Roseanne fans will get some comfort with The Conners. While Roseanne Barr’s iconic character has been written out of the ABC spinoff, producers for the new sitcom say they realize viewers “care” about the Conner family matriarch and her absence will not be taken lightly.
In an interview with Variety, executive producers Bruce Rasmussen and Dave Caplan would not confirm Barr’s previous spoiler that her character will die from an opioid overdose. Instead, Rasmussen says the show’s producers want fans to tune in to see how the unexpected storyline came to be.
“We want people to watch the show and see what happens and how we [wrote Roseanne off]. You don’t want to be flip about how you do this. A lot of people cared about that character and it’s separate from whatever feelings they had about the person and her political views and the things she said. We wanted to honor that character. People can have their opinions after that.”
The Conners EP added that producers did tale a brief look at TV history at past shows that wrote out their matriarch, such as Valerie/ The Hogan Family, but that the loss of Barr “was kind of unprecedented.”
“What’s interesting about the absence of the Roseanne character is that these other characters have to step up and fill a void,” Caplan told Variety.
“It puts them through changes that are interesting for people that know these characters. And even if they’ve never watched the show before it’s still going to be fascinating to see how people adapt when something happens in their lives. Everyone has tragedies in their lives or has someone they love leave them. And you have to adapt and you have to grow, and that’s what these characters are going to be going through in an interesting way.”
The Conners EP also noted that Barr’s absence greatly affected the cast and crew, but added that he was happy the spinoff show will be able to give fans closure after Barr was suddenly fired last may over a racist tweet.
“There were a lot of people on the stage that were close to Roseanne Barr. And while nobody condoned what she said, there was history there of people that worked together for a long time. Doing these new episodes were a little bittersweet to begin with and now they’re morphing into a new normal that feels really good and positive.”
Indeed, in a recent interview on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, John Goodman, who plays patriarch Dan Conner on The Conners, addressed the absence of his longtime TV wife on the ABC spinoff.
“She is missed, definitely,” Goodman said.
“After that many years, it’s like a family. Last year was so miraculous and so unreal that when it went away it was almost like a dream.”
Barr, however, was offended by how her character was written off. In an interview with Brandon Straka’s YouTube show Walk Away, the former Roseanne star blasted producers for allegedly killing off her character via an overdose of pain meds, calling it cruel and “an insult” to longtime fans of the original ABC series.
“It’s so cynical and horrible — she should have died as a hero,” Barr said.
The Conners will star Roseanne veterans John Goodman, Laurie Metcalf, Sara Gilbert, Lecy Goranson, Michael Fishman and newcomers Emma Kenney, Ames McNamara and Jayden Rey. The show will also feature guest stars Johnny Galecki, Juliette Lewis, Justin Long, and Steve Zahn.
The Conners premieres Tuesday, Oct. 16 at 8 p.m. on ABC.