barr was fired from “Roseanne” after making a racist tweet about Valerie Jarrett, a top official in the administration of former President Barack Obama. Barr tweeted over the summer: “Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj.” She was dismissed shortly thereafter and the show was canceled.
Fishman plays Roseanne’s son DJ on the show, and had been a part of “Roseanne” since he was a boy. He describes moving on without Barr in the spinoff as “odd.”
“We had such a close relationship and we think about her all the time. But, at the same time, we know as a group that we kind of collectively have taken the decision to carry the legacy, and so it’s important for us to do it right,” Fishman said.
But it was a little nerve-wracking before the spinoff was announced.
“Well it was a heartbreaking summer, but then the idea of coming back was just kind of this amazing gift. You know this will be the third time that we’re all together in this way and trying to bring these characters to life. And it’s a really special opportunity,” Fishman said.
The Nielsen company said Wednesday that 10.5 million people tuned in, larger than any other ABC show this new season. But it didn’t come close to the 18.2 million people who watched the first episode of the “Roseanne” reboot last spring.
Lecy Goranson, who plays Becky, says Barr’s firing initially affected so many more.
“I think what people don’t understand is it’s not just the cast or the writers. We have a huge crew that was also put out by all of this, and people who not only love to work, but they love to work with each other,” Goranson said.
The new series begins after the death of Barr’s character from an opioid overdose.
Goranson thinks that while Barr’s infamous tweet was racially insensitive, she doesn’t believe that Barr is a racist.
“I feel like the comment was racist. I think undeniably it was. And part of what I thought was what it must be like to be a black person in America and grow up to hear those comments, whether it’s at the grocery store or in the media or wherever you are, over and over and over again. And how that must chip at yourself over time, even — especially if it’s casual,” Goranson said.
However, Goranson says she doesn’t think Barr’s tweet reflects who she is as a person. Nevertheless, she feels Barr acted irresponsibly.
“Do I think Roseanne is a racist? No. Has she ever said a racist thing to me one time? Never. So, to me it was a political thing. It was a mistake. But you know, if you’re that — if you’re on the forefront of a show and you’re the star — you have to take accountability for what you say and do. And, unfortunately, this was the outcome, and it’s devastating,” Goranson said.
Co-stars Sara Gilbert and John Goodman were also at the premiere, but declined to walk the red carpet.
The Maine Edge: Was it kind of surreal to return to the set in late August without Roseanne?
Fishman: It’s never what we envisioned but I think we found that these characters have a lot of stories left to tell and we wanted to stick together to tell those stories and honor the legacy of the show and the legacy that our fans have really built with their loyalty.
The Maine Edge: When you received the call that a reboot of the show was in the works, were you on board immediately or did you take some time to think about it?
Fishman: With the original reboot, I said “If everyone is involved then I’m in too. When do we start?” This time around, there was a more somber kind of reality. I honestly didn’t think it would be possible to do the show without Roseanne. Not only for everyone to come back but for ABC to give us this opportunity – I didn’t know if all of those pieces would be able to come together. What we’ve really done is lean on each other in this time and we’re trying really hard to make sure that we are honoring everything that this show has stood for.
My character – DJ – is a veteran and his wife Geena – played by Maya Lynne Robinson – is an active duty soldier. When you consider being in an interracial marriage with a biracial child, and the story lines centered around Mark (Ames McNamara), and Darlene’s (Sara Gilbert) transition to being a single parent and Becky (Lecy Goranson) trying to find herself – I think we have something that everyone can relate to and that has always been the strength of our show. We have such brilliant writers. We just aired a show where we touched on faith in a way that we never have before, and I think it’s a really significant thing for people to see.
The Maine Edge: The ratings for “The Conners” have been very strong. Do you pay much attention to the numbers?
Fishman: You try not to be centered on that, but you have to because it really is the lifeblood of what we do. What’s more important to me is that the show has always resonated with people and that it continues to do that. People have 30 years of history with us. What I’m most proud of is that that people feel like the show is representing them and we will continue to do that. We’re continuing to show what it’s like to really struggle but not give up. Or that it’s OK to fail sometimes but then you lean on each other and overcome it. That it’s OK to fight but to bring humor to bring each other back up.
The Maine Edge: I revisited some of the old shows recently and was struck by the fact that it didn’t really feel dated. The problems faced by the Conner family then are problems people go through today.
Fishman: I’m really lucky. That’s one of the things about this show in particular that keeps drawing me back. You can draw those correlations to real life family experiences and they are kind of timeless. We all have family struggles and the ability to find humor and tease each other while being honest about those struggles is something I think is unique to this show. The way we do it is authentic, and you don’t get that in every show.
The Maine Edge: How has your experience with all versions of this show affected your life on the outside?
Fishman: I’ve always been kind of a student of the show. This show is a great example of how you can cover the deepest, heaviest, darkest topics and do them with humor and love. As a writer and a creative person, I try to harness that. When I watch the older shows, it’s kind of like watching old home movies in a way. I remember all of the things that were going on – not just with the cast but with the crew. There are a lot of people who have been with us off and on for 30 years and I have relationships with them behind the camera as well.
We were kind of a wacky, fun group of people who were hugely professional when the time came but knew how to have a good time behind the scenes and we’re still that way.
The Maine Edge: Do you mentor some of the younger members of the cast of “The Conners” like you were mentored when you were their age?
Fishman: I do. I’ve always had people who had high expectations of me and it was important for me to live up to that. I spend time in the school room helping to teach Ames (McNamara – “Mark”) and Jayden (Rey – “Mary”) and help them understand that it’s not just the work part of it. Being famous is a magnifier. More people can see you, so it magnifies who you are. If you’re a kind person, the fame allows you to do bigger and kinder things. If you’re an unkind person, that gets magnified too.
The Maine Edge: I’m intrigued by the title of the episode scheduled for next Tuesday (Nov. 27) at 8 p.m. – “One Flew Over the Conner’s Nest.” Could you give us a preview?
Fishman: I can tell you that the Conners are expanding the family a little bit. It’s interesting because Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) wants to make sure that she’s still connected to this family. I think when you’re the sister in-law and are so deeply involved, you feel that you’re tether to the family may be severed when your sibling is gone. It’s important that Jackie knows and feels that she is still part of this family. And Laurie is amazing in this episode.
Roseanne, American situation comedy that aired on the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) network for nine seasons (1988–97) and a later nine-episode revival (2018). From its debut, the show enjoyed superior Nielsen ratings, including stints in the top three positions, and it remained in the top 20 until its final season.
Roseanne chronicled the tumultuous life of the Conners, a working-class family headed by a mock-cynical, dry-humoured matriarch, Roseanne (played by Roseanne Barr). Prior to the series, Barr, the show’s star and executive producer, had worked as a successful stand-up comedian, and much of the show’s success drew directly from her creative contributions. Physically, Roseanne’s character was an unlikely heroine for an American sitcom: she was unapologetically overweight, with looks that deviated from the typical television beauty standard. Her parenting could be described as caustic at times, and she and her husband, Dan (John Goodman), struggled with various blue-collar jobs and regularly worried about money. Yet Roseanne, Dan, daughters Darlene (Sara Gilbert) and Becky (Lecy Goranson until 1993, Sarah Chalke after), and son D.J. (Michael Fishman) managed to thrive as a compassionate family and attracted droves of viewers.
The show’s gritty realism was an antidote to the saccharine programming of the time. Like the characters, Roseanne’s subject matter deviated from the norm and broke new boundaries for prime-time television. The show often introduced, to great comic effect, hitherto taboo subjects such as addiction, birth control, homosexuality, and masturbation. Although certain episodes occasionally caused a stir with ABC and its audience, the show persevered, winning several Golden Globe Awards. Barr’s role earned her the 1993 Emmy Award for outstanding lead actress in a comedy series.
A nine-episode revival of Roseanne aired on ABC in 2018, visiting the Conners 20 years after the original series had ended. The reboot garnered approval for its nuanced portrayal of the family, still living in their working-class conditions, as they navigated the current hot-button topics of the so-called Trump era. Although the revival was a ratings success, ABC canceled the series after Barr posted a racist tweet that spring. She subsequently apologized, but the network retooled the series without her, and The Conners(2018– ) premiered in the fall.
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