Roseanne was never a show to shy away from the tough topics -- dealing in its first iconic run with working-class family issues and introducing LGBT characters at a time when they were still rare on primetime TV. And it sounds like the upcoming revival will deliver more of the same, according to the reunited cast and producers at ABC’s Television Critics Association press tour on Monday.
The Conner family, now 20 years older than when we saw them last, are dealing with things that many American families will find familiar: opioid addiction, aging and healthcare -- but they're all treated with the trademark straight-talking humor the show was loved for.
That extends to the fact that Roseanne Barr’s titular character will be a supporter of President Trump.
“I’ve always attempted to portray a realistic portrait of the American people, working-class people -- and in fact it was working-class people who elected Trump -- so I felt that was very real and something that needed to be discussed,” the 65-year-old actress said of the decision to incorporate her real-world support of Trump into her character.
But, as in many people’s families, not everyone in the Conner household will be of the same mind -- and that was a dynamic the show wanted to explore. “This is a time where the country is very divided, and we did have a wonderful opportunity to talk about this in the context of a family,” said Sara Gilbert, who reprises her role as Darlene Conner. “And I think part of what’s going on is people feel like they can’t disagree and still love each other or still talk to each other. It was a great opportunity to have a family that can be divided by politics but still love.”
Still, there’s more than politics to be dealt with. Both Beckys -- Lecy Goranson and Sarah Chalke -- are back, although Chalke plays a different character, giving the two actresses a “shared solidarity,” as 43-year-old Goranson put it. And young D.J. Conner, played by Michael Fishman, is now no longer the youngest Conner and has a child of his own, as does his sister Darlene.
“Some of my favorite images from this season is watching Darlene parent her kids in the same house she grew up in, and Roseanne is on the sidelines watching sometimes,” recalled Laurie Metcalfe, the Lady Bird actress who plays Roseanne’s sister, Jackie. “It gives her a different take on what she did right and wrong, and what [Darlene] is doing right and wrong. And I love seeing that new dynamic.”
Oh, and Dan Conner is back from the dead.
Or, more accurately -- it appears he was never really dead at all. Barr insisted the original ending, where Dan was revealed to have died of a heart attack a season before, left his fate ambiguous. That particular plot knot is undone quickly in the series reboot. “I thought it was a clever way to do it, to handle it and get it out of the way,” said John Goodman, the 65-year-old actor who reprises his role as Dan.
For her part, Barr said she always intended to tell more stories about the Conner family. “I always wanted to have a tenth year so that I could do exactly what I did in these nine [episodes] and complete the story of this family,” she said, although this new season won’t be the conclusive arc she envisioned 20 years ago.
In the interim, Barr said life and grandkids have mellowed her out, but the actress seems unlikely to stop speaking her mind, as she is famous for doing bluntly at times, any time soon. When asked if she would support Oprah or Susan Sarandon for president she said, “I think I would be a better president than both Oprah and Susan Sarandon and possibly even President Trump.”
The Roseanne revival premieres on ABC on March 27 with a one-hour special at 8 p.m. ET/PT. The show will then air in its regular time slot beginning Tuesday, April 3, at 8 p.m. ET/PT.