After a month-long winter hiatus, The Conners is back on ABC with all-new episodes. And the series wastes no time throwing key family members into the thick of it in the first few episodes back. Executive producers Bruce Helford and Dave Caplan chatted with ET about what’s in store for Darlene (Sara Gilbert), Mark (Ames McNamara), Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) while revealing when fans can expect to see Louise onscreen again after Katey Sagal was hit by a car last October.
Last fall, the 67-year-old actress ended up in the hospital after being struck by a vehicle while crossing the street. She has since been seen on crutches as she continues to recover. Unfortunately for the show, that meant extending her character’s absence.
“She was sidelined when she tried to tackle a car,” Helford jokes, before revealing that Sagal will make a brief return in episode 11, which airs on Jan. 19. “We had to do a scene with her where she was only sitting down because she wasn’t really fully walking.”
However, it won’t be long before Sagal is fully back in the mix. “We understand she’s pretty well healed up and she’s making her return to the family in episode 14,” Helford says, explaining that they only had to delay her return by a few episodes after the accident. “We’re really happy that she’s back and happy that she’s safe and well... She’s anxious to get back to work.”
Until then, Caplan teases that fans “can also expect an awful lot of juicy relationship stuff.” Especially between Ben (Jay R. Ferguson) and Darlene, who are still navigating being in each other’s lives after breaking up. “They’re trying to live together more or less because he’s a part of the family in a way. But it’s complicated and messy and we love that,” he adds.
Not only that, but Darlene is exploring a new relationship with Nick (Andrew Leeds), who returns in tonight’s episode, “Three Exes, Role Playing and a Waterbed,” when the two go to the hardware store on Ben’s day off only to discover he’s working.
While the executive producers won’t reveal how long Nick will stick around, Helford says that he is “an important part” of Darlene’s journey. “She seems to be searching for something and she’s having a hard time finding it,” he notes.
Elsewhere, Caplan and Helford warn that one of the youngest Conners is on a path toward the dark side, which will be explored in next week’s episode, “Spills, Pills and The Midnight Lasagna.” “Like most Conner adolescents, he takes a turn,” Helford says, explaining that Mark turns to pills after he finds himself struggling to keep up at his magnet school.
“That leads us into a few different things,” Helford says. “You know, he has a boyfriend now. And there’s a lot of adolescent problems that he hasn’t shown signs of yet that are now coming to roost.”
He adds, “We have great arcs for the rest of the season for him.”
When it comes to some of the other Conners, the EPs tease that Harris (Emma Kenney) will run into some relationship problems with Aldo (Tony Cavalero). “Harris has also got a big storyline coming up,” Helford says. Meanwhile, Becky (Lecy Goranson) finds herself falling for one of her college professors. “It's problematic,” he says.
And then there’s Jackie, whose relationship with Neville (Nat Faxon) has been going strong for a long time now. “This has been such a rewarding and a great relationship for Jackie,” Caplan says, before teasing that Jackie’s demons will “pop to the surface now and again” and complicate things.
And tonight’s episode will see things really tested when Jackie meets Logan’s mom. “She’s younger and very attractive, and that triggers a bunch of issues for Jackie,” Helford says.
As for the rest of the season, Caplan says, “It’s a lot about the relationships. And the Conners have had a tough go for so long and now a lot of them have a chance to find happiness. But with the Conners, it’s never that easy.”
“There’s going to be some big surprises coming into this season about where some of the Conners' relationships go,” he concludes.
The Conners airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.