If you had to name one piece of furniture from a TV show that you would recognize as soon as you saw it, no matter where it was, what would it be? I would say without question that it would be the Connor family’s couch from the classic sitcom Roseanne with the classic, colorful afghan draped over the back. Well this week an all-new Roseanne is coming to ABC, but it’s going to feature the original cast members AND the original couch.
Coming Back to the Set of Roseanne
A few months ago, I had the thrill of visiting the Roseanne studio to visit not only the couch, but the rest of the Connor home, and to talk with the Connor “kids” Sara Gilbert (Darlene), Michael Fishman (DJ) and Lecy Goranson (Becky). Lecy said that going back to that set felt like going home. “I’m from outside of Chicago, and it’s like when you walk in your front door and you think, ‘Oh, yeah.’ This is that feeling and that’s how I felt here, especially when I see these faces and I hear Roseanne’s voice piercing through the set. It really just feels like home.”
Even though returning to Roseanne felt like going home, Lecy said, “I had a lot of anxiety about particular the writing – if it was going to be good, if it was gonna feel like the show. What would it look like? What was it going to be like? And I had so many questions. And then when I showed up to set and we were around the table and we were reading, I just felt so relieved and so connected and grounded in our world again. And it was just such a moving, beautiful thing… I’m like about to cry.”
While a lot has stayed the same with the revival of Roseanne, a lot has changed too. The family has grown and changed and the world we live in has changed too. Sara Gilbert talked about deciding to bring the show back now. “I think in one respect it’s an incredible time to do it, because I feel like our country is so divided. And I feel like this is a working class family that can have varying political views even within the family but still love each other. And I thought what a great way to try to help unite people, have people listen to each other. You know, I strongly believe that we can disagree without being so divided. So, I’m hoping that we can help in that way.”
And since the Connor kids were still very young when the original show ended, the lives of those characters have obviously changed as well. Here’s where the characters are today…
Where is Roseanne’s Family Today?
Lecy Goranson explained, “Becky is a widow. And she is a waitress. And she really likes to drink. But I also think she’s very strong. She’s struggling, but she’s fighting. She’s fighting to have her life together. And she’s a little arrested, but she’s working on it. A little bit of arrested development, which happens to some of us, but that’s where Becky’s at.
“Darlene is basically a single parent,” said Sarah Gilbert. “David has been in and out slightly over the years, but I don’t think she has fully moved on when our season starts. But she’s just been getting by with these two kids, and she’s moved back home. She always dreamt of being a writer and that dream, as happens in life, you sort of can get knocked down the totem pole. And you’re like, okay, well, my dream was to be up here and now I’m here and now I’m here and now I’m here. So, I think part of her arc over the season is, you know, seeing if she’ll go back and chase that dream or take a safe path to take care of her kids.”
Michael Fishman told us that DJ is married. “I have a daughter on the show and she’s fantastic. She has a great energy about her. My character came out of the military and is kind of struggling to re-establish himself – kind of the role I think a lot of people in this country are in, both male and female. His wife is actually still active in the military. So, there’s that juxtaposition of feeling strongly connected and proud of what you did but a little frustrated ’cause you weren’t quite ready to move on and not sure what you want to do next. I think that’s also something people can really relate to. That’s the beauty of this show. I think that’s one of the things that resonates with people because we deal with real-life topics, and it’s not always pretty and it’s not always easy. And real life’s not.”
Tackling Today’s Tough Issues
Sarah Gilbert that she loves that Roseanne is “almost like a hybrid between a comedy and a drama. It doesn’t really just feel like a sitcom. Sometimes we’re like ‘wow, this is heavy’, but we handle everything with humor. But it’s exciting, because we deal with all these heavy topics and you want to be able to make an impact and help people see their stories represented on television. I feel really proud that I think we’re doing that at least to some degree.”
Lecy agreed saying, “That’s how I feel too. Friday night we shoot the show, and then on Saturday sometimes I’ll just start laughing at something that happened, or some joke, or what happened the night before. But then I’ll be moved by something too. I always struggle thinking of something like a television show and viewing it as art. But I do see our show as art, because I think that’s how I feel in relationship to art. I feel moved and I feel inspired and I feel it can be funny and it stays with you. I hope — I assume that I’m not alone in that – that other people will feel that too. That’s what I’m hoping.”
Will Sarah Chalke Be on the Roseanne Reboot?
“Yep, Sarah Chalke is involved,” said Sara Gilbert. “She’s not playing Becky, but she’s playing another role that’s linked to Becky, which is great. She’s in a few episodes. And we have James Pickens back and Adilah Barnes. You know, there’s so many people that we had over the years and because it’s only nine episodes and we’ve added three characters, it’s already difficult to service everybody who’s here. So, I think we’ve gotten a couple, but I wish there was room for more. Natalie West came back as Crystal.” Estelle Parsons will be back as well.
Will the Chicken Shirt Be Back?
Keep your eyes peeled because the infamous chicken shirt will be back in the first episode of Roseanne. If you’re not familiar with the chicken shirt, it was a long running staple on the original show which could be seen while it was worn or along with the laundry on laundry day. Roseanne said in her commentary on Season 5, “The chicken shirt, it was just the ugliest shirt I ever saw and we had this bet between us, the actors; if you show something really bad on TV it takes off. It was like another rebellious artistic statement, that it looks like art when it’s on TV.”
I can’t tell you how excited I was to be able to visit the set of Roseanne. Walking around the set felt a bit like a dream because I felt like I knew the place so well even though I had never actually been there. Sitting at the Connor’s kitchen table, picking up their corded wall phone and, of course, taking a seat on that plaid couch were amazing experiences I will never forget. I’m ready to go back and visit them again!
The new ROSEANNE series premieres TONIGHT, March 27th, 2018! There will be two episodes airing back to back. You can also rewatch the episodes streaming or on the app after they air on ABC.